Rabbi Milevsky's Thought of the Week: Behar - 5779

JEWISH LIBERTY

The Liberty Bell, in Philadelphia, is a familiar symbol of independence within the United States and has been described as an icon of liberty and justice throughout the world.

The bell is inscribed with the words of the Torah from this week's Paresha: "Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof."

National self-determination is indeed universal.  There is no question that people should be free to choose their own state and its territorial boundaries, and reject colonialism and imperialism (if indeed their determination is to build lives and not destroy others).

However, for the Torah Jew, freedom and liberty is more than just the 'pursuit of happiness'.  The message of freedom must be linked to the words that follow those etched into the bell: "V'kidashtem et shnat Hachamishim” – You shall sanctify the 50th year.  The number 50 symbolizes the 50th day after we were granted our freedom from Egypt, the day we received the Torah.

We clearly share with humanity a yearning and appreciation for the concept of freedom.  However, we must remember that for us it is not a goal, but rather a means to fulfill our potential by becoming a servant of Hashem and having a positive impact on the world.

Shabbat Shalom