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A friend’s new assistant didn’t arrive at the office until 11am and began packing up to leave at 2pm! “Didn’t we agree you’d work all day today?” he asked. “Yes,” she replied, “but I have to think of me.” She seemed surprised to be fired. This wasn’t the first story of its kind that I’d heard. Why are so many people clueless about a job?
We have all become so obsessed with freedom, rights, and choice that we’ve forgotten how much of our success and happiness is owed to restraint, duties, and rules. Learning to place ourselves under authority is one message of Passover. Today’s educational system largely fails to teach this important skill so necessary for obtaining and keeping a job. By contrast, the military does a splendid job teaching that the only way to get to give orders is to learn first to accept them. The road to promotion leads through obedience.
Many mistakenly believe that Passover celebrates liberation. But Moses never told Pharaoh, “Let my people go.” God’s message really was, “Let my people go so that they may worship me in the desert.” God did not free the Jews from being servants; he just freed them from being servants to Egypt. Henceforth they were to be servants to Him.
Being enslaved by a man or a government makes less of us. However choosing to be a servant of God transforms us into free and independent champions. Passover celebrates accepting God’s rules rather than rejecting the idea of having a boss.
Passover is an annual inoculation against a false idea. We could think that people would thrive if left to their own devices, without any external system of rules. Like the small child who yells, “You’re not the boss of me,” too many adults think that freedom means indulging every personal desire.
Being enslaved by Pharaoh served a vital function. It taught the embryonic Jewish people how to take orders. Thus, Passover celebrates the years of Jewish slavery as much as it does the exodus from Egypt. While the Egyptians were certainly responsible for their cruel behavior, Jews from then on recognize that the experience was a valuable one. The slavery had a purpose, teaching that all people are enslaved. One’s only choice is whether to be enslaved to God’s rules or to a variety of bizarre human ideologies.
On this Monday night, we’ll celebrate the Passover Seder. We will pore over a lengthy and detailed account of the Exodus, taste tear inducing bitter herbs with matzoh and solemnly drink four cups of wine to commemorate both slavery and redemption.
Paradoxically, true independence comes not through the abolition of all rules but through the acceptance of Divine rules. Moses did urge Pharaoh to let the people go. Not to free them from all authority, but to allow them to serve the One Authentic Authority. This way, by bringing rules and structure into their lives they would gain real freedoms and choices. What marvelous training for a job as well as for all of life itself.
This idea, like so many other valuable ones, flows directly from Hebrew. Our book, Buried Treasure: Secrets for Living from the Lord’s Language, explores more than twenty-five words that hold wisdom for your life, even if you can’t read one letter of Hebrew. Get it on sale right now. You’ll be amazed at what a difference a word can make.
Read the most recent Ask the Rabbi question and answer here
Why is Wisdom referred to as female in gender in the book of Proverbs?
Read Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin’s ANSWER HERE
This week’s Susan’s Musings: Cleaning and Loving It
I have a friend who gets little pleasure from cooking. It is a reality of life for her rather than a tactile, sensual experience. That is, unless she is cooking for the Sabbath. When she does that, the activity is infused with meaning and importance and changes from an annoying necessity into a higher calling.
I feel somewhat the same about cleaning…READ MORE