Bo: The slave to the compass has freedom of the seas
Were we liberated from one form of servitude, only to enter another?
In Parshat Bo, the Torah describes how Hashem commanded Moshe to appear before Pharaoh, King of Egypt. There he demanded in Hashem’s name (Shemot 9:1):
“Shalach et ami veya’avduni!” – “Let my people go so that they shall serve me!”
Thanks to the miraculous intervention of Hashem we were redeemed from servitude in Egypt and, seven weeks later at Mount Sinai, we embraced a life full of Torah and mitzvot – an existence filled with servitude to Hashem.
Some people might wonder: what kind of freedom is this? Are we so free if there is a long list of do’s and don’ts that we must comply with at all times? The Talmud (Ethics of the Fathers 6:2) puts it as follows:
“Ein lecha ben chorin eileh mi sheosek baTalmud Torah.” – “There is actually no-one who is as free as the person who studies Torah.”
How can we understand this? One of my favourite quotations, which is anonymous, goes as follows: “The slave to the compass has freedom of the seas. The rest must sail close to the shore.”
The Torah is our compass.
The Torah provides us with an opportunity to lead lives of meaning and joy. There is so much room for individuality and spontaneity within the context of the 613 do’s and don’ts of the Torah. Every responsible educator and parent knows how crucially important it is to raise our children to reach their own personal potential; to be able to achieve what they can as unique personalities within the context of a loving and healthy discipline. Without such discipline, without any inspirational compass, it is possible for a person to abuse their freedom and for their lives to be filled with mayhem.
We have so much to be grateful for. Thanks to the freedom that we attained when we left Egypt we were able at Sinai to receive the Torah and thanks to the Torah, we can utilise our freedom responsibly because the Torah is our eternally true and inspirational guide and compass.
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