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Spiritual Freedom

Spiritual Freedom

Self mastery is the key to true freedom.

by

The holiday of Passover celebrates our exodus from the enslavement in Egypt and our journey towards the birth of our people as a nation We celebrate not only freedom from physical slavery, but the ability to achieve spiritual liberation, as well.

Our spiritual freedom is attainable through the Torah and commandments we received after being released from the physical bondage of Pharoah in Egypt. Although a superficial understanding can make Judaism seem like another form of enslavement, (so many rules, restrictions and regulations), a deeper perception reveals that it actually provides the keys to true freedom, happiness and maximum pleasure in every area of our lives, by giving us the tools to connect with our higher selves.

Just as we lived as strangers in a strange land in Egypt, so too, are our souls strangers in the strange land of our bodies, the physical world.

By design, we’re created with a dual nature.  We are both physical and spiritual, animalistic and godly. Our opposing natures place us at war within ourselves, as the two sides wrestle for control.  This struggle is indicated in the very name Yisrael, (Israel), which contains the verb, to master.  If we forget that there is more to us than our external trappings and allow ourselves to be dragged down into materialism, negativity and the blind following of our impulses, we are truly enslaved. Self mastery is the key to true freedom.

When we speak about the sworn enemies of the Jewish people, such as Pharaoh, we understand them to be not only an external, physical threat, but an internal, existential threat, as well.

This negative force that lives inside of us is known in Hebrew as the "yetzer hara," the evil inclination.  We can think of it as our own inner “Pharaoh”.

Our inner Pharaoh’s job is to distract us from reaching our highest potential and fulfilling our purpose in life. While our long term goals are often soul driven, most of our impulses towards immediate gratification are not. Indeed, they frequently undermine the very goals we’re trying to achieve.The inner enemy accomplishes its mission by attacking our thoughts, our speech and our actions.

We can tell who’s winning when we examine these three areas of expression.

When our thoughts are depressive, negative or critical, when we’re focused on what we lack, rather than all the blessings we have, the inner adversary scores a victory. When we reach for that second or third piece of cake to satisfy an immediate craving or lose our tempers and hurt someone we care for, it’s clear that our higher selves are not in control.

What am I enslaved to that is holding me back from achieving my potential?

The Hebrew word for Egypt is mitzrayim, the root of which is metzar, meaning constriction, narrowness, limitation. Spiritually, as Passover approaches, the same energy of freedom that existed at the time of the Exodus is available for us to tap into.  It’s the ideal time to ask ourselves: 

What am I enslaved to that is holding me back from achieving my potential?

What are the blockages, constrictions and limitations that stand in the way of accomplishing my goals in any area of my life?

Am I a slave to my physical appetites?

Does my professional life overtake my time and erode my relationships? 

Am I imprisoned by my need for approval from others?

Am I constantly seeking more or newer or better without appreciating what I already have?

At the Passover Seder we read, “In every generation we must each regard ourselves as though we personally had just left Egypt.” The goal is to use the tools we have been given to make this happen in the context of our own lives.

Our mission is to grant the soul freedom of expression while it's still trapped in our body.  The Torah gives us the ability to do this by curbing, not denying, our animalistic, physical selves and harmonizing the two opposing forces within us.

Related Article: Matzah: The Taste of Freedom

Each positive mitzvah that we do exercises, expresses and strengthens the soul, and each prohibited act that we refrain from strengthens us in the areas of self mastery and empowerment.

In order to accomplish anything worthwhile, such as completing a degree, improving a relationship or living a healthier life, if we don’t exercise self discipline, we will never attain our goals. Life is an ongoing battle between being enslaved by our materialistic, physical nature or rising above by connecting and strengthening our higher, spiritual selves.

If we use the spiritual energy available at this auspicious time to identify the areas where we feel trapped or blocked and the tools of the Torah and mitzvot to connect with and express our souls, we can break free of our own personal Egypt and experience true liberation.

Published: March 31, 2012


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Visitor Comments: 4

(3) Heather Plonski, April 9, 2012 6:19 PM

Gratitude

I am very grateful for the enlightenment these spiritual truths have provided. Thank you for teaching Hebrew meanings and for expounding on these deep treasures also. This is the first time I have thanked Aish publicly. But I have learned much from Aish. It is obvious that the mandate to be Light for the world has been and continues to be fulfilled by the Apple of G-d's Eye. Shalom.

(2) Anonymous, April 2, 2012 3:00 AM

SOME THINGS CANNOT BE WRITTEN DOWN.....

But you ask how did it occur? Did Jews just wake up one morning- find their neighbors has all turned against them and off to the slime pits we go? Or was it a subtle thing, like a snake slithering among the trees in the garden. We are taught Jews left ‘the house of bondage’. HOUSE- to reside in a dwelling. A place where you, me , our families, our children were in on a continuous basis. 24 hours a day. 7 days a week. And then there’s bondage. The rigor ,the toil, the seat of sowing much- and reaping, only the pittance allotted to you. And this ‘house of bondage’ in Egypt would indeed be the staging ground, the launch pad for other civilizations and their ‘dealings with the Jews”. As lest we forget the statutes put in place reached well into the psyche of each household. What woman among the Jewish people could not help but wonder with each pregnancy- will it be a boy? How long can he live? CAN he live? As each missing of a period occurred, a decision had to be made. The midwives, themselves also had a decision to make. As they felt the tiny throbbing of life that went on in the viable womb, they were reminded of those laws of the land decreeing certain death. But there was something else, something within their soul that whispered “I want to live”. And they responded “Let it live”,, Through the echoed halls of time this cry has gone out “I want to live”. I want to live. And indeed Hashem has responded with “Let it live’…. Today, as long ago, the storm clouds our trouble seem to gather. Today statutes are being enacted- the young minds of academia, are being turned toward our enemies, but we have this guarantee. This covenant of hope. As WE look to Hashem- our G-d, and our guide, we must maintain a tradition of faith and…. Stay Strong.

Mrs. R., April 8, 2012 6:20 PM

thanx

I hope you comment more. I usually don't read long comments but you write so well I could have read much, much more.... strong and courageous...

(1) Joshua Wang, April 2, 2012 12:13 AM

Well written article

Well written article,thank you! Only we control our spirits can we achieve harmony and happiness in our life.

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