Passover is the great festival of freedom when we remember and celebrate our people's miraculous freedom from the brutal slavery of Egypt. While physical and political freedom is important, our sages tell us of an even higher type of freedom - freedom from being a slave to the destructive habits and desires which push us to do what we know we shouldn't. A person who can freely choose to act according to his values and not just his desires is truly free.
In our story, some kids discover the true meaning of freedom.
"This is so exciting, isn't it?" asked Andrea, as she took a bite of her appetizer as a waiter walked by holding a tray of drinks.
"Sure is," said her cousin, Susan. "I can't believe Aunt Debby's really getting married after so long, can you?"
"Yeah, I'm so happy for her. She's the greatest and it's amazing - but so is this fancy wedding hall - and this smorgasbord, I think I could eat enough to last me for a week!"
"And these are just the hors d'oeuvres," Susan said, as the girls both laughed as they sat down to nosh.
"Everything's so delicious, isn't it, Susan?"
"Yup, the chocolate mousse was out of this world!" the girl agreed. "I wonder when Aunt Debby will come out with her new groom so we can give her a big hug?"
"Soon, I hope. But in the meantime, let's go back to the smorgasbord and get some more of that yummy stuff," Andrea winked.
"Oh, I don't know, Andrea. I don't want to overdo it. I'm really pretty full at the moment and I try to stick to the old rule of 'eat when you're hungry, stop when you're full.'"
Andrea nearly dropped the egg roll she was busily stuffing into her mouth as she looked at her cousin in shock.
"Hello? Are you from this century? Don't be a slave to your rules. Live a little! How often do we get to go to such a fancy place and eat this kind of food? I don't know about you, but I'm no slave to rules or anything else - I'm free! I do what I want, when I want. Come on, last one there is a chocolate eclair!" With that, Andrea marched determinedly to the dessert bar.
Susan hesitated a moment. True, she didn't go to weddings very often, but was that an excuse to ignore her own values and do whatever she felt like? But, maybe her cousin was right and she really was just being a slave and should be freer, like Andrea was. She looked longingly over at the smorgasbord - especially at all the great sweets. The two cousins had both inherited the family sweet tooth. It would probably be a long time before she had such a big selection with which to feed it!
Soon Andrea returned with a plate stacked high with all kinds of delights.
"Decided to stay a slave, huh?" she chided. Susan just smiled weakly - she really didn't know what to say.
She was feeling a little jealous of her 'free' cousin Andrea, who was packing it in like there was no tomorrow, when suddenly, the music started up and the bride came in with a big flourish. Susan jumped from her seat to join the dancing and celebrate with the bride.
"C'mon, this is the moment we came here for, let's go!"
Andrea remained in her place, still eating.
"Andrea, come on! All we've been talking about for months is how we were going to dance with Aunt Debby at her wedding!"
"You go, I'll catch up. I want to, you know, finish this stuff I just took first."
"But Andrea," Susan said, shocked, "our favorite aunt just got married! Isn't greeting and celebrating with her more important than gobbling a few more tasty treats?"
Andrea, looking uncomfortable nodded her head. "Of course ... I know you're right. But ... these are just too good to pass up, I just have to have them first, okay?" She turned away from Susan and back to her plate.
Susan shook her head sadly as she walked away from the table to greet the bride. She realized she wasn't being a slave by freely choosing to doing what she knew was right - not overeating and going to greet her aunt. But Andrea ... she wouldn't tell her cousin because it would hurt her feeling, but in Susan's mind, someone who couldn't stop doing what she felt like in order to do what she knew she should, was the biggest slave of all.
Q. How did Andrea feel when Susan didn't want to take more food?
A. She felt she was acting like a slave to her rules and was missing out.
Q. How did Susan feel after she saw Andrea couldn't stop eating to go greet her aunt?
A. Susan realized that really Andrea - and not she - was like a slave, because she couldn't stop eating even though she knew she should.
Q. What life lesson do you think Susan learned that day?
A. When Andrea accused her of acting like a slave by holding back on taking more food, Susan wondered if she was right. However, once she saw that Andrea couldn't even stop eating to do something she really wanted to and knew she should - like greet her favorite aunt who just got married - Susan realized that a slave isn't someone who controls herself, but someone who can't.
Q. Do you agree that Susan was acting free by not eating when she wasn't hungry? Why or why not?
A. To be free doesn't mean doing whatever you feel like. Real freedom is having the strength to freely choose to do what you deep down want to do even if part of you desires to do something else. And in that Susan passed the test.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Do you think a person could be incarcerated in jail and yet be free? If so, how?
A. Yes. True spiritual freedom is not dependent on any external circumstances, rather it is the degree to which a person chooses to think, speak and act in a way that best reflects his deepest inner values, within the limits his circumstances allow. Therefore someone even confined in a squalid dungeon could be essentially free, and conversely someone could be enjoying the best of luxuries and be a slave.
Q. What do you think it means to be a slave to one's desires?
A. Every person has two competing inner voices. One represents his true inner values that will lead him to personal and spiritual growth. The second is the desire of immediate gratification at all cost. Someone who acts upon that second voice is essentially enslaved by that desire and prevented from fulfilling his true mission in life.