Now that many of us have been fortunate enough to be vaccinated, there is a greater sense of freedom in the air, and one might be tempted to comment on the proximity of this experience to the holiday that exemplifies freedom. While the vaccine is definitely a cause for gratitude and does lead to greater physical (and perhaps emotional) freedom, it is not the freedom that Passover celebrates.

One could even make the argument that there was just as much freedom available during this past year of challenges. Perhaps for some (clearly not the parents of small children) even more, since the removal of certain obligations gave us more time to think. But whatever the situation and whatever the challenges (and I’m not minimizing the dire ones) the truth is that we were actually totally free in the past year, whether we felt it or not.

Because true freedom has nothing to do with our external circumstances - nothing to do with whether we can dine in to dine out or not at all, with whether movie theaters are open or fans are allowed into baseball games.

With apologies to my children, true freedom doesn’t even have anything to do with whether schools are in-person or not!

True freedom is solely a reflection of our ability to choose.

While many important things may have been lost or diminished in the past year, our essential freedom to choose was not. Our free will remained intact. We could still choose how to spend our time, how to treat the people important to us (many of whom were now living in with us), the ways in which we like to grow, the attitude we wanted to have to the challenges of life under COVID.

There were many losses in the past year but, in the midst of all that, our freedom remained. We could still choose - hopefully well and wisely.

With Passover coming, now is a good time to look back and see if and how we took advantage of the opportunities available to us this past year. Did we appreciate our freedom to choose, and what kind of choices did we make?

Passover gives us the opportunity to reconnect to our freedom, and recommit to move forward, whatever the circumstances we find ourselves in. All is not lost. Whatever we did in the past, our moment to choose is now. We can still experience that freedom. We can still take full advantage of the opportunity. We can still be grateful for that greatest gift of all, the gift of free will, the gift that makes us a creation in God's image.

It’s been a year of challenges with so much seemingly taken from us. As we reflect on the upcoming holiday of Passover, let’s commit to not allowing any external (or internal) forces to take away our free will as well.