Monday, May 02, 2005

Physicality, Finals, and Freedom (It's Alliteration!)

As we all recover from ingesting pounds and pounds of matzah and macaroons and enter that oh-so-fun time of year that is finals (or not, depending on where you are in your life), before you get caught up in, oh say, John Rawls and nationalized healthcare and Freud and Dubois and just warfare and stuff, for your reading pleasure I offer a word of Torah to keep it all in perspective, hopefully. Good luck my fellow suffering college compatriots.

B'nei Yisrael entered Eretz Yisrael right around Pesach time, right around sefirat ha'omer. Why?

The point of sefira is to show that Pesach is connected to Shavuot; the physical freedom from slavery is only important because it led to Matan Torah. The exodous of the Jewish people from Egypt was not an end, it was only the begining and it was not worth anything without the spiritual context of Har Sinai and of the Torah. Sure, the physical redemption was nice but it was the spiritual Torah that gave the freedom meaning. We are not free from Egypt, we are free to serve Hashem (Mill's negative liberty vs. positive liberty, if you will). So, we count from Pesach to Shavuot to show that connection - the connection between the physical and the spiritual.

When the Jews entered Israel, they were entering a gashmiut existence, a physical existence. In the desert they lived a spiritual existence where everything was provided for them. In Israel they would be forced to fend for themselves, to work for their food. But the point of that physical existence was the very same as the purpose of being freed from Egypt; the purpose was not to just be free, whatever that means. The purpose was to raise that existence to spirituality through the Torah that the Jews were given 49 days later. The purpose of entering Eretz Yisrael was also to live spiritually through the physical.

May we all be able to raise the freedom we've attained over Pesach to the spirituality of Matan Torah throughout the omer, and despite finals.


At 5/2/05, 7:40 PM, Blogger Stx said...

Doesn't feel much like Freedom when you're stuck writing about nationalized healthcare, does it? I'd say college is DEFINITELY a negative liberty. Na, scratch that, it's just plain old negative.

Is this from Rav Ginsberg? I like :)

At 5/3/05, 11:42 PM, Blogger The Rabbi's Kid said...


I think Rabbi Sacks coined it (based on Isaiah Berlin?) as freedom from and freedom to. One could write an excellent critique of liberal society based on your distinction.


At 5/4/05, 7:31 AM, Blogger Eli7 said...

TRK, I think you're right; it is Isaiah Berlin's distinction, though Mill talks about similar concepts in "On Liberty." I've been spending a lot of time with Mill recently. Forgive me ;)

At 5/4/05, 7:32 AM, Blogger Eli7 said...

And Stx, yes this is from Rav Ginsburg. It's from his CD. :)

At 5/7/05, 10:43 PM, Blogger EN said...



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