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    Swallows & freedom – B’har

    “Proclaim liberty in the land to all its inhabitants” (Lev. 25:10).

    These words from the sidra are part of American history. They figure on the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. They are noble words. But if one looks at them in detail, they raise a number of questions.

    The P’nai Yehoshua asks why the Torah says yosh’veha, “its inhabitants” and not avadeha, “its servants”. The answer is that it is not only servants who need freedom – everyone does. Even if you have freedom, you have to learn how to value your freedom. If you do not appreciate freedom, or peace, or health, or family, or any other blessing you may have, it is as if you have lost them.

    Many commentators focus on the word used for freedom in this verse, d’ror. Rashi quotes Rabbi Yehudah who links it with dirah, a dwelling. “Why the expression d’ror? To show that freedom is when you may choose where to dwell without others compelling you”.

    According to the dictionaries the root of the word is darar, to stream or flow abundantly; hence d’ror is the free run that comes with freedom.

    D’ror also means a swallow (see Psalm 84:4). The Talmud explains (Shabbat 106b) that the swallow is a bird that does not yield to capture or taming and “it lives in a house as in the field”.

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