Address by Rt. Wor. Bro. Rabbi Dr Raymond Apple, AO RFD, Past Deputy Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of New South Wales & the Australian Capital Territory, at the Lodge of the Holy City, Jerusalem. It was subsequently published in Freemason magazine, Spring 2011, vol. 43, no. 3 (published by the United Grand Lodge of NSW and the ACT).
Two “freedom” events come together tonight. We meet as Freemasons, bonim chofshi’im. We are almost at the eve of Passover, chag ha-cherut. Being free is the theme that links both occasions. It would be easy to utter poetic praise of freedom, but my subject is not the joys of freedom but its dangers. Freedom is a blessing, but it’s hard to handle.
Freedom can make us bored. Jacques Rousseau spoke of people who had freedom but found their lives so mindless and empty that they wondered what to do with themselves.
It can lead to mischief. Sholem Asch wrote about the unfreedom that often comes once freedom is attained. He sadly noted that the so-called liberators tended to exploit – and enslave – the very people who dreamt of freedom.
Freedom can make us lonely. During the struggle people pull together, but once the goal is achieved they fall out and are no longer comrades. They are now so lonely that they almost prefer they were still suffering.
What does Passover, the festival of freedom, have to say? Fight for freedom, yes, of course: but always have a further goal in mind. Reach the top of each mountain – and then discover other mountains ahead.
Sholem Asch wrote: “Moses, the great liberator, freed the Jews from Egypt, to make them servants to the Lord. Servants to His Law. For without God and without His Law, without righteousness, there is no Freedom.”
The masonic teachers understood this fundamental principle. They told every new recruit that a Freemason must be free, but then they gave him a difficult discipline.
Freedom is a precious boon, but it is a danger if, in the words of the Hebrew essayist Ahad Ha’Am, one becomes a slave in the midst of freedom – avdut b’toch cherut.
There are four ritual questions, known as Mah Nishtanah, which are asked at the Passover table. Two other questions need to be asked whenever people talk about freedom. The first is: “How can we achieve freedom?” The second, just as important, is: “What shall we do with our freedom when we attain it?” The Psalmist says: “How good it is for brethren to be together”. How good it is to have a goal; how good it is to have an agenda to carry us beyond the first goal.
May the Great Architect of the Universe beckon us onto new challenges.
For more articles on Freemasonic issues by Rt. Wor. Bro. Rabbi Dr Raymond Apple, AO RFD, visit his Freemasonry webpage.
Rt. Wor. Bro. Rabbi Dr Raymond Apple’s book on the history, symbolism and teachings of Freemasonry, enlivened with personal reminiscences and humour.