Freedom is a lovely word. Some people’s favourite lovely words are “health”, “happiness”, “humour”, “hope”… even “raindrops”. For a nation groaning under a yoke of oppression, no word is as lovely as “freedom”. This was certainly the case with the Israelites in Egypt.
The blessings of freedom are easy to describe and acclaim, especially in the weeks leading up to Pesach. So if I say I am against freedom you will think I am a spoilsport or just plain crazy. But the fact is that – at least in some circumstances – freedom is dangerous. Freedom is hard to handle.
It can lead to boredom. Imagine if the whole of life were sitting in a deck-chair on the beach – not just for a day or two, a week or two, a month or two, but forever.
Freedom can lead to loneliness; the struggle is over, we’re on our own, we’re cast adrift, we feel abandoned.
It can lead to mischief; the restraints have been removed, and idle hands need some fun.
It can destroy itself; someone wrote about welcoming chains to prevent his hands from shaking.
The sages had an answer when they said that freedom is only a blessing if one knows how to channel it, how to choose a task.
The seed shrivels up and dries unless it’s planted in the earth and can grow. Being planted in the earth restricts its freedom but enables it to do what only a seed can do – to create the future.