This week’s Parsha is Parshas Vayikra. It is also less than two weeks before Passover. As we rush with our Holiday preparations, we must find a moment to sit and think about the great Holiday that we are about to experience. We are taught that Passover is the Holiday of freedom. What exactly is meant by freedom? What does slavery mean to a Jew in the twenty-first century? How are we supposed to be preparing ourselves for the Holiday of Passover, anyhow?

To understand how deep and strong slavery is in our thought, let’s take the example of someone who is addicted to smoking or drugs. The man or woman who is taking the drugs or smoking may not even realize how addicted they are. When asked if they want to kick the habit, they may very well explain how they really would but… What they fail to realize is that the very moment they say the word but, they are showing a form of slavery. How is this? “I would love to exercise every day, but my schedule doesn’t allow it…” Or “ I would love to play ball with my kids, but I just can’t take the time to get out of the office”. Or “I really shouldn’t eat this, but I just can’t help it…” These are all small forms of slavery to one desire or another. This carries over to the realm of religion also: “I really should go to Synagogue more often, but I just can’t get up so early”. Or, “I really would like to study more, but it just is too hard for me to make the time,… Whenever we use the word but, in any such capacity, we are showing a lack of self control, a lack of freedom, and in effect a bit of slavery. Whether it is to a foreign master, or to an inner desire, when we can’t control ourselves fully, we are not really free.

When Hashem took us out of Egypt, he gave us eternal freedom. What out external circumstance may be is up to Him, for whatever reason He may see that we need to be in a particular situation. How we respond to our challenges in life, the choices we make as we go through life, is up to us. This is the eternal freedom that was given to us as we left Egypt, as we say every night in the prayers after Shema “and He took us from there (Egypt) for eternal freedom.

As Passover approaches, we must find the areas in life that we are not fully controlling ourselves as we should, and realize the freedom we have to do so, as we celebrate true freedom, and our new position as servants of Hashem, not of any Pharaoh.