Rabbi Avraham Pam explained this in the following way: the difference between the slave and a free human being does not lie in how long or how hard each works. Free people often work long hours doing arduous tasks. The difference lies in who controls time. A slave works until he or she is allowed to stop. A free person decides when to begin and end. Control over time is the essential difference between slavery and freedom. Control over the calendar gave the Israelites the power to determine when the new moon occurred, and thus, when the festivals occur. They were given authority over time. The first command to the Israelites was thus an essential prelude to freedom. It said: learn how to value time and make it holy. "Teach us rightly to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom" (PS 90:20).
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