Reading adapted from The New American Haggadah
Does liberation mean freedom? According to Exodus, when the Torah was given at Sinai, the Israelites accepted its commandments without first hearing what they would be. They declared, “Naaseh venishmah. We will do and we will hear.” But even the simple son of the Haggadah asks, “What is this?” when presented with the story of the Exodus.
Were the Israelites at Sinai so naïve that they were like the son who does not even know how to ask? Or did they knowingly decide to take a leap of faith and exchange the yoke of slavery in Egypt for what the rabbis call “the yoke of heaven” – no questions asked? And in so doing did they give up the freedom that they had just acquired in leaving Egypt?
The wicked son of the Haggadah believes in freedom, and so many of us are drawn to him. Freedom, for the wicked son, means denying that the laws of the Torah affirmed by the wise son apply to him. But that is not all. The wicked son also denies that he is a member of the Jewish community, what the rabbis call klal yisrael. By asserting his individual freedom, the Haggadah declares, the wicked son has exempted himself from the liberation of Egypt: “If he had been there, he would not have been redeemed.”
Here, it appears, we have freedom without liberation. But this also mean that Torah believes in liberation without freedom?
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