14 Tamuz 5779 / Wednesday, July 17, 2019 | Torah Reading: Pinchas
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Freedom Fighters

It isn’t the tree’s liberation from the ground that causes it to grow, but rather how deeply rooted it is beneath it that causes its branches to touch the heavens…


Good timber does not grow with ease,

The stronger wind, the stronger trees,

The further sky, the greater length,

The more the storm, the more the strength.

By sun and cold, by rain and snow,

In trees and men good timbers grow.

~ Douglas Malloch 




In our physical world, the breaking of any type of restraint is like the unlocking of a set of handcuffs. Freedom is not being bound by laws legal or moral. Like everything else in this world, it's a lie. What we think is the untying of a strait jacket is really just the popping of a balloon. As long as it was tied down and bound, the air inside served a purpose. Once released, it's nothing.


Rome had a codified set of laws which governed its empire – most of the time. For a week, the last one in December, they celebrated an idolatrous festival called Saturnalia in which they would suspend all their laws. Nobody would go to jail for theft, murder, anything.


It was their version of liberation. Their freedom was a release against anything that held back their physical desires.


Why was Joseph alone with the wife of Potiphar? At the time, the entire house of Potiphar was on a festival which took place at the same time of the year. Potiphar was a cabinet minister in Pharaoh's kingdom. It would take an extreme circumstance to leave the ministers wife alone with a "foreign" slave. It must have been some festival that all of Potiphar's servants, bodyguards, and family left to attend.


This was Egypt. This was Rome. This is what the Holy Language calls the empty nation, or Ama Rika.




Every day we are commanded to remember the Exodus of Egypt. Hashem breaking the 210-year bonds of slavery and bringing us to freedom. We also celebrate the earth cycle, but it is in this month. We clock the months based on our national birth.


Our freedom isn’t the liberation of the body, rather the release of the soul from its physical prison. To us, it is the physical restraints that free us. We are like a tree planted by brooks of water. It isn’t the tree’s liberation from the ground that causes it to grow, but rather how deeply rooted it is beneath it that causes its branches to touch the heavens.




To be able to eat what you want, touch whom you like, and buy anything that tickles your fancy aren’t freedoms, they are liberties. They are the guarantee that nobody – whether a person or government – will stop you.


Freedom is the ability to do something. I have the liberty to run 5 kilometers, but not the freedom to. Only once I exercise my liberty to get up at 5AM every morning, stretch, and run as far as I can day in and day out will I earn the freedom to run to the bus station on the way to work.


Freedom is the opportunity to get close to Hashem. Only through the performance of mitzvot do we strengthen our soul to break free of the incessant demands of the body and return to the place of ultimate freedom – G-d.


This requires the subjugation of the body. On Sunday we must wake up, learn Torah, and go to work. The day before we must wake up, pray, and not go to work. At every moment we must restrain our mouths from speaking insult, our eyes from lustful visions, and our ears from hateful gossip.


We must limit the foods we eat. We must limit the time we sleep. We must minimize the time we do nothing. For the tree of life to grow within us, our physical self must be rooted to very bottom of the dirt.  


It is incumbent upon all of us to follow the laws of Noah, and the laws of Moshe.


The laws of G-d which confine the body to liberate the soul.


This is why Edom hates Jacob. It’s why Rome and Israel are eternal enemies. One fights for the body, one fights for the soul. Only one can emerge victorious.


The question for all of us is: Whose freedom are you fighting for right now?

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