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    Freedom, feardom, fairdom – concepts of Pesach

    “Passover” by Arthur Szyk

    Jews have trodden the scene of history longer than most faiths.

    Our identity is an amalgam of ideology and experience. We believe in God but quarrel with Him; we have a religious culture but constantly weave in and out. We have a messianic posture which we sometimes embrace and sometimes deride as mere dreaming.

    A fractious people, united in crisis: a small minority, occupying a large share of history, we wander but sometimes we forget the way home.

    On Pesach, however, almost all the four sons are moved again by the old songs, sentiments, stories and symbols. On Pesach we indulge in sentimentality and nostalgia, we talk about people, we wonder what has happened to so-and-so. Big ideas hardly get a mention.

    It is the festival of freedom, but what is freedom?

    The Talmud links d’ror (freedom) with another d’ror (a swallow). Freedom is like a swallow which can fly where it wants and settle where it wants, without hindrance or coercion. Swallows don’t know about free will, the ability to weigh up options and freely choose.

    Humans know the right to be yourself and hold your own ethos. We all have the right to choose. “Love your neighbor as yourself” implies, “I hate to be hurt; I hate to see you hurt. I love and believe in myself, I also love and believe in you”. I say my way is wisdom and the truth: you say yours is. Freedom tolerates both of us.

    There are dangers in freedom. It can lead to boredom. It can even bring new tyranny and bondage. In freedom you need to make decisions, but some people prefer their chains.

    On the other hand, freedom starts before it arrives: Ludwig Boerne said, “To want to be free is to be free”. But Nero fiddled while Rome burned. That seems to be happening again.

    Populations are in thrall. People are on the move; no-one knows where home is. No-one is safe. Terrorism stalks the streets. Errorism is widespread. There is a paralysis of decision. People are scared to open their mouths. Rome is burning. Nero just weeps.

    St. Augustine said, “God, make me good – but not yet!”

    It’s too late for a “Not yet.”

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