Featured in other local papers on Thursday, April 5, 2001. Copyright 2001 by Yosef Y. Polter

Passover - Is slavery only a thing of the past?

The holiday of Passover - beginning Saturday evening, April 7, -  celebrates the emancipation of the Israelites 3,313 years ago from Egyptian bondage, as detailed in the book of Exodus.  But is the story relevant today, even at a time and in a country where slavery has long been abolished? 

Indeed, slavery is alive and well, although perhaps not in its simplest form: forced labor of one human being for the benefit of another.

We may have abolished physical slavery but have we risen above other forms of bondage?  Some feel compelled to follow the dictates and mores of society even if such behavior is ultimately to their detriment; many are slaves to TV, the media, immediate gratification, the need for power, their work; others succumb to their passions and desires; still others may be addicted to alcohol or drugs&  

Of course, these afflictions are part of the human struggle.  Change is not easy, but how much happier, more satisfied and truly free we could be, if we challenged these brutal, insidious taskmasters that wreak havoc on our health, our family, our friendships and our souls.

We must recognize that ultimately there is no such thing as freedom without servitude.  In fact, as we look at the story in the Bible, G‑d tells Moses right from the start, at the burning bush, "you are going to take the Jewish people out of Egypt so that they shall become servants to G‑d on this very mountain". 

In America, we know freedom has a price: we are inevitably going to be enslaved, or in servitude to something.  We can, however, choose the master.   It need not be the unrelenting taskmasters of contemporary society.  We can serve a higher power, a greater cause, and benefit from the serenity of a more G‑dly purpose, and the contentment of a deeper meaning of life.

The timeless Torah provides direction, not only for Jews, but for all humankind.  It speaks to the human spirit at all times and in all places.  The message: we can break out of these tormenting prisons, but only through submitting to something higher and greater.  Then we can actually experience a measure of relief from many of the problems that we are all too familiar with.  Fortunate are those who attain this balance in their lives.

At this time of year, the season of the Exodus, there is extra spiritual energy to help one accomplish this goal.  Let us capitalize on the opportunity, and harness this energy to create for ourselves a truly meaningful, rewarding, and fulfilling life.  And may our efforts bring about a time when these societal and personal ills will be banished, and we will witness and enjoy the ultimate purpose for G‑d's creation of the world: an era of peace and harmony, love and friendship, good health and abundance, spiritual awareness and understanding.  May it come to pass speedily in our days. Amen.

Rabbi Yosef Polter is the executive director of the Chabad Jewish Center at 148 Great Road in Acton, serving area towns.  For more information, call  (978)929-2513 or 758-8994  Or visit www.chabadofacton.com