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Archive for : freedom

Shabbat Service: Bring Freedom to All

Shabbat Service is a weekly bit of Torah-inspired do-gooding, brought to you by Repair the World and our grantee-partner American Jewish World Service (AJWS). Read on to see how these ancient stories can apply today. Seem far fetched? Check it out:

The story: In this week’s parsha (Torah portion), Bo, we flash forward a couple of months to Passover by learning about Chag haMatzot a.k.a the Festival of Unleavened Bread. We also learn the difference between matzo – the thin, cracker-like “bread of oppression” vs. its seeming opposite, chametz, which you might call the “bread of freedom.” (Because only free people have the time to let bread rise, let alone bake it until it forms a nice chewy crust.)

The takeaway: All this talk about matzo and chametz in the parsha brings up questions about the meaning of freedom. When you get down to it, there are actually two types of freedom: There’s freedom “from” things – mostly bad stuff, like oppression and slavery. But there’s also freedom “to” things – like the freedom to make our own decisions, and the freedom to create new realities. By accepting our freedom, we meanwhile accept a type of responsibility to ourselves and to others. In other words, “our newfound freedom [obligates] us to bring about the same transformation for others in our world.” It obligates us to “be the change,” as Gandhi famously put it, and to help others find their own freedom.

The “to-do”: There are still three months until Passover’s week-long matzo-fest begins (whew!). In the meantime, why not get a jump start on embracing your freedom, by helping ensure it for others. Volunteer with or support human rights organizations like Human Rights Watch, Youth for Human Rights, or Rabbis for Human Rights North America.

Read the full Torah commentary, on which this excerpt is based, over at AJWS’ website.

Spotlight On: Passover’s Connections to Service

Passover is the Jewish calendar’s most popular holiday. Whether religious or secular, Sephardic or Ashkenazi – about 90% of Jews celebrate the holiday at a Passover seder.

The seder itself is a mixture of food (traditional favorites like matzah ball soup usually reign), singing (dayenu anyone?) and storytelling – particularly the telling of the Exodus story, which recounts the Israelite’s journey from slavery under Pharoah to liberation.

It doesn’t take much digging to uncover Passover’s compelling connections to service. The Exodus story itself offers endless starting points to discuss the personal and systemic oppression our friends, families, communities and world face today. Jews are told to tell and understand the Passover story as if it recounts their own Exodus from Egypt. As Rabbi Jill Jacobs wrote for My Jewish Learning, “During the seder, we can fulfill the double command to show and to see ourselves as having come forth from Egypt by retelling the story in our own words and through the lens of our own experience…by using the story of the exodus as a framework for exploring our own personal liberation struggles or current political struggles, we can come to see ourselves as participants in the continuing journey toward freedom.

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