Today is the Jewish holiday of Shavuot. The literal translation of the word Shavuot is weeks, a reference to the 7 weeks that have passed since the start of Passover.
Shavuot is the culmination of the story that began at the Exodus. The dominant theme of Passover is “freedom,” but the freedom we celebrated then was only one half of freedom. In some ways, it was a false freedom.
Passover was about freedom *from*:
Freedom from slavery.
Freedom from rules.
Freedom from limitations on their activity.
Shavuot celebrates the second part of freedom.
Shavuot marks the date when God gave the Jews the Torah, which contains the laws and prescriptions for life.
On the surface, this hardly seems like freedom. They had been subject to rules and laws as slaves in Egypt. This was just a new set of rules.
Except this was different.
The giving of the Torah is called Matan Torah — matan means gift. The people were asked if they wanted to receive it, and they said yes. The Jews wanted the Torah. They agreed to the commitment.
They had agency in this process.
This is the second half of freedom: Freedom to.
Freedom to choose.
Freedom to commit.
Freedom to receive.
The Jews entered into a covenant in the name of something bigger than themselves. By choosing to submit to this higher power, they gave themselves direction and purpose.
Freedom from is incomplete freedom; it’s escape without a destination. If you are running from a pain without healing it, the pain will continue to control you.
What we submit to willingly, through the exercise of our agency, doesn’t control us.
This is freedom to, which is complete freedom. When we say we want freedom, this is what we really want.
The truth of freedom
“Freedom from” is incomplete