Behar-Bechukotai: Releaseing “Self” From Slavery?

David's Star (Patrick Lentz photo via, Creative Commons license.)
David's Star (Patrick Lentz photo via, Creative Commons license.)

With this Shabbat we come to the concluding portion for Leviticus. A double portion that spans a wealth of issues. The famous “Liberty Bell” passage is found here (Leviticus 25:10) as well as a long series of passages on the call to follow God’s laws for blessing; and the promise of harm if we do not.
Abraham Twerski, in his “Living Each Week” (Art Scroll) takes a look at the Liberty Bell passage in light of the call for release of slaves. Slavery is an issue for many commentators of Torah. Twerski, referencing other scholars, asks us to look at the issue of slavery from a self oriented, more psycho-spiritual focus. This has, I think, relevance to us as we get older and we reevaluate our one sense of self and recalibrate what is a priority in our lives. Often, in this looking backward to look forward, we realize that what we thought was SO important, perhaps was not. Was our world view refracted by our own ego?
As Twerksi writes: “The most absolute type of slavery occurs when a person is enslaved by his ego.. One who has the need to control other people is driven to be domineering, and such a person is not free. The truly free person has no need to control others. Indeed, the psychologically healthy person realizes what an enormous task self-mastery is, and since her is occupied with becoming master over himself, he does not have the time, energy, nor need to be master over others.”
We are at a time in life when many of us come to understand that who we are and who we wish to be and what we wish to model takes precedence over what we control or who we know. The randomness of life becomes more “real” to us. This transition can be beneficial and life transforming as we reorder our own priorities. Proclaiming release, or liberty may, at this stage of life, be more personal than we had ever though possible.
Shabbat shalom
Rabbi Richard F. Address

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