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The Foundation Stone Haggadah: Structured Freedom

Why is our celebration of Independence so structured? It is clear how ridiculous it is when a teenager, financially and emotionally dependent, insists on his or her independence.

Two parents came to pick up their twenty-year old daughter from college. They were in a big rush and knew a day earlier how rushed they would be. They asked her to be ready to jump into the car and leave. They even told her that if she was not ready when they arrived that they would have to leave without her.

She wasn’t ready. Not even close. She had to move out of her college dorm because she insisted that she, an adult, should live in an apartment, not a dorm. She had to get her stuff out of the dorm. A family friend offered to pick up her stuff and store it. Using a family friend would mean that she was relying on adults and therefore not independent. “OK,” they said, you want to be independent; go for it!”

An independent functioning adult would have packed up their stuff in well- organized boxes. It would have made moving easier, speedier and safer. You would not have known that such steps are not independent. An adult would have worked within a structure, and structure is anti-independence. Something like “keeping Shabbat is not being independent because I am not doing whatever I want. “. She feels the same about kosher. “I am only independent if I do what I want without any rules.”

She has to move, and she has to pack her stuff, but no rules, so she packs it all in….garbage bags! Wow! But she did it on her own, kind of, because she couldn’t get it done in time; too many garbage bags! She, Miss Independent, was nowhere near ready, even with help! Her parents needed to get going, so all independence disappeared and the tears began. She did have the sense to wait a few minutes before saying in a very adult voice what a valuable lesson she learned from the experience. Please!

The twenty-year old, as all of us, had to learn that independence arrives hand in hand with responsibility. The independence develops from structure. The structure directs the person’s development; it does not limit her in any manner. Is there any freedom in a world without structure? Do we not rely on structure in order to function? Does a traffic light limit my independence, or does it allow me the freedom to function?

The Children of Israel were being freed with structure and direction. God made a commitment to nurture their independence. Yes, they did go from being slaves of Pharaoh to servants of God; but their service of God would allow them to develop as truly free people.

The structure of the Seder is the Structure of Independence. The Seder guides us. It pushes us to define, understand and appreciate independence and the need for structure. We can only discover true independence through the structure of the Seder and Haggadah

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