The Foundation Stone Haggadah: Ha Lachma Anya 8: Freedom of Choosing
There are many types of slavery. Slavery is not just being told what to do by a man with a whip. A life of so called freedom can really be a life of horrendous slavery. Not knowing what to do in life is just as much slavery as not being allowed to do it. Addiction is slavery. A heroin addict or even a smoker can, and often is, a slave to his body’s desires. There are many ‘pulls’ the body has on a person’s soul that can enslave him just as much as a drug. These pulls won’t leave him free to do the things he truly wants. Materialism in general can often be addictive, so that one cannot ‘see’ what is truly meaningful.
You have to look to the quality of life to see if you are free, not to the materialism that surrounds it. This will tell you if your soul is really free from your body.
Freedom has a definition: doing what you want to do as opposed to what you feel like doing.
The Haggadah asks us, in the above sentence, to look inside ourselves, is our body in control now? Are we hungry and want to get the Haggadah over with so we can get to the meal? Or, do we realize a need/lack of freedom and therefore wish to take up the Haggadah’s invitation to join in the Pesach celebration, the celebration that is a lesson in freedom. If we answer that we are hungry and want to get on to the meal, then we are enslaved to the body’s desires.
That isn’t the end of the matter, for the Haggadah’s question is more than just one of self-determination. It is a choice:
Why are you at the Pesach table? Because you are hungry? Hunger is a realization, or more importantly, identification with what your body is telling you. Your car needs gas but you don’t feel thirsty. Your body needs food — you shouldn’t be hungry. If you have ever worked on a very meaningful project that had you so engrossed you completely forgot about eating, then you know what it is like to be aware you need to eat without being hungry. This awareness is a form of hunger, one that doesn’t control you.
The hunger we are referring to is one that makes you rush through the Haggadah. It’s more than an awareness of the need to eat. It is an identification with your body’s needs. If you act upon this need to eat, to the point that you disregard the opportunities available to you at the seder, i.e. if you come to the Pesach dinner because you are hungry, then you have made the choice towards following your body.
The point is not to become an aesthetic and starve yourself. Rather, the issue is who is in control? Is your stomach leading the way, or is your soul?
Why are you at the Pesach table? Because you realize you need freedom? That your soul is restrained — enslaved by the desires of the body. Do you feel at a loss, that life is lacking it’s luster? You don’t have someone telling you what to do, but then again, you don’t know what to do. Realizing this and looking to the Pesach celebration and the Haggadah for a possible solution is the choice of following your soul.
We can let our body pull us so that our drive is to eat, or, let our soul take control and strive for freedom.
These two choices are put in front of you. Are you here because you are hungry, or are you here because you need freedom? Which one are you choosing? Which one are you going to choose? Make a real choice now. Either go for the meal and skip the Haggadah, or go through the Haggadah and take it seriously to find freedom. Make a decision!
This choice is not only for Pesach. It is a choice we can make every day of our lives. It is a choice that is always in front of us even when the Haggadah is not. Look to yourself and determine what is driving you, your stomach or your mind. Your eyes or your heart. Does the shine of a pretty face get you running or the thought of a meaningful class?
It is customary on the day of Pesach not to eat any meal from the middle of the afternoon on. Coupled with the long Haggadah, the above choice is accentuated. It’s a choice that is within all of us. Do we rush the Haggadah because our body is hungry? Or do we deal with the issues the Haggadah is raising, i.e. the Pesach celebration, and so satiate our need for freedom. What is your choice?
The alternative of not choosing is paralysis. People used to be able to choose to be happy. Today many find difficulty even in choosing a career. Start choosing again. The ability to choose is one of our greatest pleasures.