Pesach (Passover) was not that long ago that we have forgotten the major themes that dominated that time: Freedom and deliverance from those who would and did oppress us. Pesach and freedom are semantically intertwined, you can’t have one without the other. Yet the nature of freedom is a challenge to understand. Freedom today is defined largely by a personal response and rejection of anything that would attempt to restrain or cramp individual style. This form of freedom rejects authority, preferring to replace the Torah’s view of a hierarchical form of authority based on experience, calling and training with an experiential almost emotionally charged form of self-determination. ‘Man is the centre of the universe and I am at the centre of mine’. But is this freedom? Is this what the Scriptures teach? One might even connect such forms of self determination with the very first act of sin and rebellion in Gan Eden when Chava decided using her own faculties of reason and analysis to rebel against G-d. In Jewish thinking collective leadership drawing down the wisdom of the ages and applying Torah in a ‘human’ way is the chosen structure of order in Jewish communal life. To function within a Jewish community is to recognise these G-dly forms of order, to recognise that the Mitzvot themselves demand a form of submission to G-d that involves a surrender of yourself to Him who alone has the right and power to organise, dare we say control, your life.
We don’t like relinquishing that power to run our lives. Such has always been humanity’s problem, let alone our Jewish problem. Yet relinquish it we must. Rav Shaul in his letter to the Jewish community in Rome (ch 6) describes a situation where we are removed from being servants or slaves to sin because of the freedom brought in our redemption through Yeshua. This parallels our freedom from Egypt. But Rav does not stop there. He continues to say that our new position is that we are slaves to righteousness. We are not ‘free’ in the modern sense of that word. We belong to G-d because He bought us, the slave price, and now we are His. He does indeed have the legal right and authority to tell us what to do, and that includes a voluntary submission to the structures embodied in the community to express His global will.
Modern man despises such ideas and sees in them another form of oppression, yet this is not the case. Why? Elsewhere in the Messianic Writings Rav Shaul commands men to not ‘lord it over others’ as the pagans (gentiles) do. What we discover through this is that the G-dly, Jewish, righteous way to function as ‘slaves to righteousness’ is to offer submission. It is never demanded, insisted upon or forced. All community leaders can do is to point the way to the real righteousness of G-d, and trust, hope, that people will follow. Such voluntary surrender to HaShem opens the door to see real righteousness in action, and we then discover that as much as we are still ‘slaves’, we are in fact part of the family.