Rabbi Leonard Cohen: Z’man Herutenu – Our Time of Freedom

Rabbi Leonard Cohen

By Rabbi Leonard Cohen

(Calgary) – According to our Sages, we are obliged to commemorate two things on every Shabbat:  G-d’s creation of the Heaven and the Earth; and Yetziat Mitzrayim: the Exodus from Egypt.

What is the connection between escaping Egypt and Shabbat? And what makes Yetziat Mitzrayim so significant that it stands as the parallel of Creation?

The Ten Commandments are found in two separate versions in the Torah, one in the book of Shemot (Exodus) and one in the book of Devarim (Deuteronomy).  In the version in Shemot 20:8-11, it reads: “Remember the Sabbath day… for in six days the Lord made the heaven and earth and sea and all that is in them, and he rested on the seventh day.”

By contrast, we find in Devarim, Chapter 5 verses 12-15: “Observe the Sabbath day and keep it holy… [and] remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your G-d freed you from there…”

These two different versions of the fourth Commandment are the source of the mitzvah of remembering both Creation and Egypt, which we do notably in the Friday night Kiddush (in the phrases “Zecher lema’aseh beresheet” and “zecher liyetziat mitzrayim”).

According to Rabbi Ya’akov Filber, both Creation and Exodus from Egypt are not yet finalized processes. Rather, they are each a work-in-progress. We continue each day to do the work, according to Rab Yechezkel Tzvi in “Kol Meheichal,” of doing mitzvot to re-create our world as a better one, to transform it into the world it is meant to be in preparation for Olam Haba (the world beyond ours). We are constantly receiving the Torah. The work of Creation is not done without our input.

And according to Harav Ya’akov Filber, Yetziat Mitzrayim — the Exodus from Egypt — does not constitute a final achievement of freedom – rather, it is the start of a process that continues to this very day. Through Yetziat Mitzrayim, Hashem granted the Jewish people great powers in order to do Hashem’s sacred duties for us in this world. The transition from avdut to herut, from slavery to freedom, is an ongoing process to transform ourselves and the world around us into a more G-dly one, in which compassion and justice reign.

May this Pesach holiday be an extraordinarily meaningful one for you and you loved ones.

Rabbi Leonard Cohen is the spiritual leader of Kehilat Shalom congregation in Calgary.

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