Mishpatim

When the people of Israel refuse to free their servants, God is furious. “You didn’t give liberty to your brothers and companions. Therefore, I myself will liberate you – to the sword, the plague and the famine.” Freedom is no longer the opposite of slavery, it is absolute chaos, godlessness and suffering. Our actions are important and must be moral. However, they are not a magic trick. Even if we act ethically toward others, we may still suffer; suffering is intrinsic to a world that allows for creation and choice. Nonetheless, acting through a sense of relationship to God, we find our place in the world which is then neither completely chaotic nor deterministically evil. That place, perhaps, is true freedom.

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[Inspired by: Jeremiah 34, the reading associated with this week’s parasha, because of its opening commandment to free slaves; Maimonides’ Guide for the Perplexed 3:12; conversations with Rabbi Brad Artson; and Los horrores de la guerra by Rubens.]

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