What Are You Going to Do with Your Freedom?

The best question you can ask yourself in the month before Passover

Yoshi McLeod

Festivals

children of Israel creation Egypt Nisan Passover redemption Rosh HaShanah seder Tishrei

Passover is just a few days away now! It's gonna be a big trip, we're leaving Egypt, everyone together, and we're going on a grand adventure through the desert to Mount Sinai. I can't wait! So, I decided to start preparing now and share with you some of the thoughts that I'm packing for the trip.

I once heard someone ask his guests at his seder, "What are you going to do with your freedom?" That's a funny question. Aren't most of us already free? I'm not a slave in ancient Egypt. Aren't we just reading a story about the children of Israel? But my friend asked that question with so much enthusiasm that it has stuck with me every Passover since. Whenever I get close to the night of the seder, I think, "What am I gonna do with my freedom this year?" That's a big question. That one deserves real preparation, some time alone with my thoughts and time in prayer. I want it to be real.

There are two super powerful days every year for new beginnings—Rosh HaShanah and Passover. The whole biblical calendar swings between these two gigantic spiritual moments. On Rosh HaShanah, we crown HaShem as King over the world, and for the first ten days of the new year we repent of all our shortcomings in the previous year. Six months later on Passover, we sit around the seder table and recall the miracle of the exodus from Egypt—God's great redemption that birthed the Jewish people out of slavery into freedom. Whenever one of these holidays approaches I get excited, nervous, hopeful, and determined. It's like the first day of a new school year. It's a chance to start over. There's so much potential for me to show up on Rosh HaShanah or Passover and become the best me that I can be.

The Talmud asks an interesting question about the creation of the world. Was the world created in the month of Tishrei, near Rosh HaShanah, or was it created in the month of Nisan, near Passover? The question itself shows how important these two moments on the calendar are to the Jewish faith. The very beginning of the world, the initial moments of creation, the sparks of energy that created our souls, our minds, and our world must be connected to either Tishrei or Nisan. The month we crown God as King and the month of the exodus from Egypt. These are huge moments.

One answer to this question is that the world was created in thought in the month of Tishrei, and only later in the month of Nisan did the world become a physical reality. Imagine HaShem spending months thinking and planning what this world would be. Then like an artist putting paint to canvas, he formed our world. This month of Nisan later became the month of the exodus. Redemption from Egypt was approaching and preparing for months, and in a single night, on the first Passover, God redeemed the children of Israel. They were free people. Born in one day to a new life just like the creation of the world. I wonder if they were walking out of Egypt and asking each other, "What are you going to do with your freedom?"

As I get closer to Passover, I start reflecting on the resolutions that I made on Rosh HaShanah. Where am I improving, and where am I still struggling? I usually end up struggling with the same things every year. Maybe you feel the same way. I want to go into Passover this year with a fresh start and make the most out of my freedom. This time I'm gonna do better, stay focused, and work harder. This time I'm gonna leave my bad habits behind. Just watch me, world...I'm gonna be a rockstar. I'm gonna be the best me that the world has ever seen. All I need is a fresh start.

I have been through that cycle too many times, however. I know fresh starts aren't magic. They don't instantly change all my bad habits into good habits. It's hard work to change. So, I need to do something different with my freedom this year. I can't just decide to change. We just learned that creation began in thought at Rosh HaShanah, and came into reality in the month of Nisan. It's the same way with changing ourselves. Freedom begins in the mind. Freedom begins with changing the stories we tell about ourselves and the way we think about ourselves. I am resolving to work on the way I think as I get closer to Passover. You should too. Stop expecting yourself to fail. Stop thinking that you're not good enough. Don't dwell on your bad habits. Think instead of the person you want to be. Think about all your good qualities. Tell yourself the story of who you really are. Maybe then we'll make the most of our freedom—when our good thoughts make an exodus from our minds into our lives.

Passover is not far away. What are you going to do with your freedom?

About the Author

Yoshi McLeod grew up in Seattle’s oldest Messianic Synagogue, Beit Hashofar. He is passionate about teaching and inspiring others in Jewish life. He currently lives in Brooklyn, NY.

Festivals

children of Israel creation Egypt Nisan Passover redemption Rosh HaShanah seder Tishrei

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