Passover: The difference between freedom and liberty

  • Posted on April 13, 2022
  • Estimated reading time 3 minutes

In honor of the exciting holiday of freedom that is coming upon us, Passover (Pesach), I want to raise the question of the difference between freedom and liberty. What is the difference between a free person and a person who has freedom? What exactly are we celebrating on Passover? The freedom or the liberty?

We can define two types of freedom: negative freedom and positive freedom. Negative freedom is the lack of prevention, or "freedom from" while positive freedom is like self-fulfillment, or the ability to make meaningful choices - "freedom". Positive freedom focuses on the internal desires of the individual, which are influenced by, among other things, education, environment, and personal components, while negative freedom focuses on the external circumstances of the individual.

During the time of Passover, the children of Israel went free from their slavery in Egypt, and then wandered in the desert for 40 years. Many understand that it had to happen this way so that the younger generation born in the desert, and not the generation that came out of Egypt, would inherit the land of Israel. This generation transfer leads to a very important realization: only a free person can truly fulfill themselves. The generation that left Egypt was physically free, but mentally were still bound by the mindset of slaves. The generation born in the dessert were not just physically free, but were able to enact positive freedom, to actualize internal freedom.

For me, this is what we celebrate on Passover: the physical exit that is an outcome of freedom. Only those who are physically free can reach positive freedom. And positive freedom, by the way, is a personal choice. While the journey to physical freedom may be complete, the journey to inner freedom is not over yet - it has barely begun.

We are reminded of this concept of freedom on the calendar in Israel as well. I am from Israel and between Passover and Independence Day (Yom Ha’Atzmaut) on the Israeli calendar, we celebrate Israeli Holocaust Remembrance and Heroism Day. While Passover and Independence show us the freedom we celebrate, the two holidays in between remind us of the price of lack of freedom and lack of independence. Here too, the opportunity to think about the personal dimension alongside the national dimension is important and valuable because without physical freedom, we have no way to actualize our individual freedom.

The connection between freedom and independence seems self-evident. And yet, when you look closely you can see that this connection is not as simple as it seems at first and the interdependence between these two concepts is quite complex and complicated.

It takes immense courage to achieve our goals and live with our own choices. It is difficult to make change when we are comfortable in the familiar and known. In the comfort zone to which we are accustomed, there is much more order, security, clarity, stability, peace and quiet, yet the comfort zone is not always where we are meant to be. We should always continue to develop internal awareness so we can improve our inner strengths and use those unique abilities that we each have to propel us outside of our comfort zones to true internal and external freedom.

Monica Brock

This was extraordinarily insightful and caused me to think about what Passover is genuinely about "freedom or liberty" and the idea of negative freedom or positive freedom. Thank you for sharing. 

April 15, 2022

Meaghan Wood

Thank you to the entire team that put on this fantastic event in honor of Passover!

April 14, 2022

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