Another good example of why Judaism needs to continue to evolve is this week’s parsha. Slavery is not condemned, but limited, particularly for Jewish slaves. As modern Jews we know that slavery should never be allowed, but this is more of a modern moral concept than an ancient one. No one should be allowed to own another individual, Jewish or not, but are there ways that modern people can become slaves in our 21st Century?
Freedom and slavery in our modern day may have different meanings. For example, if the government took more and more or your earnings in taxation to the point that very little was left for you, aren’t you a slave for the government? Another example may be if you accumulate large debts and have to work to pay them off – are you free? You may have seen the bumper sticker that says, “I owe, I owe, so off to work I go.” Freedom is not all about how much money you have to spend, but it will impact the kind of activities you may desire to do, and aren’t able to, because you lack the necessary funds.
Freedom of speech, thought and religion is also necessary for a free human being. It is our minds that define us, not our bodies. Being pressured to think a certain way or being forced to follow a religion is not freedom. In reality, all Jews are Jews of choice because one cannot be forced to be Jewish if they don’t want to identify as such. This is true of any other religion or ideology.
True freedom is about making the right choices so that you are not a ‘slave’ to another entity or your own debt. Living within your means, saving for the future and making wise financial decisions will help you have more freedom in life. Lifelong education and study will also help you be more free since gaining wisdom and enlightenment frees the mind. Recognizing your own uniqueness and never allowing anyone to label you or put you in a box is a sign of personal freedom.
Live to be free, not a slave, by making good choices. Your life will be happier and more successful by doing so.