4.02.2007

Chag kasher v'sameyach!

I think I said something pretty nice about Pesach (Passover) last year, so I'm going to link to that first.

Also apropos for the season, I wrote about freedom and halacha here, last May.

Something new for the chag this year. I randomly came across this website with a few quotes about freedom, many of them translated into Hebrew from English or French or Russian. I don't know why I find that amusing, but I do. It's sort of like I find the sight of young children speaking Hebrew as their native tongue amusing.

This was my favorite quote about freedom, presumably from the original Hebrew:
עבדי הזמן - עבדי עבדים הם,
עבד ה' הוא לבדו חופשי...
ר' יהודה הלוי--
Servants of time -- they are servants of servants.
...The servant of God, alone, is free.
--Rabbi Yehudah HaLevi [my translation]
I generally find Khalil Gilbran's works interesting, so when I saw a piece of his translated into Hebrew on that site, I set out to find the English. It is the chapter called "Freedom" from The Prophet:

And an orator said, "Speak to us of Freedom."

And he answered:

At the city gate and by your fireside I have seen you prostrate yourself and worship your own freedom,

Even as slaves humble themselves before a tyrant and praise him though he slays them.
Ay, in the grove of the temple and in the shadow of the citadel I have seen the freest among you wear their freedom as a yoke and a handcuff.
And my heart bled within me; for you can only be free when even the desire of seeking freedom becomes a harness to you, and when you cease to speak of freedom as a goal and a fulfilment.

You shall be free indeed when your days are not without a care nor your nights without a want and a grief,
But rather when these things girdle your life and yet you rise above them naked and unbound.

And how shall you rise beyond your days and nights unless you break the chains which you at the dawn of your understanding have fastened around your noon hour?
In truth that which you call freedom is the strongest of these chains, though its links glitter in the sun and dazzle your eyes.

And what is it but fragments of your own self you would discard that you may become free?
If it is an unjust law you would abolish, that law was written with your own hand upon your own forehead.
You cannot erase it by burning your law books nor by washing the foreheads of your judges, though you pour the sea upon them.
And if it is a despot you would dethrone, see first that his throne erected within you is destroyed.
For how can a tyrant rule the free and the proud, but for a tyranny in their own freedom and a shame in their own pride?
And if it is a care you would cast off, that care has been chosen by you rather than imposed upon you.
And if it is a fear you would dispel, the seat of that fear is in your heart and not in the hand of the feared.

Verily all things move within your being in constant half embrace, the desired and the dreaded, the repugnant and the cherished, the pursued and that which you would escape.
These things move within you as lights and shadows in pairs that cling.
And when the shadow fades and is no more, the light that lingers becomes a shadow to another light.
And thus your freedom when it loses its fetters becomes itself the fetter of a greater freedom.
I especially loves the lines "And if it is a care you would cast off, that care has been chosen by you rather than imposed upon you./And if it is a fear you would dispel, the seat of that fear is in your heart and not in the hand of the feared." I would write a bit more about them, but I have to go cook. Such is life. Chag sameyach!

P.S. On my flight here, I read Judith's Hauptman's "How Old is the Haggadah?" (JUDAISM, Winter 2002), which was quite interesting. It provided, as I hoped it would, something new to share at the seder. I also started reading Joshua Kulp's "The Origins of the Seder and Haggadah" (Currents in Biblical Research, Vol. 4, No. 1, 109-134, 2005), but, alas, I didn't
get very far, since it was competing first with much-desired sleep and then with some stupid television. (I don't have a TV at home, so I try to get my TV-time in whenever I can--at the gym, on the plane etc.) Let me tell you, the TV wasn't worth it. All I learned was What Not to Wear.

No comments: