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Freedom and God's withdrawal from the universe

04/24/2019 12:56:32 PM


We are coming to the close of Pesach, “the season of our freedom.” During last Saturday morning’s Pesach service, we shared thoughts about the meaning of freedom. Those of us who are or have been parents often wonder how much freedom is actually good for our children.
If it were possible, would we want them to be free from homework, from deadlines, from responsibilities? Would we choose to do whatever we want, whenever we want? What about ethical choices? Would it also be an impingement on our freedom not to be able to act on every impulse? Where would it end?
The Kabbala teaches that when the world was created, God withdrew from the universe in an act of restriction called tsimtsum. This vacuum provided a void, which could then be filled in part by us. As co-workers inspired by God, we would then take the initiative to make good choices and perfect the world through our good deeds and thoughts. The very act of loving other human beings, the righting of the world through tikkun olam involves dismissing certain possibilities (in a way, limiting our freedom). Our mystical view is that through such restriction comes the light.
Let us give thanks that there are ways we can not be, things we must not do, people who pull at us and depend on us. “Schwer zu zain ein Yid”? ("It is hard to be a Jew") It may be, but it is also our glorious challenge.

Sun, November 17 2019 19 Cheshvan 5780