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Phases of Redemption

Passover is the festival of redemption, celebrating God bringing us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Or rather, telling a story of redemption to remind all of us of our God-given capacity to find and enact redemption. Redemption has three levels and each Passover we have a unique opportunity to grow, to find a great quality of redemption in our lives.

First is freedom from slavery and political oppression. Slavery still exists. There are over 5000 slaves in our country, let alone the countless others around the world. Similarly, those living in oppressive regimes like Russia or Iran need redemption from oppression to live free lives. In both cases, something beyond the control of the individual must change to effect the first act of redemption to allow people to live free. Those who are free from such slavery or oppression have a God given responsibility to help liberate those who are enslaved.

Second is freedom to speak in ways that matter. Nearly every reader of CyberTorah has attained the first level of redemption, but some of us live lives where our words are silenced or ignored. This can include people in abusive relationships or victims of oppression, bigotry, or antisemitism. Here the person in need of redemption has some agency, and benefits from partners who can speak with impact to help in that process.   

A person may learn to speak more influentially or to find friends and helpers who can aid in the redemption process. They have agency to leave a confining relationship or to build new structures of response. They may find mentors or others who can aid them in finding the pathways to speech. Here too those with the power of speech, meaning those who are able to influence the structures of power, similarly have a responsibility from the Divine to aid those who are silenced or unheard.

Finally is redemption from our automatic and physical selves. We all have certain responses and ways of responding determined by our genetics and upbringing. We bring DNA and family scripts to every occasion. Often, we act based on those scripts or from our appetites in an almost automatic way. We are enslaved to those elements of the self. Redemption on this level requires an heroic personal effort. It means to notice and separate oneself from those urges, scripts, and behaviors. Such a person sees those scripts and then can be liberated from following them.

One element of this is freedom from addictive behaviors. Such addictions often arise as a complex mix of genetic and learned behavior. Addiction may also stem from being unheard. Redemption means God’s aid in helping that person see the ways in which they lose volition around their behavior and to regain self mastery. It means a capacity to hear those voices, feel those urges, and then to turn towards a healthier path. Full redemption in this mode means a full redemption from all such urges and behaviors.

This final level of redemption was attained in its fullness perhaps only by Moses. He got to a level where he could be liberated and attain a spiritual perfection that enabled him to fully channel God’s presence in his own life and then to bring that message of hope and meaning into the world. Each step we take towards redemption, however small, brings us closer to that message in our own lives and further expands our ability to be a source of love in the lives of others.

I pray you are able to have a season of true redemption, and that the matzoh and other foods we eat helps strengthen your own inner path of redemption.

With love and Shabbat wishes,

Rabbi David Booth


CyberTorah will take a Passover hiatus and resume in two weeks.

Sat, December 9 2023 26 Kislev 5784