This week, for the 3,333rd time, we are retelling that momentous occasion when we became G-d’s nation.
The Ten Commandments are the only time when G-d spoke to all of the Jewish people together. Every word must have been carefully chosen and crafted for maximum impact.
Yet, the very first one starts off on a strange note: “I am the Lord your G-d who has taken you out of Egypt.”
If G-d was going for the biggest impact here, it would have been wiser to lead with “I am G-d who created the world.” What an honor to be chosen by the creator of the world, much better than just being taken out of Egypt.
Especially when you consider what follows – 10 restrictive laws that completely changed the Jews’ lives. Why would G-d remind them of the slavery that they just left, right before putting them once again in bondage, only this time a bondage of 613 laws?
But there is a powerful message in this. G-d truly freed the Jews by giving them these laws. The freedom to express their true selves by following a guidebook that brings out their inner identity.
Think of a musician expressing their ultimate G-d given talents by playing an exquisite musical number. The freedom to do that, to not be locked down by their mediocrity, only comes from years of disciplined practice. Restraint and structure frees them to be themselves.
The Torah is the instruction manual to our souls. Its seemingly restrictive laws are only there to allow us to tap into our inner self and reveal what we have in there. We have a G-dly soul in us, and we are connected to Him precisely because “I am the Lord your G-d who has freed you from the bondage of Egypt.”
Rabbi Mendy Freedman co-directs the Lyndhurst Chabad Family Center with his wife, Chaya, serving the Jewish community in the Hillcrest area.