Torah For Today: Freedom Day
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Torah For Today: Freedom Day

Rabbi Garry Wayland looks at a topical issue and delves into the Jewish texts for a response

Monday marks the day nearly all legal restrictions relating to the pandemic will be lifted in England, moving us from a realm of legal demands to personal responsibility.

For many, Freedom Day has been a long while in the making: casting off draconian measures, imposed in a rash response to a crisis, that have come at an immense economic and personal cost. 

Others remain nervous, such as those with compromised immune systems, those who are still suffering the terrible consequences of the virus, or those who want to still be cautious without fear of rebuke from others. 

This Sunday marks Tisha B’Av, the mournful fast day on which we commemorate the destruction of the Temple and many other Jewish tragedies. 

Almost like a ‘festival of disconnect’, the 25-hour fast and its mourning restrictions, such as sitting on the floor and not greeting others, is a reminder we are so far away from what should be normative Jewish life. 

Tisha B’Av, however, is not an end in itself. The coming days harken the arrival of the Jewish month of Ellul, known in Chasidic literature as the month when the ‘King is in the field’, with the daily blast of the shofar and extra prayers to prepare us for the New Year and the Days
of Awe. 

Freedom has to be purposeful: we need to be ‘free from’ but also ‘free to’ do things. 

God did not merely give us our liberty from Egypt,
He made us free and redeemed us. He gave us the framework in which to be free to live meaningful lives, but also to redeem ourselves and society around us. 

Much will change in the world due to Covid. We hope and pray the freedoms we have should be appreciated for what they really are: to imbue our lives with purpose, caring for those around us and helping make society
better for all. 

Rabbi Garry Wayland is a teacher and educator for US Living and Learning

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