Freedom is not a binary thing. It can be defined, but its definition need not be all-encompassing. Freedom can include as severe restrictions and unpleasant experience as there was before, but it is only the perspective that has changed. A rather simple example of this is virtually all of Sefer Shemot, where we have an emancipation of our people from slavery, only to be constrained and shackled by a new kind of slavery, our lives once again compelled and seemingly obligated to go in a certain direction, to conduct and comport ourselves according to a set of rules and strictures that bound those of us who came after to a lifestyle and a dictum that forces our conduct to go beyond all means of rationality. And, as has been the case for some time, true freedom, of action and of perspective, eludes our grasp.
Honestly Frum made an interesting observation on my last post. He wondered, quite rightly, why it is not possible to accept there are things we don’t know and, as he put it rather bluntly “Who made Hashem? Frankly, who cares?” I think what he said and what he means is rather seductive, and it appeals to me as much as I think it appeals to him. And I could go down that road. It would be easy, understandable even, to conceal my doubts, my conclusions, my hard-fought understanding beneath a blanket of yet more uncertainty, but this is uncertainty is said to be of a benign nature, of the wonderment of that which we don’t understand. And I simply cannot do that. Not anymore. What I want for me and if I am fortunate, my son, is to be free of being forced to hope and to pray that Hashem really is out there; that I can impute Hashem into the vast uncertainty that those of us who understand confront every day. When I daven in Shul, when I get an aliyah, I stand tall and proud before the Torah, and pronounce the brachot with all the certainty that one would expect from a Rabbi. But in my heart, a place of a deep and abiding skepticism, Honestly Frum wants me fill it with wonder, or with apathy or with concealment, finding God in the proverbial details and letting the big questions skulk away in the shadow of small answers. I just can’t do it.
Emancipation did not work for the slaves; it took one hundred years until The Civil Rights Act was passed and even today, there are difficulties with that gracious and overdue act. Emancipation did not work for the Jews in Egypt either, as discussed above. What I want, desperately, for my son, is not to have to make those types of compromises and to be free, if he so chooses, to find the spirit of God or Hashem or whomever in whatever he sees around him. Emancipation doesn’t just happen because he knows who created God; it is a freedom to not have to think about that question at all.