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Pesach- Are you Completely Free My Friends?

Published on Thursday April 9th, 2020

Last year, before Pesach, I was invited by an organization dedicated to the well-being of prisoners in Israeli jails, to say a few words of encouragement and to strengthen these unfortunate prisoners.

The truth is that I was stressed about it. I have many stories to tell at the synagogue between Mincha and Maariv. I even have Halacha classes about Shabbat and Brachot on hand for more cultured audiences. But a course to strengthen prisoners? What can be said to a man deprived of his most precious right, of his liberty? Nothing.

If you take money from someone, hit him, or make him suffer, you do not undermine his spirit and his freedom. This is the most severe sanction, nearly intolerable.

And then, a moment before I entered the prison, a moment before hearing the noise of the heavy keys, I remembered a story told by the educator, Rav Chanoch Drori, and I understood that I had a treasure, that I could pass on to hundreds of prisoners deprived of their liberty.


In Berdichev, it is almost always possible to meet a group of Jews from Eretz Yisrael. Elderly men in Ukraine usually tell them wonderful stories about the Jewish past of the city.

During a trip of a group of Jews to the tombs of Tzadikim in these regions, an old Ukrainian man recounted stories about his teacher of the previous century, Rav Eliezer, who instilled in him the notion of freedom.

When one day Rabbi Eliezer was teaching a Torah class to young children in hiding, he was arrested and sentenced to eighteen months in solitary confinement. The size of the cell was half a meter by a half meter. Imagine! Once a day the prisoners were allowed to go out for fifteen minutes in the prison yard, where they saw daylight and they could breathe fresh air.

It was obvious to all, based on past experiences, that anyone who entered prison with such conditions, came out after serving his sentence quite disturbed, and in a broken state of mind. As a result, when Rabbi Eliezer regained his freedom, and he was full of reason, the community made a great celebration.

He recited "Birchat Hagomel" at the synagogue with joy and enthusiasm and immediately gathered the young children for a Torah class, at the same place where they had interrupted their studies a year and a half earlier.

Before beginning his class, he revealed the great secret that enabled him to maintain his sanity.

"When I entered the narrow dungeon," he said, "I felt that I was deprived of my freedom, as well as of my spirit. From a free spirit that mastered everything, I became a number, a hollow utensil deprived of the right to choose. At that very moment, I decided that I would not let them deprive me of the freedom of my mind, of my free will.

I delimited an area in this narrow ten-centimeter dungeon and decided that I would not set foot in this mini-zone for eighteen months. I kept free will and control in this narrow domain.

I also adopted this behavior in the time spent going out into the yard. After fourteen minutes, I entered the cell on my own initiative. This mastery of the same minute, as well as those ten centimeters, helped save my life and my sanity.

During these eighteen months, I remained the same Eliezer, master of myself and possessing free will. They shut up my body, but they did not succeed in damaging my soul or my mind. "

In prison, I explained to the prisoners that they could not be robbed of their personal freedom and their right to decide and control. Indeed, the areas where they can exercise control are reduced. But the free will they possess will never be taken away from them.

I advised them to choose a spiritual commitment, which they will never give up, to have some independence, and not to become enslaved slaves to other slaves.

* * *

In what does this concern you, my dear readers, you who are really free men?

You may not know it, but even here, there are prisoners, and their dungeon is much smaller than half a meter by half a meter.

It measures only a few centimeters, with a touch screen.

They are enslaved to it. Totally. They are deprived of free will and the faculty of mastery. They do not have the basic possibility of deciding, "Not now". They are addicted.

My advice, Rav Eliezer's advice is to set aside, in the 24 hours of the day, a minute, or even two, during which you master all the applications, and firmly decide: "Not now".

I am convinced that mental health, which will come back slowly with free will, will restore your power and the faculty to understand your situation, and to do everything, really everything to access freedom.

Let's trust Rabbi Eliezer.

The Torah-Box Team - © Torah-Box Account

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