Shaya Cohen -


What Does the Torah Mean by “Freedom”?

The Torah has a word for “freedom.” It mirrors the modern meaning of the same word: freeing servants or slaves. Someone freed is thus out in the world, able to make their own decisions, and suffer their own consequences.

The word’s root letters are “Ch-P-Sh” and it is found eight times in the text referring to freedom.

The same root word has another meaning, too – and it tells us all we need to know about why freedom is so frightening for most people, why the vast majority of humanity prefer to be told what to do rather than have to handle the uncertainty of freedom. This is because the same word is used in the following two examples:

Thus [Laban] searched, but could not find the idols. (Gen. 31:35)

And Joseph’s steward similarly searched the bags of the brothers, discovering the goblet in Benjamin’s bag. (Gen. 44:12)

The word for search and the word for freedom are one and the same. Which makes a significant amount of sense: searching is frightening. Searching involves unpredictability, and the feared unknown. Our searching may succeed, or it may fail. We may not even be sure what we are searching for. These are the very same insecurities that come with freedom!

This Torah use of this one word explains why people instinctively fear freedom!

[an @iwe and @susanquinn tidbit]

Comments are welcome!

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