Friday, July 7, 2023


Joey Chestnut has done it again! I am not sure how you spent your Fourth of July, but they celebrated it on Coney Island in Brooklyn with the Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest. In a contest as to who can eat the most hot dogs (with buns) in ten minutes, Chestnut won his 16th contest by consuming 62 hot dogs in ten minutes. This dubious achievement secured his record-setting 16th Mustard Belt. I wondered why this contest occurred on the Fourth of July until I heard a clip of the announcer who declared "that Chestnut was doing this for Freedom"! This contest demonstrated that the word Freedom has become quite misused and abused. From a Torah perspective, Freedom is not a license to do what one desires but rather the power to choose to live a life of responsibility. The Pesach Seder, the night that the Jewish People celebrate its Freedom, is a night of retelling our humble story of how we transitioned from an enslaved to a free people. We emphasize some of the warts in our past as we declare, "In the beginning, our ancestors worshiped idols'' until Avraham embraced the ways of the Creator. The climax of our journey to Freedom was reached when our ancestors received the Torah from G-d on Mount Sinai. Every year on Shavuos, we celebrate this Freedom by studying Torah more. As the Rabbis teach in Pirkei Avos, "A truly free person is someone who is immersed in Torah." Judaism puts a premium on intensive Torah Study as this exercise enables us to understand what responsibility is and how one can live a life that is truly free. Unfortunately, Western values have taken the sacred value of Freedom and turned it on its head. Day has become night, and night has become day in the name of personal choice. In an era where the lines of rights and responsibilities are increasingly blurred, it is important to remember the true meaning of Freedom. Have a Peaceful Shabbos, Rabbi Yaakov Fisch

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