True Freedom

Yael Eckstein  |  May 17, 2022

Yael Eckstein with girl from Ukrainian Freedom Flight

Then have the trumpet sounded everywhere on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement sound the trumpet throughout your land. —Leviticus 25:9

Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Behar, which means “the mountain,” from Leviticus 25:1–26:2.

Many of us bear emotional baggage that we carry throughout our lives. It’s the type of baggage that can slow us down, throw us off balance, and even threaten our mental well-being, just as carrying too much physical weight can. Yet, the truth is that many of the burdens we bear are burdens we could put down if we wanted to, instead of endlessly suffering from this baggage on a daily basis.

This baggage is filled with anger, resentment, regret, and turmoil. Calling these negative feelings and self-definitions “baggage” is very appropriate. If you’re like me, you know what it’s like to feel as though our mistakes and flaws are actually a heavy load that weighs us down. Far too often, we allow our past to define us, making us believe that we can’t ever change. Ridding ourselves of these burdens gives us a sense of relief and, more importantly, a sense of freedom.

True Freedom

In this week’s Torah portion, we read about freedom, specifically, the freedom of slaves every 50 years: “Then have the trumpet sounded everywhere on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement sound the trumpet throughout your land. Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you; each of you is to return to your family property and to your own clan” (Leviticus 25:9-10).

The Bible tells us that all indentured servants would be set free once every 50 years. These slaves typically either had committed a crime which they could not repay or had incurred debts that they could not afford, leading to their servitude. Now, in the jubilee year, they not only would go free, but they would also get a fresh start by reclaiming their ancestral land.

But why did they only go free on the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur? Why weren’t they set free ten days earlier on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year? After all, it’s typically at the start of a new year that we think about new beginnings and fresh starts.

I think the message is simple, yet powerful. On the Day of Atonement, God cleanses us of all our sins (Leviticus 16:30). By wiping away our guilt, God gives us a chance to let go of the mistakes of the past and truly start over. This is true freedom.

Your Turn:

What mistakes or choices have you allowed to define you and keep you stuck? Let go of this baggage and be free.

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