This week, as many of us sat down to enjoy our Seders with friends and family, I was very aware of two types of freedom that we celebrate at the Seder: “freedom from” and “freedom to.” We celebrate the “freedom from” slavery and oppression. We re-enact this form of freedom as we eat bitter herbs and dip our greens into salt water. We celebrate the “freedom to” as we conduct our own Seder experience. Each home leads its own Seder without benefit of Rabbi or Hazzan. Each person, young or old, has a part to fulfill at the table.
In the community of special needs we are often focused only on “freedom from.” No one needs to feel they must participate beyond their level of skill or experience. While this type of freedom protects individuals from embarrassment or ridicule, we must make strides to encourage “freedom to.”
Moses stuttered. Imagine the Torah without the phrase: VaYomer Mosher, And Moses Said.” It would not be the Torah without the voice of Moses. While Aaron did speak for Moses on occasion, no one denied Moses the choice to speak for himself.
Everyone needs to be able to say, “I want to participate by choice – I do not want to be ‘protected’ by someone else’s standards.”
Just as we have enjoyed the freedom of the Seder, we must place greater emphasis on “freedom to participate” and not limit our concerns and actions only to “freedom from.”
I wish you a Pesach Sameach in which each person enjoys the experience of “freedom from” and “freedom to.”
Rabbi Daniel T. Grossman has led Adath Israel Congregation in Lawrenceville, New Jersey for 25 years. He is a graduate of Temple University, Hebrew University, Mirkaz HaRav Kook in Jerusalem and the Reconstructionist Rabbincal College. Rabbi Grossman also works in the field of Jewish Special Education and co-wrote and participated in the video “Someone is Listening,” the story of a young deaf Jew and his search for fulfillment as a Jewish adult. Rabbi Grossman is also fluent in several sign languages.
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