“This do, and live; for I fear G-d.” – Genesis 42:18

“The fear of the L-rd is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do his commandments; his praise endures for ever.” – Psalm 111:10

Where to begin on the road to freedom? Elsewhere, it is written, “Serve the L-RD with fear, and rejoice with trembling” (Psalm 2:11). Here, we see that serving H’Shem in awe and reverence will lead to rejoicing. Yet, not to get too carried away with our rejoicing, we must balance this emotional expression with “trembling,” that will lead to a healthy respect and fear of H’Shem.

Instead of pursuing happiness, by whatever means might be pleasing to us, we are to embrace discipline (Psalm 2). It is important to bring an attitude of sincerity into our hearts, for the sake of remaining within the bounds of the guidelines of life given to us by kitvei kidesh (holy scripture). Then, happiness may ensue, as a result of our devotion to H’Shem. When we put our trust in H’Shem, rather than in the things of this world; pursuing righteousness, instead of material pleasures, then, we will be on the right path towards true freedom.

The sages explain, that the word cherut, meaning to engrave, as in the commandments were engraved on two stone tablets, may also mean freedom, with a slight change in the vowels. The consonants remain the same, forming the shoresh, the root word ChRT.  And, so when we adopt the commandments as an ethical means to approach life, we take it upon ourselves to live the way that G-d intended us to do so. Yet, these are more than a set of ethics, derived by a human source; these are commandments that imply a divine authority as their author.

When Jacob arrived in Egypt with his family, his son, Joseph, harnessed his chariot and went out to greet him. Joseph provided for his family to live in the land of Goshen – a land removed from Egypt proper. As a consequence of their living in this location, they were isolated to some extent from the rest of Egyptian society. They had more freedom to follow in the footsteps of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as opposed to getting caught up in the idolatrous ways of their neighbors. Yet, even in the midst of the uncertainty, doubt, and fear, that settled in years later, after the children of Israel became enslaved in Egypt, there was the promise of hope in the redeemer.

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