Freedom and Liberty
“We hold these truths to be self-evident…” are powerful words that send a chill down our backs. During Independence Day, we remember our nation’s fight for freedom that occurred long ago. This holiday allows us to reflect on the freedom that we personally possess and pushes us to realize that people all over the world lack many basic rights. Judaism teaches us that every fifty years, slaves would gain their freedom during the Jubilee Year. As Jews, we must remember that ancient call for freedom as we continue that call of liberty throughout the four corners of the world.
Jewish Texts and Values
- You shall proclaim liberty throughout the land for all its inhabitants. (Leviticus 25:10)
- The essence of being cursed is being enslaved; the essence of blessing is liberty. (Sefat Emet on Leviticus 25:10)
- Rabbi Yehudah said: What does the term liberty mean? It connotes “one who dwells in a dwelling place and transports merchandise to any land.” This means that a person can live wherever they want and is not under the authority of others. (Rashi’s commentary on Leviticus 25:10)
- We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Declaration of Independence
- Independence Day Parade Float: Every year Temple Israel of Alameda (Alameda, CA) marches in the town’s annual Fourth of July parade. They are accompanied by a traveling klezmer band and many of the synagogue members from old to young wear t-shirts with Hebrew script. The Temple became involved with the parade after some racist and anti-Semitic incidents occurred in the town a few years ago. By marching in the parade, the Temple represents the Jewish community and is able to reach out to the wider Alameda society. In addition, the Temple has been able to do some outreach with many unaffiliated Jews in the area through this event.
- Torah and Haftarah Reading: Rabbi Arthur Waskow of the Shalom Center has encouraged a special Torah and Haftarah reading on Independence Day. He suggests reading Perek HaMelech (Passage on the King) from Deuteronomy 17:14-20, which speaks about the power of the King and the role of a leader to his/her people. As the Haftarah, he reads the main parts of the Declaration of Independence. Afterwards congregations can have a discussion about these texts and their meanings to our lives today. These experiences allow for a deeper understanding of the Declaration of Independence and give richer meaning to the Fourth of July for the Jewish community.
- American Jewish World Service - Bring justice and freedom to the rest of the world by assisting the American Jewish World Service in their work in Africa, Asia, and South America. Work hand-in-hand with AJWS through fundraising, educational programs, or study trips throughout the world.
- Human Rights Campaign- The Human Rights Campaign was established to assist the Gay, Lesbian, Bi-sexual, and Transgender communities. They wish to end all discrimination against the GLBT community and work to create fundamental freedom and fairness for all people.