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Is Judaism Stifling or Liberating?

Let freedom ring! But what does it mean to be free?

48 min

Class Summary:

This class will travel into the world of some of Judaism’s greatest geniuses, Maimonides, Rabbi Yosef Rosen, and the Lubavitcher Rebbe, and see how they understood some of life’s deepest truths from textual halachik nuances. What is freedom – is it merely the absence of slavery and oppression? What is rest – is it merely the termination of work? Maimonides says that the obligation to remember and recount the story of the Exodus on Passover is the same as the obligation to remember Shabbos. Why does he make this comparison? But how is ‘rest’ different than ‘refraining from work’? How is ‘freedom from slavery’ differ from active ‘freedom?’ Indeed, the Hebrew language offers us two words to describe liberty: Chofesh and Charus. The difference between them is dramatic: One is freedom defined by what we are not; the other is freedom defined by what we are. The famous Rogachover Gaon, Rabbi Yosef Rosen, teaches an extraordinary and innovative law based on Maimonides: It is not enough to refrain from work on Shabbos, but one must actively engage in rest. This then is Maimonides’ point. It is not enough to be released from slavery, one must actively live ‘free.’


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  • EI

    emunah, israel -12 years ago

    lashon hora tapes
    hello rabbi, about 15 years ago cassette tapes of your in depth talks on lashon hora where circulating. where can they be found? and are they available in hebrew?   thank you

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    • A

      Anonymous -12 years ago

      Re: lashon hora tapes
      I do not recall. Can you be more specific as to the content, titles etc. and then I can perhaps be of help.

      Reply to this comment.Flag this comment.

  • TY

    Thank you -12 years ago

    To a local Jester

    You may enjoy yourself as much as you can and do any stunt you like, but when it comes to terminology that you don’t know, please, be very careful, take time to learn more about that or find another fun to do.

    BITTUL means selflessness or self nullification.

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  • LM

    Lab Material -12 years ago

    Questions and Exercises

    1. The Rambam (Maimonides) links the remembrance of Exodus to the remembrance of Shabbat. Why?

    May be because he foresaw that his works would reach the era of information revolution where “TWO IN ONE” is very attractive and appealing, so instead of long description about dos and don’ts he pointed to the core of its vertical and horizontal plains.

    1. There are two separate commandments on Shabbat : “refraining from work” and “resting”. Is Shabbat for you all about cessation of work, or is there something more? What does it mean for you to “relax”?

    Vertically, “resting” and “refraining from work” can be comprehend all ways up to TAYINUG and ROTZIN of our essence (From very few that I know about them: small children  when left to play games on their own are gravitate to come in touch with their  core, that give them a taste of true freedom ).

     Horizontally, we stumble with nonsense: if a person is out of a real work how he or she can refrain from what they do not do, as for resting without responsibility it can be more correlated with people in the cemetery… Hope they would not be insulted with my metaphor…

    1. Is freedom my natural passive state of being, or does it require conscious effort? If exempted from all responsibility, obligation, and external influences, am I then automatically free?

    …Obvious stagnation is the only thing that differ those people in the cemetery from passive beings.

    1. Is it possible for me to be enslaved to myself?

    Sure! What do you think I am doing right now during these exercises?

    Try to find an addiction or impulse that you find compelled by, against your better judgment?

    What is  it,“ better judgment”? Where is it? Okay I have new answer for Q. # 4: Freedom is nothing else then awareness and satisfaction of my soul’s needs.

    Empirical trial of this particular thesis should be ready only by the end of my … experiment and I will share the results with you later…

    1. Does real freedom entail a certain measure of discipline?

    May be,

    but for me it’s more about humility, because true freedom is coming from your essence that beyond emotions. Though Discipline comes before Balance, my preferences are still with Tiferet as an expression of Truth or Beauty.

    1. The Rabbis tell us that real freedom is attained through adherence to Torah. But isn’t that just another form of subjugation and submission?

    If it helps to focus on my soul’s a need and bring peace to my essence why should I ignore the Laws that required certain discomfort for me?

    1. Honestly, do you find Judaism liberating or stifling?

    It may be the only way for my personal liberation, but it’s easy to misuse it and turn into “smotherator”.


    Because in Judaism we have compass- it calls BITLE or humility, without it you may find yourself stuck in, far away from your destination, from your soul’s needs or inner essence and no money, luxury, connections are able to fill the gap.

    1. Do people who have less responsibility in life have more freedom in their life?

    For me people without responsibility are nothing but Zombies (neither newborns nor very old people are counted); it’s not that they have no freedom- it’s that they have no life where freedom can be implement.    

     P.S. Dear Ida and David Schottenstein  we are very grateful for your unprecedented contribution in the research of our essence.

    Be blessed with multitude times more for long and happy life!


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  • LRF

    Leib Reuvan Feldman -13 years ago

    Torah Or on Thursday night
    each and every time i listen to any of the videos it is wonderful..to learn and listen
    thank you for that
    in my wish list if i can share it with you...
    a thursday night ..Torah Or..Likutti Torah shir with you on video...
    thinking of this idea ..gevald gevald
    to bring Torah Or to so many people.... with your particular animation..and beautiful passion..your special way that you connect with people ..with this medium of video..it works..it fits
    it has value..it has possibilities..it has its own importance.
    thank you for letting me share

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  • A

    Admin -13 years ago

    To Alizah
    Under the video there is the option to play as a lower resolution. That may work better for you.

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  • A

    Alizah -13 years ago

    Sources are good. Material is well put together. Problem is the reception Rabbi Jacobson starts and stops..Going into shabbat so turning you off but Really wanted to give over the whole shiur at the SHabbat Table..Still I love listening to the shiur and it gives a Godd Chassidut shiur here in Gush Etzion./Efrat.

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  • I

    Isaac -13 years ago

    To Rabbi Shecter
    Where can one find this Chasam Sofer?

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  • RS

    Rabbi Shecter -13 years ago

    see Chasam sofer ksav yad for a very similar explanation

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  • KB

    Karsten Bannier -13 years ago

    And to think we inherited the art of braaing down here in South Africa from our African forefathers....not true.
    It came,of course,from the Torah!!!

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  • Y

    YYJ -13 years ago

    Answer to Moshe
    In response to your great question,

    For sure you are correct. But as we know, “human” has many dimensions. We are called “Adam” human, because we come from “adamah,” from earth, but also because we are “adameh leelyon,” we are similar to the Divine, the human person reflects the Divine. This is how the Shalah explains the term Adam.

    Both are true. We must choose weather to be “adam” from the word “adamah” or adam as in Adamh Lealeyon!

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  • M

    moshe -13 years ago

    how is it said that being "human is to be moved by the call of the infinite"

    is not human a limited existence and the freedom is liberating FROM the haman existance?

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  • T

    [email protected] -13 years ago

    tonights shiur
    Beautiful! Excellent! I need to listen to this again to absorb a liitle more of what you said. Thank you

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  • C

    Chaim -13 years ago

    Very...nice Shiurim. HaShem Yaarich Yamecha ve'Chayecha be'Tov. Amen. Amen. Amen...!!!!
    Writing you from Cordoba, Argentina.

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  • RH

    ruth housman -13 years ago

    fire & water
    for fire we have the fire that was not consumed, that first "fire", the one in which Moses heard the voice of G_d. And then in thinking about all the metaphoric connects we do see the dance, as you have so beautifully described, that upward reaching. I also see the Hebrew letters, the rose, and within the word fire in English, we have ire, flame as love, sparks as in Kabbalah and so many other connects that do deeply also connect to Light itself.

    As to water, we also have, in addition to your beautiful statements, of course reflection for thought, and we do have "thirst" as in, thirst for knowledge, a different kind of thirst that does take us to the spiritual well, constantly, to replenish. As vessels we pour and we do fill. And solution itself, as in answers and also as in water are other deeply beautiful associative and true connects to water.

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  • T

    Tatjana -13 years ago


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  • MG

    max gruenberg -15 years ago

    good shur
    thank you for a very inspirational and informationan sicha
    kol kavod
    I enjoyed your virtural farbrengen on yud aleph nissan
    thanks it means so much to me

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  • B

    Berel -15 years ago

    Thank you
    Thank you David and Eda Schottenstein. G-d bless you!

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  • E

    Essay -15 years ago

    Please place in this discussion
    Wow Great essay. As someone who struggles with depression, the following words were powerful: ''They would prefer to be slaves in a country that makes decisions for them rather than become truly autonomous and independent human beings, as a “kingdom of princes and a holy nation.” ...... Rabbi how do we overcome this. Its scary!

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  • J

    Joe -15 years ago

    Is there a source for this distinction between "chofesh" and "charus?"

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    • A

      Anonymous -12 years ago

      Re: Source
      I think I may have seen it in a work by Rabbi S.R Hirsh, but I am not sure now.

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  • י

    יצחק -15 years ago

    שיטת הרגצובי במנוחת שבת

    הנה יעויין לשון הגאון הרגצובי בצפע"נ על הרמב"ם הל' שבת פ"א ה"א: ועי' עירובין ד' ל"ה ע"א ור"ה ד' ל"ב ע"ב, מוכח דדבר דבעיא מרא וחצינא אף דאינו מלאכה, מ"מ אסור מן התורה. והטעם משום שביתה מטירחא. וזה ר"ל הך דר"ה ד' ל"ב בקדשהו כו' ע"ש ובחגיגה ד' י"ח ע"א. והן מצוה ביוהכ"פ ליכא", וע"ש עוד באריכות בענין זה, וכן בפירושו לפכ"א דהל' שבת. הרי ברור מללו של הצפע"נ שהאיסור אינו משום תולדה דחורש אלא מחמת טירחא, כלומר, ביטול המ"ע דמנוחה בשבת.

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Rabbi YY Jacobson

  • December 2, 2013
  • |
  • 29 Kislev 5774
  • |
Dedicated by David and Eda Schottenstein In the loving memory of Alta Shula Swerdlov And in honor of Yetta Alta Shula, "Aliyah" Schottenstein

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