For the week of January 4, 2003 / 1 Shevat 5763
Torah: Shemot / Exodus 6:2 - 9:35
and Bemidbar / Numbers 28:9-15
Haftarah: Isaiah 66:1-24

Are You a Slave?

Therefore, say to the Israelites: "I am the LORD , and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment" (Shemot / Exodus 6:6).

As I mentioned last week, the story of the deliverance of the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt is perhaps the point of reference for the entire Bible. What Israel experienced as a nation under cruel task masters long ago typifies what we can experience today.

The theme of freedom has very little meaning to us if we don't think we are in bondage. I expect that most of those who are reading this do not see themselves as slaves. But literal slavery is not the only kind of slave-type existence there is.

The essence of slavery contains two main aspects. The first is control. It is the master who controls the slave's life. Slaves are not able to make any choices outside the confines of their slavery. Their time is not their own. They are available only to serve their master at every whim.

The second aspect has to do with whom benefits from the slave's labor. Whatever slaves do is for the benefit of the master. Even if they are well treated, it is only to benefit the master even more.

There are many people today who live a slave-like existence. This can take many forms. Some are easier to recognize than others. Some of us are slaves to addictions of various kinds, from drugs to certain behaviors. We might be enslaved within a relationship. Some people are slaves to their jobs, even seemingly good jobs.

Sometimes slavery is not due to outside forces. It may simply be our own expectations that control our behavior. In those cases, when we realize that we have been indeed acting like slaves, we need to take responsibility for what we ourselves have done, rather than placing the blame on others.

This is not to say that all sacrificial living is bad. Definitely not! Giving one's self fully for the benefit of others is a good thing. What I am discussing here is about being in bondage situations that are destructive to ourselves and don't truly benefit anyone.

Realizing that we are in bondage is our first step toward freedom. God's deliverance of the people of Israel was in response to their prayers (6:5). It is very difficult to release someone when they haven't come to a place where they really want to be released.

But if you have come to that place where you have realized that you truly are a slave, then, like the people of Israel, God is waiting to free you. He will hear your cry.

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