Freedom.  It’s both a fact and a feeling. 

In the springtime, the feeling of freedom washes over us.  With open windows and lightweight clothing, we somehow feel less trapped than we did in the wintertime.  The birds welcome us outdoors with a cheery chorus.  “The time has come to be free!” they seem to say.  Flowers and trees bud, blossom, and bloom.  It’s a time to break free from the shackles of the cold winter and get outside.

But springtime is just a time of year.  While our hearts are pulled towards freedom, the facts on the ground may tell a different story.  This year, with the change of seasons, we’ve experienced another change here in Israel.  Terrorist attacks have been occurring with heart-wrenching frequency in major cities around the country. With fear comes a tendency to shut ourselves in.  Or maybe not ourselves, but at least our loved ones.  We don’t want to go on busses, or into town, or to shopping centers.  Some of our long- awaited plans for warm weather outings have been shelved, for now.  People are starting to feel trapped again.

In two weeks, we’ll be celebrating Pesach: the holiday of freedom.  This is the time to remember and give thanks for the freedom of our people.  After being taken out of slavery, the Jews were free to build their own nation, their own people, in their own Land.  This type of freedom is something we don’t take for granted.  On the first night of Pesach, Jews around the world hold a solemn and celebratory feast, staying up until late into the night while we regale each other with tales of our liberation from the land of Egypt.  We drink wine in abundance and get drunk on the feelings of the night.   The taste of true freedom is on our tongue with matza, our simple bread representing deliverance.

The night is eagerly anticipated, and oh so sweet.  It’s Chag HaHerut (the Holiday of Freedom).

But there’s fear in the air.  How can we truly celebrate this glorious time of year when fear locks us into a prison?

This isn’t an easy question.  There’s no getting around the fact that that the situation isn’t good right now.  But perhaps the message of Pesach is particularly relevant for those seeking to overcome their fear. 

The God that took us out of Egypt and freed our nation is the same God with a plan for our people.  It is He who decides the course of the world and what will happen to those who reside within it.

This knowledge can be the most liberating of them all.  We aren’t truly in charge, and we never will be.  But we are responsible for our own actions and yes, even our emotions.  Fear is a choice…and we can choose otherwise.

So, get out there and breathe in that sweet smell of springtime, the joyous scent of freedom.  Don’t let fear stop you from recognizing the fact that we are a free nation in our own beautiful Land, a country full of mustard blossoms, afternoon-blooming irises, and butterfly orchids (among other wonderful things).  Israel is the best and safest place to be for our people.  And our celebration of the Holiday of Freedom is just around the corner.

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