Negative and Positive Freedom
By Rabbi James Jacobson-Maisels
In this week's parashah, Yitro, we read of the revelation at Sinai that follows last week's Exodus from Egypt. What is this relationship between freedom and revelation, between Exodus and Sinai?
The Hasidic master R. Yehudah Leib Alter of Ger explains that Sinai follows the Exodus because "the purpose of all the commandments...is so that every person of Israel be free (Sefat Emet, Language of Truth, pp. 319-320)." Revelation follows liberation because while freedom might have been initiated at the Exodus, it is only completed at Sinai.
Yet what kind of freedom is this? What kind of freedom is maintained by the revelation of laws and commandments which, on their surface, seem to limit freedom?
Freedom From and Freedom To
We can begin to answer this question through Isaiah Berlin's famous analysis of the two kinds of liberty: negative liberty and positive liberty. Negative liberty is defined as freedom from--the freedom from restraint on one's actions, enshrined in such concepts as human and civil rights. Positive liberty is defined as freedom to--the freedom to pursue a good life personally and communally, expressed in such rights as the right to vote, the right to organize, the right to education, and the right to pursue economic stability.
While negative liberty, the Exodus from Egypt, is essentially concerned with the absence of restraint, positive liberty, the revelation at Sinai, paradoxically often requires restraint for it to be realized.
Perhaps the clearest example of this paradox is found in our tradition's attitude toward education. Learning Torah is understood by the tradition as a positive commandment that one is obligated to fulfill (see Maimonides, Laws of Talmud Torah). One is expected to find time to study and to utilize one's financial resources to ensure that both oneself and one's children are educated. This requirement of education is understood as essential to freedom, to positive liberty, even though it seems to limit one's individual freedom of time and financial priorities.
At the completion of revelation Moses descends from the mountain with the tablets of the law in his hand: "the tablets were God's work, and the writing was God's writing, engraved upon the tablets (Exodus 32:16)." The Rabbis famously comment, "'engraved (harut) upon the Tablets'--do not read it as engraved (harut) but rather as free (heirut) for there is no free person but one who engages in the study of Torah (Pirkei Avot 6:2)."
Here we see the relationship between Exodus and Sinai. Only through the process of learning the skills, insight, and wisdom to live an empowered life can one truly be free. . .
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Rabbi James Jacobson-Maisels teaches Jewish thought and mysticism at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem.
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|May Their Memories Be For a Blessing |
1/31/2013 (20 Shevat)
2/2/2013 (22 Shevat)
2/4/2013 (24 Shevat)
2/6/2013 (26 Shevat)
2/7/2013 (27 Shevat)
2/11/2013 (1 Adar)
Oscar Kuhn, Arnold Lada
2/12/2013 (2 Adar)
2/15/2013 (5 Adar)
Sylvia Cohen, Henrietta Hamburger
2/16/2013 (6 Adar)
Rose Lovinger Columbus,Gussie Friedman, Jack Gruber
2/18/2013 (8 Adar)
Wesley Brown, Marvin Rosen
2/19/2013 (9 Adar)
Max Silverstein, Sharon Florence Weisberg
2/20/2013 (10 Adar)
Nancy Fischer, Rhea Lazarus, Klara Stark
2/22/2013 (12 Adar)
Theodore Jacob Levine, Betty Margolis, Leah Yudell
2/23/2013 (13 Adar)
Gloria Braverman, Sol Reichberg Taub, Leo Weber
2/24/2013 (14 Adar)
Wolfe Brown, Esther Nusbaum
2/26/2013 (16 Adar)
2/27/2013 (17 Adar)
Ann Doneson, Maurice Katz, Esther Wolok
2/28/2013 (18 Adar)
Alan Breitman, Rose Lifshitz
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B'nai Israel Synagogue
is affiliated with The
United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.
|SHABBAT SHALOM |
B'nai Israel Synagogue is now affiliated with United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ)
Sunday, February 3rd, 12:30p.m.-2p.m.
Special 3-Part Shabbat Study Session
February 2, 9 and 16
TKA/BI Social Hall during Kiddush Lunch
Rabbi Berger will be offering an in-depth study of Rabbi Danny Nevins's recent teshuvah on the use of electricity on Shabbat. The class will meet during kiddush lunch at a designated area in the social hall.
All Ages Welcome!
To Ruth and Mark Webber on the death of their brother in law, Joachim Nachbar.
To Robert and Laurie Kimmel on the death of their brother in law, Dr. Richard Reinherz.
To Libby Beider for sponsoring minyan breakfast marking the first yahrtzeit of her brother, Mel Rogoff.
Shabbat Services: Yitro
Friday, February 1st
6 p.m. Services, Chapel
Saturday, February 2nd
9 a.m. Services, Sanctuary
Kiddush Lunch is sponsored by the Kiddush Lunch Fund.
Kiddush Lunch is available through the generosity of weekly sponsors. Please e-mail or call Mindy Shuback (248) 752-6046 or call the synagogue office if you would like to sponsor a kiddush lunch. You may also make a donation to the synagogue specifically for the Kiddush Lunch Fund by clicking here.
with Dr. Mitch Parker
This class is held on Shabbat mornings in the lower level, Room 9.
February 9 and February 23, 10 a.m.
Upcoming Youth and Family Activities
Ice Skating: February 3, 2013
MCUSY Limo Scavenger Hunt
Saturday, February 9th, 7:30-10:30 p.m.
Drop off and Pick up at Adat Shalom Synagogue
$25.00 Contact Ilana Wolf to rsvp: 248-207-0364
B'nai Israel Synagogue Kadima (grades 6-8)
February 10th, 1-2:30 SkyZone
Ultimate trampoline park!
Unmatched, out of this world high flying fun, wall-to-wall trampolines for free jump and sports play courts!
for more information.
Upcoming Youth Services
Supervised Youth Activities, Room 3, lower level
February 16 (special program), February 23
To stay current on all youth and family activities, contact Ilana Glazier to join the B'nai Israel Families Facebook Group.
|Upcoming Community Events
TKA/BI Joint Opportunities
BOOK CLUB (Adults)
Book Club meets on the third Sunday of every month. All are welcome.
Sunday, February 17th Gossip: The Untrivial Pursuit by Joseph Epstein (non-fiction)
Sunday, March 17th: The Invisible Bridge
by Jullie Orringer (fiction)
Sunday, April 21st: The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls (memoir)
TKA Sisterhood Day of Beauty:
February 10th, 12p.m.-3p.m.
$25.00 includes lunch and beauty consult
RSVP by February 1st to Connie Silver: 248-851-2149 or
KNITTING has returned!
Not a knitter? All stitchers are welcome. Bring your needlepoint, crochet hook or cross stitch and join the group. There is no charge to attend.
7 PM at the TKA/BI building.
FUTURE DATES: 2/13, 3/13, 4/24/ 5/21, 6/10
Just drop-in! No registration required. For more information, e-mail Gail Raben.
81st INTER-CONGREGATIONAL MEN'S CLUB DINNER
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
6 p.m., Temple Israel. Click here for complete program information and downloadable reservation form.
Dietary laws observed.
Monday and Thursday mornings, 7:00 a.m.
Rosh Chodesh mornings, 7:00 a.m.
Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday mornings, 7:15 a.m.
Monday-Friday evenings, 6 p.m.
Sunday Morning, 8:30 a.m.
Sunday evenings, 5 p.m.
Legal Holidays, 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Caring Community Information
Our caring community reaches out to one another in a variety of ways. We welcome our new members warmly with a special visit and gift. We provide shiva minyan leaders. We call/visit/provide meals for members who are ill or home-bound, bring a home-cooked shiva meal to mourners in our community, and help to drive members who need a ride to synagogue services and events. If you would like to help in any way, please call or e-mail the synagogue.
Refuah Sh'leimah/Wishing a Speedy Recovery
Please e-mail the synagogue office or contact the synagogue: 248-432-2729, if you have a name that needs to be placed on the mishebeirach list or needs to be removed from the list.
31 Robin Pappas
2 Hanna Berlin
4 Murray Baruch
7 Jeremy Pappas
12 Constance Victor
14 Jeffrey Eisman
14 Rebecca Tron
16 Benjamin Eisman
16 Brian Newhouse
16 Miriam Saperstein
17 Michael Golob
20 Colton Graub
22 Seymour Manello
25 Toby Chudnow
25 Sheila Kurland
25 Sharon Rosen
26 Aaron Orel
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