In this Passover during the pandemic, consider for a moment the case of Viktor Frankl, a prominent Jewish psychologist who was a survivor of two concentration camps and author of “Man’s Search for Meaning.”
In the article on Aish.com, “Viktor Frankl, Passover, and the Meaning of Freedom,” Rabbi Yaakov Cohen states, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing. The last of human freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances. The Nazis took everything away from him: his clothes, possessions, his family. He said they’re huddled in the cold barracks; starving exhausted and heartbroken. He felt like he had nothing left. And then it hit him; the Nazis thought they had total command over him. That he had no freedom left. But there was one thing they could never take: his choice, his response. By realizing he maintained the power to choose, he clung to his humanity and dignity.”
During this year of the pandemic, our freedom has been tested. We have had to make many changes that have altered the way we live, work and communicate. We are finding new ways to live life to the fullest.
But we still have freedom during this difficult time: the freedom to have food, family around us and secure dwellings; the freedom to make decisions with our families, co-workers and friends; the freedom to leave our homes to go to work, go shopping, visit others even with the restrictions of distancing and wearing masks; and the freedom to communicate using video conferencing so that we can stay connected.
As Rabbi Cohen says, “This is why matzah is called the bread of freedom. Bread is just puffed up matzah… it’s water and flour full of hot air.”
The pandemic gives us the opportunity to evaluate the essentials in our lives – the matzah without puffed up leavening.
We all have the freedom to control how we respond to circumstances. For me, freedom speaks to having the basics in my life, my home, my family and the things that bring me comfort and sustenance. Food, heat, electricity, Wi-Fi, all allow me to go on.
The real freedom is that we are able to make choices knowing the basics are in place. Those basics were not there for Victor Frankl and through it all he survived and eventually thrived. But those basic needs are in place for us and having them gives us many more options to create happiness, joy and success.
Let’s celebrate freedom this Passover as it is truly “close to home.”
PATRICIA RASKIN, owner of Raskin Resources Productions, is a media host, coach and award-winning radio producer and business owner. She is on the board of directors of Temple Emanu-El, in Providence. She is a recipient of the Providence Business News 2020 Leaders and Achievers award.