February 17, 2012
Kosher Sutra: Freedom isn’t Free (Mishpatim)
One failing of the penal system is that prisoners can become too comfortable with the lifestyle. Some people enjoy the feeling of being cared for by an institution and the rent-free living inspires some ex-cons to quickly reoffend upon their release so that they are thrown back into jail.
Our Kosher Sutra centres around the Hebrew slave who has completed his term of service but tells his master “I will not be free” (Exodus 21:5). These are not conventional slaves according to the modern understanding because they still have some human rights, albeit limited. Nonetheless the owner is commanded to take the slave and nail his ear to the doorpost as a sign that he has voluntarily given up his liberty forever.
The Talmud explains that the mark must be made on the slaves ear because he has chosen not to engage with the proclamations of freedom that were heard at Mount Sinai, and he has also chosen not to walk through the doorway that would be the first step towards his new life (BT Kiddushin 22b).
Shockingly, many of us behave similarly in our own lives. We complain about the slavery in our jobs, relationships, body-image, weight, fitness-levels, psychological wellbeing…but we also don’t take any action. Rather than stepping through the doorway and making the journey towards freedom, we would rather moan and choose the path of restriction.
Yoga is the path of freedom, or Moksha Dharma and it can lead the practitioner towards “liberation of the spirit” (Yoga – The Great Tradition by David Frawley, p34). “Yoga was devised as the sovereign means to end all suffering” (Ibid, p33), but it takes daily practice to really become free. It is much easier to find reasons not to practice – ‘I’m too busy, I can’t afford it, I don’t have the time, I don’t have a teacher’ – and it is much easier not to begin the work than to go through the trouble of putting in the time.
As one song wrote: “Freedom isn’t free…there’s a hefty..fee” (Team America: World Police). The question is this; we all want self-realisation, but are we willing to pay the price