By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, April 25, 2008

Herut is freedom and what we celebrate on Passover. Herut is a rabbinic term linked to the biblical horim, which commentators translate as “ministers” (See I Kings, 21:8), people with power. Herut is the opposite of powerlessness, slavery.

Bnei Horin (ben horin in the singular) means free people. In this case, bnei means “those who have acquired”, not “sons of”.

Significantly, the Hebrew word for freedom derives from the word for minister, someone who is expected to use his or her power responsibly and for the benefit of others (or am I just being naive?).

The rabbis express this idea emphatically in their reading of God’s writing “inscribed upon the tablets” (Exodus 32:16). The word for “inscribed” is harut. The rabbis say read it not as harut but rather herut, freedom.

A life of herut is to be found through the dignity, holiness, and responsibility of a life informed by Torah. The great Spanish poet and thinker, Yehuda Halevi, summed it up most poignantly when he wrote, “The slaves of time are the slaves of a slave; only the slave of the Lord is free.”

Last updated: 12:26pm, April 24 2008