On Freedom...



Full Stop.

Take a breath.


Now, ask yourself this:

“Am I free?”


[Insert pause for self-reflection here.]


I think I’ve asked myself that question thousands of times in the past year. Obviously, I enjoy a level of freedom unheard of in other parts of the world; I exercise free will, I make (hopefully good) choices, and I decide what kind of relationship I want to maintain with both those I love and those who I hope to grow to love. Nonetheless, I still ask myself the question all the time.


I don’t ask because my rights have been restricted, or my personal freedoms have been constrained. I simply ask because I’m so, so scared.

Hard truth: We’re all scared.


[To be clear: if you’re not scared, you’re not paying attention.]


Globally, we’re scared of losing sight of who we hope to be. We’re scared of passive acquiescence replacing the fire of necessary resistance, scared of the very foundation of our global community enduring tremendous damage, and scared of our society regressing to a time when we undoubtedly experienced an inferior form of freedom. Big picture: our collective sense of self is bending under the weight of fear, and our anxiety has reached a peak level we have not known in years.


Like you, I’m also scared on a personal level. I’m scared that the personal growth and extraordinary happiness I’ve discovered in the past year will somehow leave me. Scared that the person I want to become will never be free of the fears and doubts I’ve tried to leave behind. Scared that I’ll continue to live in subtle fear of the ones who’ve hurt me deeply in the past, those lingering antagonists who still occasionally call my name aloud if only to see me shiver as I look back over my shoulder…


I need this Pesach so badly. I need it because I need to be reminded.


Passover speaks to the ongoing relationship between individual acts of courage and faith and communal acts of love and positive intentionality. It sheds light on the triangular relationship that exists between faith, freedom, and action. A community cannot be redeemed without the strength of its individuals. And, an individual will struggle to find redemption without the embrace of a community.

Pesach reminds us that things will only begin to get better when we each take an active role in making it better. We must stand up and speak out, and not retreat quietly down the path of shrugged-shoulders and averted eyes.


I've thought deeply in the past few weeks about what it means to stand up and to speak out in the context of my own work. Last week, I drew deeply from my circle of friends and brought together a band of twelve extraordinary musicians to spend the day talking, learning, and making music together in New York City. In this safe space of community and creativity, we laughed, jammed, and connected deeply to the music and to each other. Arranged in a circle, we recorded a medley of Avadim Hayinu (a traditional Pesach melody) and Wade in the Water (a widely-known African-American spiritual), material that illustrated the core narrative of our discussion that day: The story of freedom belongs to everyone, and the only way forward is together.


I'm so grateful that our experience was captured on film, and that I can share it with you now. Click here to check it out.


On Monday evening, millions of souls will gather around the Seder table to read these words aloud:


Avadim hayinu, ata b’nei chorin.

Once, we were slaves. Now, we are free.


Ken y’hi ratzon. May it be God’s will.