HERUT

The Jewish Chronicle - - JUDAISM - Rabbi Ju­lian Sin­clair dips into the dic­tionary

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.

BneiHorin ( benhorin 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.”

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