Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Behar 75 True Freedom and Autonomy

The portion-parasha of Be'har Lev. 25:10 talks about sanctifying the 50th year- the Yovel= Jubilee and proclaiming freedom-' dror'   for ALL its INHABITANTS, it will be a Yovel for YOU; you shall return each man to …. His family. 

The importance that all people should be free is because God says in verse 25:55' For the Israelites are servants to me, they are my servants whom I have taken out of the Land of Egypt.'  They cannot serve another Master but God alone. Because God has taken the Israelites out of the Egyptian bondage– and each Jew has to see as he himself left Egypt- , they owe their lives and freedom to Him. Because they are totally indebted to Him, they   are willing to give their lives to Him as His servants.                                                                                                                                                                   Here are 2 questions.

   1 Why do we celebrate freedom in the Jubilee year if that freedom means we have to submit us ourselves to a new Master?  2. Verse 25:10 talks about freedom for all its inhabitants, should the verse not read freedom for all the indentured servants and a Jubilee for them and not for YOU who are already free?

First, we must define what true freedom or autonomy is.  According to the SDT – Self Determination Theory a person is autonomous, self-determined and self- directed when he endorses his actions at the highest level of reflection. When self-determined people experience a sense of freedom to do what is interesting, personally important, and vitalizing this often happens when we do things enjoyable or interesting and they are an expression of our deepest values. When a person's basic needs for autonomy, competence and relatedness= having a sense of belonging and feeling supported people are  met , people feel self- determined and are  intrinsically motivated and engaged. It also leads to enhanced performance, persistence and creativity.

Autonomy does not mean independence. It is a state of mind. We can very willing subject ourselves to a security check at the airport because we identify with its value and purpose. In the same way we act with volition when we intentionally choose to subject and commit ourselves to God and his Torah. And this is what the Sages say –the only people who experience true freedom and autonomy are those who deal and are involved with revealing God's will through the Torah. In this way they follow the example of  Abraham, the Patriarch  in the leadership role of serving God and being of service to man. To be a servant of God one has to be a leader who can inspire people and such a person needs to be truly free, autonomous, self-determined and powerful.

It is not only the master- servant or master-slave relationship where the master is' controlling' and denies the servant any autonomy, but often in a marriage – husband and wife, in the family –parent and child in the workplace – boss and employee, or in school – teacher and student where people with power – boss, teacher and parent or even a spouse are very controlling, dominating and sometimes intimidating. The truth is that it is not only the people who are being controlled whose needs for autonomy are not met, but the person who has a need to control others does not experience autonomy and true freedom. The need and goals of autonomy are intrinsic – more about the person himself, his self-control, ability to teach, inspire, influence and lead because of his ability –competence and relationship with people. The person who needs to control others has extrinsic needs and goals for power and control over people. They compensate for feelings of weakness, insecurity, low self-esteem, fear of losing control, and relationships where there is no trust and connection. So the controlling person lacks true freedom and autonomy because he is being controlled by his fears and inadequacy.  

The Jubilee and call for true freedom is directed to all the inhabitants. Not only do people with power have to relinquish control and support the autonomy of their servants, employees, spouses, students and children but people who have power to be controlling have to focus on intrinsic needs and goals of autonomy, competence and relatedness so they can lead by their greatness rather than by their power, position and status. If one gives up control, one gains influence and connection.The servant returns to his home to lead his family in the ways of God. If he feels autonomous , perceives himself as competent , feels a  love for his family and respects  them  and their autonomy he will be highly motivated and feel a sense of true freedom in serving God and being of service to man.

Education is about building leaders. Leaders are not servants, but they lead themselves, and others in serving God and being of service to man. If we address our kid's needs for autonomy, competence and relatedness they will make the Torah theirs, and be leaders in their own way.

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