Free To Be
by: Rabbi Robbie Tombosky
Not long ago, my filmmaker wife invited me to join her as a ‘plus-one’ to a Hollywood event where a noted Self-help Guru would be presenting her secret formula for manifesting freedom in our lives! I must confess, my most memorable experiences have always been a result of being my wife’s plus-one, so I was pretty enthusiastic about the evening ahead.
The timing was perfect too! It was just before Passover, the holiday when we commemorate freedom of the Jewish people from Egypt, and I had been thinking a lot about the freedom we experience in our own lives.
We arrived at a magnificent Malibu chalet overlooking the ocean and found ourselves in the company of some well known Malibu residents as well as several other Guru’s and thought leaders.
We enjoyed socializing during cocktails and found a nice quiet place in the back of the room for our date night in Malibu.
The speaker quickly moved into her pitch about how many of us find ourselves living “lives of quiet desperation,” in which our deepest dreams and desires remain repressed, leaving us slaves to our feelings of regret, disillusionment, and deep life dissatisfactions.
She began to work the crowd into a frenzy!
“Who wants to be free to enjoy a life of wealth?”
“Who wants to be free to travel and enjoy leisure?”
“Who wants to be free to live your deepest desires?”
With each question the crowd’s enthusiasm gained momentum, their arms raised and waived in the air over their heads. “Me! I want to be free! I want leisure! I want to live my deepest desires!”
And then amidst the cheers and fanfare, the speaker suddenly paused, and drew her attention to the back of the room. “You. In the back. I noticed that you are not raising your hand with everyone else! Don’t you want to be free too?”
I looked around to see to whom she was speaking and suddenly realized that she was talking to me!
Not sure how to respond, I flashed her a quick nonchalant waive and smile, and said with as much humor as I could muster, “Oh me? I’m sorry, I’m just here as a plus-one on my date night!”
She laughed, but had that locked-on-target look of determination and kindly insisted I share what I desired for a life of personal liberty with the group so we could all participate together.
Silence. All eyes now on me… Oy!
So I thought for a brief moment and shared that I appreciated her presentation, but as we were about to celebrate Passover – the holiday of freedom – I had a different perspective on personal liberty, and from that perspective, true freedom could never be attained through the means of wealth, travel, leisure or the fulfillment of one’s unexpressed desires.
While all of those things are wonderful and can add to one’s life experience, they are but distractions from true inner freedom and would never truly alleviate the feelings of regret, disillusionment, and deep life dissatisfactions.
I shared that according to Judaism, I believed there was only one expression of true freedom, freedom to find one’s unique gifts, fully cultivate and express them in our own lives, and then to share those gifts with the world around us
Indeed freedom is attained through the full expression of our most altruistic selves, not the self-serving rabbit-hole of fully expressing our most narcissistic desires. My favorite mindset to actualize this kind of freedom is the motto, ‘It’s not about me, but it’s up to me!”
The crowd seemed to really enjoy my response, the speaker less so!
After the talk about a dozen of the attendees approached my wife and I to learn more about the Jewish approach to freedom and we were blessed with several new friends and guests at our Passover Seder from that evening.
Freedom is current, relevant and dynamic. When we each come to realize that our unique gifts have been given to us by design to accomplish our unique missions in this world – we begin our journey to true freedom.
And when we gain the confidence to share those gifts with the world around us we begin to cultivate a life of purpose inspired “resounding exuberance” and break free from the chains of “quiet desperation.”
Rabbi Robbie Tombosky serves as the Rabbi and spiritual leader of Beth Jacob Young Professional’s in Beverly Hills, California. He is a sought after teacher and speaker and is passionate about helping families & individuals express their deepest values through meaningful self-exploration and purposeful living.