> Weekly Torah Portion > Parents & Kids > Family Parsha

A Different Kind of Slavery

Passover (seventh day) (Exodus 13:17-15:26 )

by Nesanel Yoel Safran

Do you know anyone who's a slave? No? Don't be so sure. Passover celebrates God freeing our people from slavery in Egypt. Thankfully we're not slaves like that today, but we have to be careful not to become a slave of a different sort -that is, a slave to the feeling that we just 'have to' do something we feel like doing and can't stop ourselves even if we want. Passover's a great time to free ourselves from the slavery of negative and unhealthy desires.


In our story, a kid discovers he's not as free as he thought he was.


Brad and Shawn were walking home on their first day back at school after their winter break. They were about to turn into their street when, suddenly, Shawn whispered, "Come with me around the corner for a minute."

Curious, Brad followed his friend, who until today he hadn't seen for almost a month, but stopped short when he saw the kid pull out a pack of cigarettes.

"Hey, what's that about?" Brad asked.

Shawn laughed. "What's the problem? Where I was during winter break, all the kids smoked them - so I did too. Here, wanna try?" He slipped two cigarettes out of the pack and offered Brad one.

"No way!" Brad shook his head. "I don't feel like becoming a slave."

"What are you talking about?"

"I know all about smoking. My uncle smoked, even after it made him really sick. I asked him why he didn't just quit and he said he wanted to but he couldn't. To me that sounds like a being a slave - wanting to do something, but you can't - no thanks!"

"You're out to lunch!" Shawn shot back, annoyed. "Smoking's just like anything else. I can do it when I want and not do it when I want."

"Oh yeah?" Brad said, "Then prove to yourself you're not a cigarette-slave by going until tomorrow this time without one, okay? Anyway I'm late for my music lesson, see ya tomorrow." With that, the kid turned and skipped down the sidewalk.

Shawn watched him go and shook his head. A slave? he thought. That's ridiculous. I could easily go a day without a cigarette - and I'm going to prove it.

Shawn put the cigarette pack back into his pocket and started walking. He was almost home when he felt something inside that made him feel like smoking. He'd been waiting all day for this - or at least since school recess when he'd snuck one behind the school building. But, too bad. He wasn't a slave - if he decided 'no' then 'no.'

Shawn walked a little further and realized that if he didn't have one now, it would be too late. No way could he smoke once he got home with his parents around. But, so what? He'd decided not to have any and he wouldn't, he thought, noticing his hand - almost on its own - pulling a cigarette out of his pocket. He wasn't a slave, he thought, noticing his hand - almost on its own - flicking the lighter...

The next day, the two boys were walking home again and were about to turn the same corner as the day before.

"Well, congratulations," Brad said, looking at his watch.

"For what?" asked Shawn.

"It's now 24 hours, so I guess you proved it to yourself, huh?"

"Proved it?"

"Yeah," Brad said. "Don't tell me you don't remember what we were saying about those things you keep in your pocket?"

"Umm..." Shawn lowered his head and cleared his throat, "you mean the things I used to keep in my pocket - not any more. I thought they were just cigarettes, but you were right, they really were really a ball and chain, but thankfully - this slave's escaped."


Ages 3-5

Q. How did Shawn feel at first about smoking?
A. He thought he could stop whenever he felt like it.

Q. How did he feel in the end?
A. He saw he really couldn't stop when he wanted, and it was making him into a slave.

Ages 6-9

Q. What life-lesson do you think Shawn learned from what happened?
A. When his friend told him that smoking made people into 'slaves,' he laughed it off. But when he saw he really couldn't control himself, he realized that things we desire can make us into slaves if we're not careful.

Q. Besides cigarettes, what other types of things can make someone a slave?
A. Many people are 'slaves' to junk food, or too much food of any kind. Alcoholics are slaves to drinking. Some people become slaves to keeping up with the latest fashion or other ways of impressing people. In short, anything that draws us to do it and we can't stop ourselves - even when we know we shouldn't or we just don't want to do it - can make us a 'slave.'

Ages 10 and Up

Q. Our sages teach that a free person is someone with self-control. What do you think this means?
A. Self-control means that we are able to decide what we do or don't want to do - and then stick to it. This means we have the ability to freely choose and there's no greater freedom than that.

Q. Can someone be forced to do something by someone else - and still be free?
A. While he may not be able to choose what to do, he or she can still choose what attitude to have, and choosing the most positive attitude possible within those circumstances sets one free.


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