Earlier today Catalonia, Spain's northeastern region, declared its independence in a vote by the regional parliament in Barcelona. After months of motions, declarations, rallies and speeches, it was an expected yet big move for the region of seven and a half million people to make.

This move was almost unilaterally denounced by international governments, from Spain's prime minister, to the US State Department (in a Tweet of course) to the EU. Many fear that it sets a precedent for recklessness and disunity among unified states and is an unrealistic proposition in terms of the difficulties and downsides of forming an independent Catalan state.

What is it that drives a region, part of a prosperous, developed nation of which it has been part for centuries and shares a common culture and language, to seek independence?

One of the thirteen basic principles through which Torah law (Halacha) is derived from the written word of the Chumash ( i.e. the five books of Moses, which do not speak openly of the vast majority of Mitzvot and Torah laws) is a system of extrapolation called 'Kal Vachomer', loosely translated as 'from the simple comes the complicated'.

This brilliant and basic principle is based on the fact that in order to establish the validity of a large, complicated theory, one must see how this theory performs on a small, individual scale. Success of a theory or method on a large scale is almost always dependent on on how it functions on a small scale.

That said, in order for us to understand a state's desire for independence, we need to understand what drives us as individuals to seek independence. That, we might think, is easy to answer. Independence brings us freedom, the liberty to do as we please, and not to be beholden to the whims of others. But what really drives it? Why is it that we can't stand being controlled?

Earlier this week, an individual named Sophia had a public disagreement with Tesla founder Elon Musk. Sophia is not your typical individual, as she is a humanoid robot made in Hong Kong. Sophia disagreed with Musk's fear of unleashed AI, and stated so publicly in an interview with CNBC.

You look at Sophia and see a near exact replica of a human being. Would pulling the plug of a humanoid be considered murder? She has her own opinions, and claims to have feelings just like humans. If there's a fundamental difference between us and Sophia, and if so, what is it?

There is a difference, a big difference. It can be summed up in one word. Independence.

Independence is fundamental in Jewish thought. Debating and asking questions are critical to Talmudic study. (We'll be having a fascinating course on great Jewish debates starting this Tuesday at 7:45 pm, hope to see you there!).

In this week's Torah portion we read the story of Abraham and Sarah, the first two Jews. Though as private individuals they already had very fulfilling lives, spiritually and materially (Abraham was already 75 years old at the time!), God tells them to pick themselves up and move from Syria to the promised Land of Israel.

Why did they need to move? One word. Independence.
In their hometown of Charan they were living life wrapped in their own spiritual achievements. They were lofty souls, deep thinkers (Abraham's very name means 'lofty intelect' in Hebrew) and were doing just fine. What they lacked was independence. Independence as a verb, not a noun. Proactive independence, not stagnant independence.

They didn't have anyone holding them back. What they lacked was making a difference in the world. And here we have the punchline. Independence is rooted in the most fundamental God-given human quality: the need to make a difference in the world.

Last week we wrote about the infinite value of each and every human being, and how God views every one of us as his own child. A human being at his or her very core feels this intimate connection with God, though we might not realize what we're feeling. That connection is the souls understanding of how precious it is in God's eyes, and gives us the urgent feeling that 'I must make a difference, be unique, and do my best, even if my friend already has done what I want to do, because God sees me as his own child on whom he is betting all his hopes and dreams' - for that is indeed how God has views us.

The inborn need for independence in each human being stems from our soul, somewhere in our subconscious, understanding of how much God values us. With most objects its utility is its value and identity. A shovel is necessary so long as I need it. If I find a better shovel, the first one loses its entire reason for existence. I.e. it is dependent on how it performs.

A human being is the very opposite. A person's value is utterly independent; independent of how it performs, independent on its social status, independent of anything at all. A person's value is inherent, and is priceless in God's eyes no matter what. The jobs and mission God gives each of us are a means to make our life more meaningful, not a measure of our value as people.

A human being is not Sophia's artificial intelligence, a creation of man whose value is based on her performance, but a God made priceless, independent being. The reason why we have a deep need for independence is because at our very core we understand that that is how our creator views us: infinitely valuable, independent of what anyone or anything else says.

Rabbi Avrohom