New Hampshire is a beautiful state, known for its pristine forests, lakes, and natural beauty. It's also known for the most famous motto of all 50 states: Live free or die. That one little phrase encapsulates so much, and has inspired millions to fight for freedom for as long as time has existed.

In Judaism, too, freedom is cherished. One of the four names of the upcoming holiday of Passover is 'Redemption' or 'Freedom'. Yet the words 'Live free or die' are never found anywhere in the Torah, Talmud, or any Jewish writing. Neither those words, nor anything like them. Because life is what's cherished above all else.

Now, doesn't that very same Torah contain many a line about self-sacrifice? Haven't millions of Jews throughout history gave their lives rather than give up their faith? Isn't that 'Live free or die'?

Let's pivot for a moment. Look out the window. What do you see? Usually, what we see is viewed through a lens, sometimes a heavily colored one. We may be looking at a tree outside, but our mind can be so busy churning through events that happened yesterday, ten years ago, or haven't happened yet, that it's almost as if we don't see the tree at all.

Now look outside again. Focus on the fact that the tree - or whatever you see - is simply, purely a tree. It's a free tree, in a free moment, detached from all else. While previous events certainly have an effect on the here-and-now, that moment is still fundamentally free of both past and future. That tree outside is simply a tree, in all its pure simplicity, in a free, independent moment.

Experiencing every moment for the moment that it is - now that is truly 'living free'. And that is exactly how Judaism defines freedom. Jewish mysticism calls our tendency to view so much of life through clouded lenses  by the name 'Klipah', or peel in Hebrew. Just as a peel covers over the fruit which lies within, so too do we often tend to 'cover over' the beauty and potential of the current moment with 'peels' of the past - or even the future.

In a sense, Judaism does agree with the 'Live free or die' motto. Life without freedom really is not up to par. But the ability to 'live free' always - always - resides in our minds, not in the circumstances around us. We can therefore always choose to 'live free' and no one can ever take that ability from us. 

That isn't to say that challenges don't cloud our vision. Of course they do. That's why the Torah doesn't tell us to live a life without challenges, for that is impossible, rather a life of freedom. Freedom from yesterday, freedom from tomorrow, freedom to dig within ourselves and savor, maximize and breath life into right now.

That is why the Exodus from Egypt and the Passover story are made into such a brouhaha in Jewish life. Because that story is our daily story. It's the story of breaking free from slavery, whether to Pharaoh or to yesterday's frustrations, and to start living. It's the very meaning of the name Passover - we can 'pass over' yesterday's events and see today for the fresh, beautiful opportunity that it is.

As the fifth Rebbe of Chabad, the 'Rebbe Maharash' (Rabbi Shmuel Shneerson, 1834-1882) would say, 'A person is not ruled by his/her surroundings circumstances. Rather, a person controls and can illuminate his/her circumstances and surroundings' (loose translation from the original Hebrew).

So, 'Live free or die'? Nah. Live free, or pass over the superimposed cloud of yesterday's challenges, and live free anyway.

Rabbi Avrohom