What does it mean to live life to its fullest? Do you imagine reading a storybook with your (grand)children, vacationing on the Mediterranean, or sky diving? It obviously depends upon whom you ask, but these answers share one thing in common – the freedom to choose. Whether you think someone else’s preference is boring, wasteful, or simply crazy, it’s their decision. Freedom, in other words, lets us find happiness and satisfaction.
Imagine someone saying, “I feel most free when I follow the law.” I’d find that surprising, even from a judge who lives and breathes law every day. Laws restrict freedom and limit our choices. Law and order are critical to keep society functioning, but are a necessary evil rather than the spice of life!
Yet the Torah, which is filled with detailed laws, grants all of freedom, life and satisfaction. “You shall keep My statutes and My laws, which, if a man obeys, he shall live through them (Lev. 18:5).”
A better way to understand the role of Torah law, then, may not be to compare it to civil law, but to a user manual. Complex devices come with detailed instructions which must be followed in order to get maximum benefit from the machine. Torah is an instruction manual for life itself. It is through following the laws and principles in the Torah that one is able to get the most out of life.
The Talmud says, “No one is free, unless he is engaged in Torah (Avos 6:2).” The laws and principles of Torah give a person the ability to choose wisely, to follow what we know to be right, instead of what we feel or want to be right. That is true freedom. Who is more alive and free than G-d Himself? Torah is His personal guidance on how to be alive, and how to be free. L’Chaim – to life!