Give me Addiction or Give me Death

[First posted on The Times of Israel:]

Ibn Ezra Deuteronomy: Vaetchanan

Give me Addiction or Give me Death

“Within yourself deliverance must be searched for, because each man makes his own prison.” -Sir Edwin Arnold

It is easy to fall into a pattern. It is easy to find something enjoyable or convenient in your life and stick to it. At first we like it. Later we seek it. At more advanced stages we may rely on it and at the end we can’t live without it. That most advanced stage has many names. A modern term is addiction. An ancient term is enslavement.

The book of Deuteronomy goes to the trouble of repeating the Ten Commandments that were given at Mount Sinai forty years earlier and recorded in the book of Exodus. There are some interesting differences between the two versions, but one of them is the recounting of the fourth commandment to Keep Holy the Sabbath.

The first mention of the commandment in Exodus is more universalistic, connecting the observance of the Sabbath to the Creation story. The second mention in Deuteronomy is more particular to the Jewish experience of the Egyptian enslavement and eventual exodus.

Ibn Ezra on Deuteronomy 5:14 explains that we must remember the Sabbath because we were slaves. We must take at least one day a week to release ourselves from the bonds of servitude. The real question to ask is what are we slaves to today and how do we break free?

Shabbat Shalom,



To our son, Netanel, on the occasion of his putting on his tefillin for the first time.


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