Spacefood and Matzah?

This is a guest column by Rabbi Da-vid Rosenthal, from Aish Minnesota.
“Cause I’m free to do what I want, any old time.” So sang the Rolling Stones. Or in the words of Billy Joel “I don’t care what you say anymore, this is my life. Go ahead with your own life, leave me alone.”
We tend to think of ourselves as fairly free individuals. We live in free countries, where there’s freedom of speech, freedom of religion etc. We can choose to act however we want to – providing it doesn’t impede on other peoples rights.
So here’s where I came across a quandary.
Pesach (Passover) is meant to be the holiday of freedom. Every Jewish holiday has it’s theme, which we are meant to “tap into” via the mitzvos (commandments) of the day. It is not meant to be merely an exercise in national recollection, but rather reliving and experiencing anew, the energy of that particular festival.
So if Pesach is about freedom, and specifically the first night of Pesach, when we were freed from Egypt, why then is it also the night with the most amount of obligations?! There are more commandments on Pesach night, than on any other night of the year?? How can we make sense of this?
If you’ve ever had a coach for a particular sporting venture, you will probably have been told quite a few things you’ve been doing wrong. “No, your arms should be straight at that point, and only bend towards the end of the swing”. “Your knee is way too low, stand up straighter”. You get the picture.
But what if I want to do it my way? I want to be free to swing the gold club/tennis racket/baseball bat the way I want to. “Look sonny, if you want to be good, you’ll take my advice”
The price to greatness, whether in the realm of sport, or in almost any sphere of achievement, is through strict adherence to multiple rules. If you tried playing the guitar by making up your own chords, you wouldn’t have music, you’d have anarchy. Try being a good soccer player by using your hands(obviously we’re not talking about the position of goalie). Greatness comes through discipline.
But let’s add one more dimension in here.
We are constantly experiencing a fight between our bodies and our souls. Our bodies want to be comfortable and sleep and eat, and our souls want to grow, achieve and give. We all know deep down that we want to act like souls, but often our bodies get in the way. Our ticket to greatness in life in general, is through restricting the body, in order to serve the soul. We don’t want to just be “free” vis a vis physical circumstances, i.e. able to eat as many ice creams and steaks as we possibly can; rather, we want to be free to achieve greatness. We often confuse freedom of choice, with free will. Our goal is to maximize our free will decisions, not our freedom of choice decisions. To work as a plumber or electrician is a free choice, but to be a giver or taker is an exercise in free will.
So Pesach is a time for restricting our actions in order to further the goals of the soul. We want to soar into outer space (metaphysically speaking), so we strap ourselves into the spaceship, and restrict ourselves considerably, in order to get there. No bread for a week, sterilizing our houses, 4 cups of wine, leaning to the left, marror, saying over the Haggadah, the list goes on and on.
In the weeks leading up to Pesach, with all the stress that comes with it, let’s remember to act like a soul, and achieve greatness.