Some define being free as having no limitations or boundaries. In the eyes of such people, the liberated individual can do whatever he pleases, wherever and whenever he likes. The imposition of any limitation which prevents a person from filling his personal whims and desires is considered a blow to his personal freedom.
If this is how we define freedom, there is no truly free individual on the face of the globe. Complete freedom exists only in the imagination, or in theory. Everyone has some inherent limitations which prevent him from doing everything he fancies. Human society cannot long survive if each man is to do all that comes to mind without consideration of the consequences his actions have on others.
Our society is based in the interdependence of its members. We must not steal from others because we don't want them to steal from us. We may not burn down our own garage, even at our own expense, if the flames might easily spread to the neighbor's ten-room home, or even to his front lawn. We are considerate of other's needs and rights so that they will do the same for us. Even if I manage to somehow eliminate the need to be considerate of others, I am not yet truly free in every sense of the word.
True freedom does not require that I extricate myself from any mutual responsibility to my fellow-citizens. Rather, freedom means that I am at liberty to act according to the dictates of my personal conscience.
Day-to-day living is rife with instances of external factors which prevent me from doing what I feel is "the right thing." Financial considerations, family obligations, and other considerations often conflict with what our conscience sees as just and right. But far more potent than these external factors is our inborn inclination to self-interest, our yetzer hara. When it comes to forces which dictate my actions, nothing is stronger than my own ego, my concern to "maintain face" and to satisfy my own cravings for pleasure and satiety.
A person may be as rich as Korach, rule over half the globe, and nonetheless remain a slave to himself. For example, there are individuals who have amassed extensive fortunes, but have no pleasure from their accomplishment because they are so consumed with their lust to add another zero or two to their total worth. The millionaire cannot rest until he becomes a billionaire, while the billionaire tosses and turns at night trying to devise ways of becoming a multi-billionaire.
Instead of stopping where they are and taking the time to relax and enjoy what they have acquired thus far, most wealthy people continue to rush headlong along the same path they have always followed, in a quest for "just one more million" or one more feather in their cap to bolster their apparent prestige.
They pay no heed to their health, their families, or their spiritual and welfare. Despite nearly unlimited financial resources and "connections" in all the right places, their frantic rat race controls their lives completely and ends only at the grave.
Surely these are not free men.
Who, then, is free?
Only one who can say to his yetzer hara and his impulses: "Stop! This far, and no further!"
He who is happy with what he already has in hand, whether much or little, he who has the time and energy to listen to the inner whisperings of his heart and his conscience, this is the man whose life will be blessed with peace, harmony, and contentment.
This is the lesson of the Matzah we eat on Pesach. Flour and water constitute the basics of man's nutrition. A person who can make do with only these two nutrients will not be trapped into joining the headlong, mindless stampede after material gain at the expense of more valuable goals.
He, indeed, is a free man!