From Parshat Behar, Leviticus 25:10
“proclaim liberty throughout the land unto all the inhabitants thereof”
וּקְרָאתֶם דְּרוֹר בָּאָרֶץ לְכָל-יֹשְׁבֶיהָ
The above phrase is written on the Liberty Bell. If you read it in the context of the Torah portion, you will realize that it is talking about freeing slaves. In the fiftieth year, one is supposed to free one’s slaves. So one could say the Liberty Bell designers got it wrong; it’s only slaves that are being freed, not everyone. But when you own another human being, you the master is not truly free, either. So indeed the freeing is for everyone.
Here’s a little more explanation of this idea of a master not being free:
The Pnei Yehoshua explains this with a profound psychological insights. Slavery does not only deprive the slave of his freedom, but the master as well. A person who dominates others is not truly free either, and the Talmud correctly states that one who acquires a slave acquires a master over himself (Kiddushin 20a). He who enslaves another becomes enslaved himself.
And here’s background on how the phrase on the Liberty Bell was chosen:
The Pennsylvania Assembly ordered the Bell in 1751 to commemorate the 50-year anniversary of William Penn’s 1701 Charter of Privileges, Pennsylvania’s original Constitution. It speaks of the rights and freedoms valued by people the world over. Particularly forward thinking were Penn’s ideas on religious freedom, his liberal stance on Native American rights, and his inclusion of citizens in enacting laws…
the line in the Bible immediately preceding “proclaim liberty” is, “And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year.” What better way to pay homage to Penn and hallow the 50th year than with a bell proclaiming liberty?
It would have been nice if I had posted this a week and a half ago, right before we read the Torah portion of Behar in the synagogue. However, that did not happen. So I will connect it with Memorial Day, which is tomorrow. On Memorial Day we remember those that died for freedom. We have freedoms today because what of others sacrificed.