National Review Online thoughtfully offers a nice little roundup of a recommended Passover reading. Marshall Breger recommends:
Aaron Wildavsky’s Moses as a Political Leader assists one in understanding the Bible generally and the Passover story specifically in political terms. The political saga of the Jewish people is a story worth remembering. The Haggadah, of course, mentions Moses briefly only once. It correctly tells the story of the Exodus with the emphasis on the divine. But the politics of the Exodus saga should not be forgotten.
Without sovereignty and a land, without police or an army, without any of the normal accoutrements of nationhood, the Jewish people kept Jewish law voluntarily in exile for two thousand years. There is nothing remotely like this in history.
Judaism has a special word for this unique form of freedom. It is cherut. In the Ethics of the Fathers, the sages explained it by way of a brilliant play on words. Noting the similarity between cherut and charut, “engraved,” they re-read the biblical text in which Moses descended from Mount Sinai holding in his hands the two tablets of stone containing the law of God. The verse reads, “The tablets were the work of God; the wriing was the wriing of God, engraved on the tablets” [Exodus 32:16]. The rabbis said, “Read not charut but cherut, not engraved but freedom, for there is no one so free as one who occupies himself with the study of Torah.” What they meant was that if the law is engraved on the hearts of its citizens, it does not need to be enforced by police. True freedom – cherut – is the ability to control oneself without having to be controlled by others.”
The ideal of the Torah — lofty but not utopian — is of limited government accompanied by personal self-government, the law of the state taking second place to the law of the heart. Only a self-disciplined people will be able to sustain for long the political framework of liberty.