The psalmist declares: “Truly, Lord, I am Your servant; I am Your servant, the son of Your maidservant. You set me free from my chains.” (116:16).
Insight #1: The exodus from Egypt was never intended to be a “free for all” in self-gratification. The freedom FROM Pharaoh is a FREEDOM to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The biblical understanding, from a Jewish point of view, is that a belief in God is more than He exists and created the world; it is the belief He created and formed me, gave me my standing, informed me of my duty, and He continues to create, form, keep, guide and lead me.
My belief is not that my connection to Him is through an endless chain of events as a chance product of a universe of which He was the first cause eons ago. Rather, my belief is that every breath that I take and every moment of my existence is a direct gift of His power and love. It is my duty is to devote every moment of my life to His service alone.
All that the Egyptians had denied us was restored to us by God Himself: our personal individuality. Consequently, He alone has dominion over our lives and our property, and we belong exclusively to Him. To His service we dedicate our lives, capabilities and possessions, and we acknowledge Him alone as the Guide of all our actions.
Whereas, the nations are indebted to God for their creation and existence, we are indebted to Him for our historical and social existence as well. We went forth from servitude of Pharaoh to the service of the Lord. Those who believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob Who is immanent in our everyday lives can declare with joy – “A’nah Adonai ki ani av’de’cha, ani avd’cha ben ‘ama’te’cha, pi’tach’ta l’mo’sei’ray” – Truly, Lord, I am Your servant; I am Your servant, the son of Your maidservant. You set me free from my chains.
(The above insight is from Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch)
Insight # 2: Why does David mention his mother in the psalm? David is expressing the fact that his mother taught him what it means to be a devoted servant of God.
When a child is born, he or she thinks that the parents are the ones that provide all of his or her physical and emotional needs. As the baby matures the parents teach the child that there is a God Who is the Master of the world. This idea is very abstract to a young child, but the parents serve as a physical parable for God Who is the True Provider. As the child moves into adolescent years, he or she begins to recognize that God is the only Provider for both him and even his parents.
There is a well-known tradition that the mandate to respect one’s parents is placed in the Ten Commandments on the side of commandments that are between the human and the Divine. It would make sense that the mandate should be placed in the category of human relations (don’t steal, murder, covet, etc…). The answer to this query is quite simple – one’s parents set the tone for a child’s spiritual connection to God.
(The above insight was taken from Rabbi Yosef Tropper)