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  • Torah and Jewish Thought
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Free Will or Does God run the world?


Rabbi Ari Shvat

Av 22, 5780
If Moshe had been allowed to enter the land, the Jewish people would have been less likely to sin. Does this mean God wants us to sin? Or is it more likely that Moshe was barred from entering the land not for Moshes sake but because the Jews didnt appreciate him, so God didnt want them to take him for granted? If this is the case why would God let Jews into the land in the first place under the fantastic, although inferior guidence of Yehoshua? It seems like everything in the world has gone downhill since the sin of the golden calf. Sure there have been highlights, but each one pales in comparison to the level of Godly revelation at Matan Torah. It seems like no matter what we do as Yiddin, the world gets progressively dimmer. Whoever tries to be rightous usually dies by miseres nefesh, but I guess thats not such a bad thing. I guess what Im trying to say is it seems like Man has no free will. Our actions here on Earth do not dictate a positive or negative result - everything comes from God. Is it unjust for me to feel like a puppet on a string? I seemingly have no choice but to observe Gods Torah vMitzvos. If I choose to sin its part of Gods plan to dim the world one way or another. Do I have any part in Gods plan?
God gave us the ability to be partners with Him, and destine our fate. Our lives, and in fact, all of history, is a give-and-take between us and Him, moving and counter-moving respectively. God willed for man to have free will, so that we can be “Godly”, which was the greatest gift that He can altruistically give. That being said, if man or Israel, chooses something which is clearly counterproductive or if it contradicts the Godly plan, God is obviously “smart” enough to know how to maneuver in a way that man’s, or Israel's, choice doesn’t mess things up (for ourselves!). Like a chess master who, despite his opponent’s free will, knows exactly how to react and counter-react to fit his needs (just that regarding our topic, we and God are “on the same side”). Or like a caring parent who wants to teach his child independence, yet lovingly watches over and sometimes intervenes. It’s also true that part of maturity is to choose to accept the truth from others (e.g. G-d, rabbis, and parents…) who are more intelligent and experienced (something difficult for adolescents and egoists!). In other words, our "will" isn't totally free, for we didn't choose our height, genetics or into which generation or family to be born, rather this is our Godly fate and job which is for us to destine and grow through our choices, which should be beneficially guided with the help of others. I must also correct that the world is not "growing dimmer", but contrarily, is davka improving and undergoing constant evolution, where man, as well as mankind, constantly learns from our mistakes and innovation. Just like technology and sports records are constantly and inevitably improving, so too, the most natural thing for man and mankind is to improve! Tshuva is actually "built-in" to creation. With Love of Israel, Rabbi Ari Shvat
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