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    Who you choose to be – Re’eh

    free choiceThe sidra confronts us with the free will choice of good and bad, life and death, destiny or disaster (Deut. 11:26).

    The nature and parameters of free will are one of the hardest and most deep-seated of all human problems.

    We are endowed with free will, yet at the same time we are governed and manipulated from outside and above.

    Both things – free will and determinism – cannot be true, but they are. It’s a paradox, an enigma.

    The traditional statement of the problem is that of Rabbi Akiva, “All is foreseen, yet freedom of choice is given” (Avot 3:19).

    How we answer the paradox is to say that even if facts are imposed upon us, we have the capacity to decide how to handle them.

    As Maimonides says in the last section of his Eight Chapters on Ethics, whether we will be male or female, tall or short, thin or fat, is beyond our control, but the way we deal with our situation is up to us. As the Talmud says, “All is in the hands of Heaven, except for the fear of Heaven” (Ber. 33b).

    In the post-Holocaust era, the question is even harder.

    God says to man, “You have two choices, whether to believe in God, and whether to believe in Man. God has His own time table, but in the end He will not let you down.

    “What about Man? There is no guarantee that Man will not let you down.

    “You have to believe in God, because He made you and governs the universe; you have to believe in Man, because you are Man, and you can and must choose to be the best possible and most moral Man you can be”.

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