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    Free will & the Kotzker Rebbe – Re’eh

    Re’eh, the first word in the parashah, is in the singular.

    Three words later the verse becomes plural: “See (singular), I place before you (plural) this day blessing and curse” (Deut. 11:26). This verse is the basic Biblical source for the doctrine of free will.

    Why does it first address each of us as an individual and then as a community?

    The Kotzker Rebbe deals with the question in this way: every individual is challenged to apply his or her free will as an individual, not merely as a member of the group. No-one is a carbon copy of anyone else. What the other person decides has to be right for them but it is not necessarily right for me.

    Certainly, there are times when the issue involves my group identity – for example, when I have to respond as a Jew to something which integrally affects my Jewishness, but even then I do not have to be a clone of any other Jew.

    The sort of Jew I choose to be will be influenced by my upbringing, environment and commitments, but even if I decide to be similar to people of a similar type I am still a separate, unique person who might have my own nuance and idiom to contribute.

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