Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Free Choice - Ordained by Torah

A most fundamental Judaic principle relates to "free choice". Man, and only man, benefits from this privilege. The opening verse of Torah portion "Re'eh" teaches this tenet. It says, "... I offer you blessings and curses ...".

Two words here deserve focus. The word "I" is the same word with which the segment of the "Ten Commandments", in an earlier portion, starts off with. The word "offer" connotes a gift; As this verse does, which speaks of offering blessings. But how then can these two words that imply beneficence also be used to provide curses?

Every aspect of Torah is perfect and therefore we must understand how the offering of curses is indeed a good feature.

Imagine then the world without the presence of bad. If goodness were the only reality, if humans had no tendency to do bad, thereby being forced into constant good behavior, man would lack the capability for free choice.

Of all creatures in the world, only man has free choice. Without capability to also choose bad, mankind would be no different than any other, lower creature.

It turns out, therefore, God's granting to man "curses" as well as "blessings", raises mankind to a unique position among the world's creatures. By implanting the inclination for evil as well as for doing good renders mankind its exalted status, without which it would be relegated to being merely another specie of animal.

The rewards for choosing right from wrong is another issue, and in fact involves another tenet of Judaism - how rewards for free choice are distributed. For this also involves the belief in the world-to-come, the world of truth that awaits one who passes on from this world of good-mixed-with-bad. For rewards for deeds in this world can be held back until the person reaches the world-to-come. So let not the irony of seeing a righteous person who suffers while an evil person enjoys a lavish lifestyle in this world confuse you.

For if the free choice option embedded in your psyche be misconstrued as an arbitrary device, you will have missed the whole point of its benefit, for which you can only hurt your own destiny.

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