Vayera-Freewill runs the gauntlet

Published Daf Hashavua – 2010


Hashem strengthened the heart of Pharaoh and he did not heed them, as Hashem had spoken to Moshe (9:13)

One of the most basic axioms in human existence is that of freewill the ability to be able to make conscious decisions and to decide to some extent our fate. The entire principle of reward and punishment, for the choices we make hinges on this principle. Yet  the hardening of Pharaohs heart by Hashem seems to undermine and call into question not only the principle of freewill but in addition the ability we have at any point in time to do teshuva, to repent from our misdeeds which as a result of Hashem intervention pharaoh seems to have forgone.

Rambam (1135-1204) avers that at the outset man is free to choose any path or action he so desires. He is afforded equal opportunity to do good or evil. But as soon as he has made his first choice, then the opportunities facing him are no longer so evenly balanced. The more he persists in the first path of his choosing, shall we say the evil path, the harder it will become for him to revert to the good path even though his essential freedom of choice is unfettered. In other words, it is not the Almighty who has hampered his freedom, and made the path of repentance difficult. He has, by his own choice and persistence in evil, placed obstacles in the way leading back to reformation.G-d had built this response as it were into man’s make-up. The more he chooses to err and sin the more his sins act as a barrier between him and repentance.

It is not just pharaoh that felt a compulsion to continue his wickedness in enslavement of our people to the bitter end, in our own society so many youngsters have turned to life of crime with a sense that they have no other options open to them as a result the downward spiral continues. It is incumbent on government and society to ensure no matter how far one has veered there is always an opportunity of reformation and reintegration as a member of society.

Published by Rabbi Piny Hackenbroch

Rabbi Piny Hackenbroch is currently the Senior Rabbi in Woodside Park Synagogue – a modern orthodox thriving community of some 1,400 members. His innate love for people and his empowering brand of leadership make him a well-loved figure in Woodside Park & London.

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