Perashat Re'ehFriday, August 14, 2015
One of the first precious gifts, and indeed the most precious gift, G-d gave mankind is the ability to choose, named philosophically “Free Will”. It took the world several millennia to discover that indeed a human is endowed with the freedom to choose and decide his or her own destiny. It wasn’t until the classical age of Greece, known erroneously as the ‘Cradle of Democracy’ and ‘Western Civilization’, that this was practiced. I say erroneously, because real Democracy and freedom of choice was not really practiced in classical Greece. Only free, white, intellectual, men were able to choose; women, slaves, peasants and other races and people were not part of the democratic process.
We, the Jewish People were worthy to receive the Torah, the second most precious gift that also G-d gave humanity, and in it we learned that the first couple Adam & Eve were the first ones to practice Free Will in choosing their actions. Indeed, we knew long ago- and long before Greece discovered democracy - that mankind is endowed with Free Will and practiced it. Free Will was necessary for the Torah to be revealed. Since, without Free Will, the great fundamentals of the Torah cannot be fulfilled. Free Will itself is known to be one of the 13 Fundamentals of our Faith.
Perashat Re’eh, begins with Moshe reminding the Israelites of this free will that they have in making choices. Indeed, in front of every human being there are choices; good and evil, right and wrong, blessings and curses. It is up to each and every person to choose right from wrong, good from bad, and blessings from curses. Our Torah and Jewish values give us the way to decide right from wrong; good from evil, and by doing so, we will find a life of blessedness. Without this ability to choose, the Torah would be meaningless. Our Sages proclaim, “everything is in the hands of Heaven except Awe of Heaven”, and they explain that ‘Awe of Heaven’ is expressed in practically everything that we do. Therefore, we exercise our free will in almost everything that we do in life.
Lately, I have seen how people and nations have relinquished most of their free will to an absolute Religious Leader. Even mundane decisions, that do not require much intelligence, reasoning or much of a thought process, have been given to a leader to decide for the individual. This is a tragedy of great proportions, since it comes to undo the process of the creation of the world as G-d had sought to fashion. It rejects the most precious gift that G-d has given humanity and it contradicts the Torah in its great fundamental of “Freedom of Choice.” It appears as we are telling G-d, “Thank You G-d, but we know better. We reject the most precious gift that You have given us; we rather let someone else decide for us.” This is tantamount to Aboda Zara – idol worship, because we are abdicating what Hashem has given us, by exclusively listening and obeying what a human is telling us. We have become automatons and zombies without using our brain or intellect to decide.
Of course, there are difficult decisions that require consulting with an expert and a leader. The Torah itself instructs us to go to the leaders of that given generation when we have a doubt or a lack of knowledge about what is right and what is wrong. Not doing so, would be indeed foolish and irresponsible.
May Hashem, give us the wisdom and understanding to use our freedom of choice wisely and responsibly, and cherish the most precious gift that G-d has given mankind.
Jan 19 2022
Shebat 17 5782