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Torah Portion of Devarim - Do We Have a Free Will?

On the first of Shevat (thirty-seven days before his passing), Moses begins his repetition of the Torah to the assembled children of Israel, reviewing the events that occurred and the laws that were given in the course of their forty-year journey from Egypt to Sinai to the Promised Land, rebuking the people for their failings and iniquities, and enjoining them to keep the Torah and observe its commandments in the land that G‑d is giving them as an eternal heritage, into which they shall cross after his death.

For Noahides

יי אֱ"לֹהֵיכֶ֖ם הִרְבָּ֣ה אֶתְכֶ֑ם וְהִנְּכֶ֣ם הַיּ֔וֹם כְּכוֹכְבֵ֥י הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם לָרֹֽב׃

Your G-d יי has multiplied you until you are today as numerous as the stars in the sky.—

יי אֱ"לֹהֵ֣י אֲבֽוֹתֵכֶ֗ם יֹסֵ֧ף עֲלֵיכֶ֛ם כָּכֶ֖ם אֶ֣לֶף פְּעָמִ֑ים וִיבָרֵ֣ךְ אֶתְכֶ֔ם כַּאֲשֶׁ֖ר דִּבֶּ֥ר לָכֶֽם׃

May יי, the G-d of your ancestors, increase your numbers a thousandfold, and bless you as promised.—

G-d is faithful to His promises. To Abraham He promised that his (Abraham's) descendants would be like the number of stars that cannot be counted in the sky. In this verse Moses returns to that promise, the people have become like the stars, and although the promise has thus been fulfilled, it will overflow and the people will become many times greater.

None of this has happened "automatically." The people have experienced much in the meantime. Depths and heights, sinful moments and holy moments, moments of making wrong decisions and moments of coming to repentance. The people could make their own choices, good choices, wrong choices but through all those moments it was HaShem who stood by His Word.

What does that mean for our free will, do we have a free will, or do we not because it will be the way HaShem wants in the end anyway?

Yes we have a free will: Without our free will we could not enter into a sincere relationship with Him, because a relationship can only be voluntary. You can only choose to (follow the prohibition of stealing/ do G-ds will) not steal if the opportunity is there to steal. If we choose wrongly, we must recognize that and in this case of stealing make sure someone gets their stuff back with compensation. And no, we don't have free will: Because if we really could really choose for ourselves then there would be a power outside of G-d, and we know and recognize the First Commandment that there is One G-d!

That sounds contradictory. Solomon wrote, "All that G-d does is for His sake, even the wicked in the day of His evil." R. Schneur Zalman of Liadi writes, "Because at some point he will turn and make the dark night of that wickedness into the light of day."

So even when we think we have choices-and for us they are sincere choices-these choices are embedded in His Will and His choice that we can make choices. Because our real choice lies only in having Respect for G-d, i.e. entering into a relationship or not. And even wrong choices and the discovery of them make our relationship with Him deeper and truer.

All the wrong choices the people made in the desert make their relationship with G-d stronger. That in spite of everything, He lives up to His promises and remains faithful.

A little note separate from the above: the peoples who write down their histories are always full of heroic deeds and how great one is as a people, as a leader, as a king. How beautiful it is to see that this people is a people as people really are. With ups and downs. All the "great" kingdoms and their leaders have perished and been forgotten or ended up in history books. While the Jewish People are alive and well and still growing, and just as the universe continues to expand in the number of stars, so will the Jewish People.

Brought By Angelique Sijbolts


Angelique Sijbolts is one of the main writers for the Noahide Academy. She has been an observant Noahide for many years. She studies Torah with Rabbi Perets every week. Angelique invests much of her time in editing video-lectures for the Rabbis of the Academy and contributes in administrating the Academy's website in English and Dutch. She lives in the north of the Netherlands. Married and mother of two sons. She works as a teacher in a school with students with special needs. And is a Hebrew Teacher for the levels beginners en intermediate. She likes to walk, to read and play the piano.




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