There are Two Paths

img_2536There is an overlying theme to Re’eh [Deuteronomy 11:26 – 16:17], and that is one of choice. Contrary to some belief systems, we do not live within a universal model of irresistible compunction of robotic procedures and algorithms. In a most succinct manner, R’Akiva says, All is foreknown (by Hashem) and free will is given[1]. Any other model produces what seems to be a cruel G-d who predetermines certain people to everlasting rejection an
d misery. The theory of predestination[2], not only is illogical in light of the sacrificial system, but because of the words of Moshe, the prophesy of Isaiah, and the purpose of the adversary as understood by the Jewish sages of old.

Hashem did not set His love upon you nor choose you, because you were more in number than any people (for you were the fewest of all peoples), but because Hashem loved you[3].

This divine choice and Hashem’s love, and the irrevocable promises he kept in spite of our sin motivated us to promise to do and to listen to the commands of Hashem. However, throughout the last 40 years in the desert, we proved that our proclivity to sin and our desire for instant gratification controlled us. Therefore, Moshe tells us:

Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you shall adhere to the commandments of Hashem your God… and the curse, if you shall abandon the commandments of Hashem your God[4].

Later, Moshe gives a similar warning:

I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before you, life and death, the blessing and the curse; therefore choose life, that you may live, you and your seed[5].

What a choice, which in some cases, really appears to not be a choice. Who in their right mind would choose death over life as casually as one would choose a cake over pie? There is an example where someone made a choice between life and death, and the right choice was not made.

And Hashem God commanded the man, saying, “You may eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.[6]

G-d provided two opposing trees in particular, one of life and one of death, though it was not called death. Instead, it was repackaged as Knowledge of Good and Evil[7]. Further, Hashem sends a marketing specialist – a used-car salesman – to test the mettle of His creation, and this salesman says, “You will not surely die, for G-d knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like G-d, knowing good and evil.[8]

I have often heard the adversary wanted to deceive the human beings in order to isolate Hashem and to cause all of creation to reject Hashem, however, with a quick read of Isaiah, we get a slightly different perspective:

I am Hashem, and there is none else; besides me there is no G-d. I will gird you, though you have not known me; that they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none besides me: I am Hashem, and there is no one else. I form the light, and create darkness; I make peace, and create evil. I am Hashem, who does all these things[9].

There is a difference between form and create. Creating indicates that something was made ex nihilo[10]. Form, on the other hand, implies something was made using already-existing materials. In the creation narrative, Hashem created the Heavens and the earth ex nihilo, but man was formed from material already existing. Isaiah is saying light was made from something already existing[11] yet, the text says he created darkness, which means darkness was created ex nihilo. In a process Etz Chaim calls tzimtzum[12], G-d created darkness. In like manner, Isaiah says Hashem made peace and created evil. If G-d created evil, this means “evil” was created by a similar retraction and it serves a divine purpose and that purpose is not to cause all of humanity to reject G-d. As Yeshua stated, Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste, and a house divided… will fall.[13] This is best seen in a story from the Midrash[14].

A king had a son and this son was completely obedient and honorable in his father’s castle. After many years, the king sends the son out into the kingdom, far from sight of the castle to give the son an opportunity to exercise what he has learned far – far from his father’s influence. Unbeknownst to the son, the king hires one of his servants to find the son and to tempt him. The woman makes herself alluring, locates the son and uses all her wiles to seduce him.

Put yourself in the shoes of the servant. Does she want the son to fail or does she hope he succeeds? Does she want to return to the king with a good report of the son’s conduct, or does she want to return to tell him that the son compromised his morals upon her? The Midrash generally agrees that in spite of the servant’s best attempts to lure the son to sin, the servant girl wants nothing more than the son to succeed. This is a Jewish perspective on the Adversary, and it fits well within the narrative in the Garden of Eden as well as the vision described by Isaiah.

I do not recall how the midrash ends: does the son remain holy and true to the teachings of his father, or does he fall prey to her advances and get lucky that night. If you were the author of the story, how would you end the story?

The power of this midrash is the revelation it gives to the inner working – the base desires – of our own soul.

http://www.tikvatshalom.org

[1] M.Avot 3:15

[2] This author believes the concepts of predestination [Romans 8:29-30, Ephesians 1:5 1:11] reflect the saying of R’ Akiva from Pirkei Avot.

[3] Deuteronomy 7:7-8

[4] Deuteronomy 11:26-28

[5] Deuteronomy 30:19

[6] Genesis 2:16-17

[7] A transliteration of its Hebrew name is ets hadat tov vera

[8] Genesis 3:4-5

[9] Isaiah 45:5-7; most translations replace the phrase create evil with creating calamity [or something similar] in order to appease a preconceived theology

[10] from nothing

[11] i.e., from the supernal Shechinah of Hashem

[12] Tzimtzum is a rabbinic concept to explain an intentional “retraction” of the presence of G-d

[13] Mark 3:24, Luke 11:17

[14] I was unable to re-locate this midrash, so this is written from my memory.

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