Friday, January 18, 2013

Free Willy

If anyone thinks that God doesn´t have a sense of humor, they have never read the story of  the 10 plagues in Mitzraim. It´s downright hilarious. 
From blood slurpees to frog muffins, from lion pedestrians to grasshopper traffic, I have no doubt that the famous internet curse ¨I hope you step on a lego!¨ was inspired by the plague of darkness.

One person who certainly failed to see the humor in this comedy show, was the brunt of the jokes, King Paroh. God has given him endless opportunities to regret his decisions and to repent for his evil and abusive ways. But each time, despite his suffering and discomfort, he proved that he had no such intentions.

At a certain point, Hashem decides to ¨harden Paroh´s heart¨. This gesture begs an explanation. As if his heart wasn´t hard enough on its own? And, what about his free will? If God toughens his heart and makes it harder for him to regret and repent, his free will was just removed from him, and he can´t be blamed for his decisions!

Free Will, Bechira, is a gift that a human being receives upon entering this world. It  allows us  the liberty to make choices.
Dying my hair in neon yellow and purple stripes does not describe me as an independent thinker. It defines me as being terribly dependent on my reputation. However, it does define the concept of Free Will.
Only through concrete actions, do we form our character and realize our potential. Many of us fantasize for instance about being confronted with an overwhelming temptation and yet heroically resisting and remaining true to our principles. Such fantasies may, at least reflect our good intentions and for that there may be some reward. However, we do not develop our character by fantasizing.

Only through choosing to act in a particular fashion, is character formed.

Human beings are complex bundles of conflicting desires. Often, we find ourselves torn between those conflicting desires, and we are forced to choose between them.

Those choices define who we are.

The Gemora teaches us an encouraging idea.  "Baderech she-adam rotze leilech molichim oto"   "in the way that a man wishes to go, in that way they lead him"
This is encouraging because many times we do need the help. We stand in the front lines of our daily battles, struggling with choices, facing a conflict of wills. Every time we choose right over wrong; every time we choose NOT to eat that extra piece of chocolate (never happened to me yet), every time we choose NOT to share that piece of gossip, every time we choose to be constructive and not destructive, we´re proving a point. 

We´re showing God in which direction we´re headed, who we really want to be. So He takes us by the hand and helps us cross the threshold.
Now, a Fair and Just God would have to treat every person equally. Therefore, if someone consistently chooses wrong over right, they would qualify for Divine assistance, as well.
Paroh has proven exactly who he was and where he´s headed. He has made some pretty consistent decisions, with evil winning each time. By hardening his heart, Hashem was just allowing him to live with the choices he´s made.
This, to me, is a fascinating lesson, which I intend to make full use of. Is there a better hand to hold than God´s? I just need to make sure my GPS is working so Ill know in which direction to lead.

My GPS of course, is my God Positioning System.

Have a beautiful shabbos.