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Shemos:Man Is Free

Miriam Aflalo

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

“I will be Who I will be,”  replied God to Moses.  (Shemos 3:14)

“If I want to give a conception of My Essence, which will elevate man far above all creations … then I will pronounce My Name and say of Myself: ‘I will be Who I will be.’

All other creations remain in the same state as they were created; their daily existence tied to the Will of the One Above. Only He can say, “I will be Who I want to be.” This expresses Hashem’s absolute, free Essence. With Hashem saying “I will be” … the future becomes completely dependent on His Will and free of all other conditions. This concept expresses Judaism’s grasp of the prepotency of G-d (Rav Shamshon Raphael Hirsch al HaTorah).

Stand proud and tall, for your G-d is characterized by: “I will be Who I will be” — He is not bound to the past; He is not dependent on the present, but rather, He is Omnipotent, at all times, and especially in the future. All that Hashem wants to do, He will do.

Non-Jewish thought recognizes G-d as a First Cause of the physical world, limiting His actions to the past only. They claim that for the moment of initial creation, G-d was connected to the world; since then, His actions in the world have ended. According to their philosophy, everything that happens, even in the far distant future, is a result of the natural order of the world that has been put into practice since its creation. (ibid.)

The cat fixes its green eyes on the bird that’s singing innocently on the tree. The bird doesn’t dream that it is on this feline’s lunch menu. The cat takes two stealthy steps, and pounces.… But suddenly, something in the bird’s sweet song moves his heart to pity, and he descends apologetically from the tree.

Really?! Of course not! The bird simply flew off and escaped in the nick of time, and the cat must go looking for some other prey. Cats have the instincts of cats; they never regret their actions or decide to forgo a meal — neither because they’re dieting, nor from a guilty conscience.

Those with that outlook reason that man, too, isn’t free, that his decisions are no more than the reflexive reactions to the influences of his past. This erroneous concept denies Hashem’s supremacy and man’s freedom. Countering it is the declaration: “I will be Who I will be.” G-d determines the future, and allows man, as a free being, to shape his future as well. (ibid.)

Among mental health professionals, there has risen the assumption that a person is, in essence, only a sophisticated cat or a fluent parrot.

Amazingly, people aren’t at all insulted by this humiliating concept and even enthusiastically embrace it.

Do you take care of your children? Prepare nutritious meals for them? It’s maternal instinct. Do you get angry at them? That’s your own repressed past frustrations seeking outlet.

The principle is: Tell me what you’ve experienced in the past, and I’ll tell you what you’ll experience in the future. Tell me your inborn traits and I’ll predict in which direction you’ll turn at every crossroad in life. To such thinkers, there’s no concept such as struggling to overcome inclinations — no free choice.

Psychology puts thousands of people on the couch and clears their consciences: That’s how you are … that’s how you were born … you suffered at the hands of your parents or teachers … and so you’ll always remain. Come to terms with who you are, and above all, feel no guilt. No one blames a tiger for tearing apart a deer.

These words, “I will be Who I will be” break man’s handcuffs and enable him to stand erect to serve Hashem as a free man, so that he may build the future as a partner to G-d (ibid.).

Moshe Rabbeinu brought these tidings of spiritual freedom to the nation of slaves, spreading throughout the vast land of Egypt the uncompromising truth: “I will be Who I will be.” G-d didn’t create the world and leave it, but rather, in His Goodness, He renews the creation every moment of existence. He is free to change things.

And man? As G-d’s image, he is also free. Yes, you’re free to change the conduct to which you’ve been accustomed — free to choose again, despite your past. You’re free to break the confining bonds of destructive traits or habits. Even if “you were born that way.” Today, you’re an adult and Hashem has empowered you to change.

Don’t lie there helplessly, a victim to whatever harmed you in your past. Rouse yourself. Face the future. It is yours. Only you can create your future life. You are free.

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