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Do We Have Free Choice? Part 2

Where Halacha and Metaphysics Converge: When the Effect Precedes Its Cause

1 hr 48 min

Class Summary:

In this class we explore how Jewish law mirrors the theological resolution for the conflict between Divine omniscience and human free choice. We journey through the teachings of two 19th century giants, Rabbi Yosef Engel, and the Rogatchover Gaon, Rabbi Yosef Rozen. If the law is that only a Jew can circumcise a gentile to facilitate his conversion, who was there to circumcise Abraham, the first Jew? We consider the teaching of the Sages that G-d himself "sent forth his hand" and circumcised Abraham. But what does that really mean? Here we come to a seemingly incomprehensible principle of Talmudic law known as the law of "two as one." Namely, two mutually exclusive realities can exist at once.

We turn to dissecting how divorce works in Jewish law and where the principle of "two as one" comes through in every divorce; we further dissect the laws of emancipating a slave, of sanctifying the altar in the Tabernacle, of sanctifying the utensils in the Tabernacle, for in all these laws we discover the synthesis of paradoxes at play. Why these fields of law and no others? We finally discover the true meaning and power of Teshuvah in Jewish thought, where past and future merge into a seamless flow of oneness.

Please leave your comment below!

  • Anonymous -6 years ago

    A number of points

    I had a number of points regarding this excellent shiur.

    • Catch 22 is the name of a novel about World War 1 written by Joseph Heller. To be freed from the army for being insane, one had to apply for the insanity exemption. But that of course would be a sign of sanity, because only a sane person would want to leave the army.
    • Regarding cause and effect. In many ways cause and effect is an illusion. We think that A causes B, but in reality it might be the other way around. It is correct to say that your mother is the cause of your existence. But her existence might only be to bring you into the world.
      In a similar manner, my in-laws were engaged to be married. They were having some difficulties and went to the Lubavitcher Rebbe זצ"ל for advice. He told them to get married. They did, and were spectacularly miserable for 13 years before getting divorced. My wife couldn't understand why the Rebbe told them to get married. I told her that perhaps it was to bring her into the world.
      The Gemara speaks of someone (I never remember names) who was told that not only is the time of death specifc for an individual, but so is the place. He went to some far-off place that he would never have thought of going. When he got there, the מלאך המות greeted him and said, I had no idea how I was going to get you here. The cause of his travel was not the knowledge that he learned - the cause was because the desired effect was waiting for him there.
      This is true in general when dealing with השגחה פרטית. That which is thought to be the cause is usually the effect.
    • Regarding Avrohom, the problem is worse than you mentioned, because the conversion is not effected by the מילה but by the טבילה that must follow the מילה. 
    • Finally, it may be likely that there is no שכר ועונש for actions, because all that we accomplish is really accomplished by Him. We do, he accomplishes. Therefore, perhaps שכר ועונש is only for choices we make. If we make the rught choices, then מגלגלים זכות על ידי זכאי. The reward is for the choosing - not the acting. And the opposite is also true.
      If this is so, then there is an element of determinism in this world, but it does not negate בחירה. Hashem knows our choices in advance, and of course this just moves the question back a step.

    Just some thoughts.

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  • RYJ

    Rabbi YY Jacobson -9 years ago

    העירני חכם אחד לאחרי השיעור לבאר באופן נפלא עומק דברי הרגצובי בפרשת לך לך, דזה שאברהם היה מתיירא למול עצמו כי הי' זקן, הכוונה העמוקה בזה היא שחשש שהוא "זקן", היינו שנמצא תחת גדרי הזמן, קדימה ואחור, שבו הסיבה קודמת למסובב, והמסובב אינו יכול להקדים את הסיבה, כמו שבן לא יכול להיות מבוגר מהוריו. אם כן לא תתכן שהמילה תפעול גירות, כי כדי שהמילה תפעל גירות צ"ל המילה ע"י בן ישראל, ונמצא שהמסובב צ"ל קודם להסיבה, כמשנ"ת באורך בהשיעור. וזהו "זקן", היינו שהוא כבר בא בשנים לפי גדרי הזמן.

    ומזה חשש אברהם שהמילה לא תפעול מה שצריכה לפעול.

    ומה עשה הקב"ה? אחז הסכין ביחד עם אברהם, והכוונה היא שהקב"ה כביכול "נכנס" לתוך פעולת המילה בהתגלות, והרי הוא עצמות העצם והיחוד כלשון הרגצובי, ושוב יתכנו שני דברים הבאעים כאחד. ודפח"ח.

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    • Y

      yosef-mendel -9 years ago

      Only sweetens the greatness of the class. Ty.

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    • R

      Rugitchoverfan -9 years ago

      Good Stuff!!

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  • YG

    Yochanan Gordon -9 years ago

    A truly fascinating shiur! Perhaps this sheds light on the Rambam in
    Hilchos Teshuva who says that Teshuva Gemura requires the precise
    circumstances in which the sinner transgressed - which if you think
    about it under the constraints of time and space which are always
    changing is virtually impossible. It must mean that when one encounters a
    similar situation he meets again with the moment in the past in which
    he or she faltered...

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Rabbi YY Jacobson

  • January 25, 2015
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  • 5 Sh'vat 5775
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This class was sponsored by attorney Zev Goldstein. Don't pay that ticket! For more information, please google lawyer Zev Goldstein. Attorney sponsorship, past results do not guarantee future outcome.

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