Torah.org Home Subscribe Services Support Us
 
Print Version

Email this article to a friend

Eight Chapters

Chapter Eight (Part 10)

But Pharaoh wasn't the only reprehensible individual to have his free will rescinded because of earlier sins. G-d hardened King Sichon of Cheshbon's heart for much the same reason -- and not because he "was not willing to let us pass through his land" (Deuteronomy 2:30) when we needed to.

For at a certain point we "sent messengers to King Sichon" from the Sinai Desert with the following message: "Let us pass through your country" on our way to the Land of Israel. "We will not turn aside into any field or vineyard, or drink water from any well", so there'd be no reason to be concerned for theft or property damage. We assured him that we would only "travel along the king's highway" -- the main road -- "until we will have passed through".

But Sichon's heart hardened (that is, G-d withheld his ability to choose to do good at that point), and Sichon then "mustered his entire army and marched out into the desert against Israel" (Numbers 21:21-23). Rambam avers that "Sichon was punished" for what he did, though it was through G-d's intercedence, "for some earlier wrongdoing or injustice in his kingdom".

In case you think that G-d only set that phenomenon in motion when it came to ruthless potentates, know that there were other instances of it as well. The prophet Isaiah was told, for example, to "fatten the heart of (the Jewish people), make their ears heavy... lest they... repent and be healed" (Isaiah 6:10), which means to say that Isaiah was to arrange for their free will to be denied them. (Rambam offers other instances in which G-d denied our people the freedom to choose, including 1 Kings 18:37 and Hosea 4:17; but also see what he says about Isaiah 63:17 and Malachi 2:17).

In the end the point is "obedience or disobedience is indeed in one's own hands", as we're truly free to make our own ethical choices, "and that one chooses his own actions." For "we do what we want to do, and can in fact not do what we don't want to do" unless "G-d punished us for a sin we'd committed by withholding our free will" as was explained.

Rambam ends this section by adding the following truism: "Since acquiring virtues or flaws is in your own hands, it's imperative and important for you to bestir yourself to try to acquire virtues" rather than faults. "For no one other than yourself can ever inspire you to", and no one other than you will have to answer for your actions in the end.


Text Copyright 2007 by Rabbi Yaakov Feldman and Torah.org


 






ARTICLES ON DEVARIM AND THE THREE WEEKS:

View Complete List

Learning to Love What Is!
Rabbi Label Lam - 5767

Constantly Challenged
Rabbi Pinchas Avruch - 5762

Only the Shadow Knows
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5764

> And So The Journey Continues
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5765

Murphy's Day
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5761

Flight to Freedom
Rabbi Pinchas Avruch - 5763

Looking for a Chavrusah?

Don't Flaunt It
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5771

Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
Rabbi Yochanan Zweig - 5771

Placing The Partitions
Rabbi Yochanan Zweig - 5770

ArtScroll

How?
Rabbi Yisroel Ciner - 5761

Don't Just Scratch the Surface
Shlomo Katz - 5762

Unquestioned Answers
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky - 5761

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

Personal Judge
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5762

Forgotten Oaths
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5764

Payment in Full
Rabbi Naftali Reich - 5766

Now I Know My Aleph-Bais
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5764



Project Genesis

Torah.org Home


Torah Portion

Jewish Law

Ethics

Texts

Learn the Basics

Seasons

Features

TORAHAUDIO

Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base




Help

About Us

Contact Us



Free Book on Geulah!




Torah.org Home
Torah.org HomeCapalon.com Copyright Information