Wednesday, August 15, 2012

re'eh anochi nosein lifneichem -- the gift of "anochi"ous

Sometimes it takes a few hours for the light bulb in my brain to go on. Yesterday (link) I posted the vort of the Oheiv Yisrael on Rikvah's question, "Lamah zeh anochi?" In a nutshell: Rivka felt her baby kicking when she passed a beis avodah zarah; she felt the same baby kicking when she passed a beis medrash. A person is defined by the choices he/she makes -- it is what gives us a sense of self. Rivka wondered where that sense of self was, where was the "anochi," of a baby that cannot choose, a baby that is attracted equally to the beis avodah zarah as well as the beis medrash.

I should have realized immediately that this connects to the opening of our parsha which speaks about choosing between bracha and kelala. Hashem offers us the gift of bechira chofshis, free will (see Sefas Emes). In light of the vort of the Oheiv Yisrael you can read the opening pasulk as follows: "Re'eh anochi nosein lifneichem," See that I am giving you an "anochi" a sense of self, an ability to define your own identity through your choices.

1 comment:

  1. I find it amazing that the debate of determinism vs. free will is documented among the earliest Greek philosophers and has continued unchanged to this date. At the end of July the Times reviewed a new book that attempts to prove, based on neurological research, that none of our decisions are rational, and that they are fixed prior to our becoming consciously aware of them. The chidush of bechira chofshis is still a tremendous chidush. I would suggest, however, that the hakol bidei shamayim chazal implies that the one and only field in which we truly make independent decisions is yiras shamayim- that in general, determinism is the baseline, with the unique exception of decisions to be mekayeim or mevateil mitzvos- the things listed in the passuk of Mah Hashem sho'eil mimcehah.