Weekly Torah Commentary — Beresheit October 9, 2015

Genesis/Beresheit 1:1 – 6:8

The most important single creation described in the opening chapters of Genesis is the creation of the first human being. While various schools of thought in philosophy and science have their opinions about the nature of man, it is most helpful to see what the Creator Himself had to say.

Maimonides, writing about the nature of man, says this:

Every human being has control over himself. If he wants to push himself towards the right path and become a tzaddik (holy man) he is able to do so. If he wants to go down the wrong path and be a rasha (evil man) he is able to do so. This is what the Torah writes: Behold man has become like the Unique One among us knowing good and bad: and now, lest he put forth his hand and take from the Tree of Life and eat and live forever. (Genesis 3:22)

In other words, not even God can interfere directly with man’s freedom of action. To do so, He would have to program man’s mind in which case man is no longer a free agent. Or,
God would have to forcibly restrain man from surrendering to temptation which would also nullify man’s free will.

There’s no getting around it, my friends. The gift of free will – or free choice – is at once wonderful but also sobering. We ARE responsible for our decisions and choices by God’s own design. Nullifying man’s free will amounts to destroying him, because the ability to determine our own choices is not one of the facets of man; it is our very essence.

According to the Word of God, man’s free will is what sets him apart from the rest of creation. To be human is to be free to make up your own mind and implement your decisions. A restriction on human freedom is a negation of humanity itself.

With the gift comes personal responsibility. With personal responsibility comes the choice to live with integrity – or not. There was a time not so long ago that a man’s word was considered his bond. Legal contracts were sealed with a handshake and it was unthinkable that such an agreement would ever be broken. Unfortunately in more recent times, this is not always the case. Hence the reams of paper used in printing complicated, confusing and lengthy laws, contracts and affidavits that few people read in their entirety – to their own peril at times!

Our world needs a revival of integrity – a return to the practice that “yes” means “yes” and “no” means “no”; a return to the principle that if someone gives you their word, you can trust it will be fulfilled.

One of the great attributes of the Holy One of Israel is that His Word is unshakeable, inviolable, unstoppable and guaranteed. God – so to speak – is a “Man of His Word”.
Are we? Did He not say, ‘Be holy as I am holy’?

In Tune with Torah this week = The power of speech gives expression to our decisions and choices. How are we doing at keeping our word? At refraining from careless and thoughtless speech? From negative and critical speech? Do our words reflect righteousness and holiness, as His Words do? And – do we take responsibility for our choices, rather than blame others?

Shabbat Shalom

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s