Thursday, June 28, 2007

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Freewill vs. the All-powerful

by Reb Gutman Locks of the Old City, Jerusalem, Israel at Mystical Paths

In this week’s portion of the Torah, we read about Balaam, the prophet of the gentile nations, who is attempting to curse Israel. Whomever he cursed would be cursed!

We read that God interceded and prevented him from cursing. So the question is: Since God interceded and stopped Balaam from cursing the Jewish People, does man really have free will?

When Hashem intercedes with the flow of nature, it is called a miracle. But other than these rare occasions, we are told that man has free will.

But we are also told that God is omnipotent. This seems to be a contradiction. Omnipotent means all-powerful. If God is omnipotent, then by definition, He must have all of the power in the entire creation. And if He has all the power, then how are we doing anything at all, let alone supernatural wonders? If He is omnipotent, who is choosing what to do, let alone doing it?

This is called a paradox. A paradox is not a contradiction as is usually thought. A paradox is an apparent contradiction. There is a vast difference here.

Use the “All” and the “particular” as an illustration. The All is all there is, or else it could not be the All. Yet the particulars (individual objects) are also here.

When you touch a particular, you must also be touching the All because wherever you touch it has to be the All.

But still, you cannot say that the particular is the All because this particular is not any other particular. It is just this one particular, whereas the All is the entire All including all of the particulars.

When man acts, he is acting as a particular, but really the All is doing everything. Since man is not conscious of his relationship to the All and sees himself solely as the particular individual, indeed he is choosing freely to do whatever he wants. The particular man is taking whatever steps he wishes (but still it is the All that is actually doing everything).

How can this be?

When we focus on the particular, we say that that particular is doing the act. When we focus on the Universal (All), we say that the All is doing everything, including the act that the particular man is doing. From the lower perspective, indeed man has free will. From the higher prospective, we see that God is doing everything while allowing man to think that man is the doer.

Here is another illustration to help explain this concept: Pick up an object with your thumb and forefinger. You clearly see that it is your thumb and forefinger that are holding up that object. Or is it your hand that is holding it up? Or is it your arm that is holding it up? Or is it your will willing that object be held up? Or is it the “you” who is holding up that object? After all, it is you who are willing the will to make the body hold it up. Or is it the life that fills all Who is holding up that object?

All of the above are true. Whichever perspective or area we focus on will be seen to be the one doing the action. The same is true with the Omnipotent One Who in truth is doing all, and the individuals who see themselves to be the ones who are doing what they are doing.

So do we have free will? Yes. Are we the ones doing whatever we do? Yes. Is God omnipotent? Yes. Therefore, is God doing everything? Yes. Is this a contradiction? No.

Posted at Mystical Paths. Read it elsewhere? Stop by the source.

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