Sunday, April 19, 2009

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Politics and Free Will

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

'The heart of kings is in the hand of Hashem.' Living in a time where the people wield some influence over the course of politics - or at least live within systems where this seems so - a question between bechira (free choice) and hashgacha pratit (divine providence) arises. Through the ability to vote, or protest, or even run for elected office, we appear to be able to influence the course of events.

Yet, we also know with perfect faith that Hashem directs the world. 'The heart of kings is in the hand of Hashem.' A classic example is in parshat Va'eira (7:3), "I will harden Pharaoh's heart...". What happened to free will? Pharaoh couldn't let the Jewish people go, nor could any protesters (right up to the first born of Egypt who in desperation staged a coupe that failed) make an impact.

An answer is provided by the Lubavitcher Rebbe (Toras Menachem Parshat Vaeira), "It was decreed by G-d that Pharaoh would enslave the Jewish people. However, Pharaoh himself did not enslave the Jewish people in order to carry out G-d's will, but to satisfy his own evil desires. Therefore, he was punished. Similarly, Rashi explains G-d hardened Pharaoh's heart before the plagues as a punishment for his earlier wicked behavior. However, G-d told Moshe that 'Pharaoh's heart is heavy' of it's own accord, since he had a natural inclination to oppress the Jewish people." The Nachalas Yaakov adds, "Only during the last 5 plagues did G-d harden Pharaoh's heart directly. During the first 5, He arranged circumstances that would influence Pharaoh not to let the Jewish people go."

The world will go the way G-d has planned. That does not relieve us of the responsibility for doing our part in a positive way, nor remove punishment for steps that drive it in a negative way.

As the face of world politics is changing drastically in front of our eyes, this is something we must remember.

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