Freeing from Fatalism






by Rabbi Haim Lifshitz







“Everything is foreseen, yet permission is given.”

(i.e. Man is free to act - Divine omniscience notwithstanding.)

                                     (Ethics 3:19)

A Fatalist only reads the first half of the mishna quoted above.  He feels a constant, oppressive sense of heaven’s all-pervasive power; he is convinced that this all of reality. He never gets to the second half.


Influence moves in one direction only, in his view.  Man is free to accomplish - nothing at all.  He determines nothing at all.  Decrees are decreed by the heavens; he is but a plaything in their hands.  Such was the situation at Mount Sinai.  “God forced the mountain over them…and said: ‘If you will accept the Torah, well and good.  If not, here will be your burial place.’”


The Jews acceptance of the Torah at Sinai was partly out of fear. 


However, during the era of King Ahasueros, when the miracle of Purim transpired, the Jews “ ‘upheld and accepted:' they upheld what they had previously accepted [at Sinai].”  That is to say that they re-committed themselves to obeying the Torah, to bearing and upholding the yoke of the Torah and all of  its commandments – out of love.


What changed?  How did fear transform into love?

The popular explanation is that this love was the result of the great gratitude felt by the Jews for the incredible miracle of rescue that had saved their lives and foiled the diabolical schemes plotted by the evil Haman and his murderous gang.


Yet the causes behind the emotional transformation experienced by the Jews might be sought at a deeper level, and perhaps even from the opposite direction:


The Jewish people were suddenly faced with a new reality: The old ways had gone.  Things would be perceived differently now:  It would no longer be a matter of man’s passive response to what was decreed on high in heaven, for better or for worse.  It was not only faith in the Creator’s love for His chosen people, and gratitude for the fact that He had  performed miracles for them long ago in those days at this time….


Rather, the Jews had observed an awesome sight.  They had witnessed an incredible phenomenon.  They had seen mere human beings - Mordechai and Esther - assert their control over the swing of the pendulum that is life’s process.


How had they done it?  Whence their great power?  The Jews discovered that the power wielded by Mordechai and Esther had been acquired through devotion.  By clinging to their sacred duty, to their task of carrying the torch, of bearing the Godly light in this universe - they had changed the human condition from the status of creatures controlled by fate to Divinely-inspired beings who are the controllers of fate. 


Mordechai's devotion is expressed in “…and Mordechai would not kneel and would not bow,” though he risked his life to stand by his convictions.  Esther's clinging to her sacred duty is expressed in going to supplicate the king when such an act is clear suicide, because “…who knows if it is not just for such a moment that you have attained royalty?”


Such devotion sanctifies God’s name, and sanctifies all of existence for the sake of God.  Such devotion becomes power, and becomes the ability to activate, direct and control the movements of reality’s pendulum.


This is accomplished by first controlling the swings of the pendulum of human behavior.  Such movement effects a parallel movement in fate’s heavenly pendulum.


The discovery of human power is the discovery of man’s control over his own fate.  It is in man's hands to change his fate by making calculated and courageous changes in his own destiny.


A discovery of this nature draws man out of the sense of his own helplessness in the face of fate.  It returns him to his lost splendor, to his original status as the crowning glory of creation.  He becomes again the being who is capable of controlling heaven’s decrees through the choices he makes.


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 tanslated by DR.  S. Nathan