Shaya Cohen -


Limiting Free Will

The question of how G-d could have limited Pharoah’s free will is much discussed.

I once suggested that G-d does not limit man’s free will: but Pharoah considered himself a deity, so G-d treated him accordingly – G-d would not be bound by rules for the treatment of humans for someone who refused to consider himself to be a man like any other.

My #1 son suggests an alternative  – and perhaps far more satisfying –  answer: Pharoah limited the free will of the Jewish people, by refusing their choice to leave Egypt, six times. As a result, G-d limited Pharoah’s free will, measure for measure, six times!

This explanation not only shows why the numbers match, but it also is a stirring example of how G-d views freedom and liberty.  The Torah may be telling us that if a human takes away the free will of another, the G-d may do the same to us.

Indeed, the Talmud Yerushalmi says some Jewish tribes had slaves, and G-d told them that they had to free their slaves before they could be freed in turn. The lesson seems clear: you cannot be free if you do not grant freedom to others.  And G-d did not discriminate: all men pay the consequence for limiting the freedom of others, by having their liberty constrained in turn.

Comments are welcome!

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