600.01 Centrality of Concept in Judaism (pps.105-106)

hard cover page 105

Man’s freedom is an important element in Judaism409 and Judaism carefully defends the sanctity of the self. Man cannot achieve true spiritual heights from a state of nonfreedom. The concept of man’s freedom is an overarching one in Judaism.410

Man has freedom of choice.

In Judaism, the pure and free man stands next to the focal point of the one free God.

Man’s spirit is free and independent. It is not subject to the lawful structure of the universal, to the necessity of the species. The “universal” in the existence of the man of God is free from the chains of scientific lawfulness, for it was created in accordance with the principle of freedom and is wholly grounded in that principle.

Choice is granted to every human being. If a man wants to follow the good path and be good, the choice is his; if he wants to follow the evil path and be wicked, the choice is his. . . . Indeed, man’s entire spiritual existence is enhanced by his unique privilege to create himself and make himself into a free man.

As the medieval intellectual elite well understood, an emphasis on human freedom does not inevitably lead to a dilution of commitment of faith. The contrary is possible. The Karaite sect, for instance, which preceded and overlapped the rise of classic Jewish philosophy in the Middle Ages, and which produced some of the most restrictive regulations known within a Jewish context, contained a strong emphasis on rationality and the inviolability of the individual conscience and freedom.414

Although our sages may not always have been emotionally

——————- NOTES ——————-

409 See Greenberg, Perspectives: The Third Great Cycle in Jewish History, p. 4.

410 See Mishnah Avot 3: 16.
Note: At least three different words are used in the Pentateuch for “freedom”: chafshi, dror, and cherut. See Pelkovitz, “Cherut,” Amit, April 1985. Cf. Hirsch, Timeless Torah, p. 4.

411 Ramban, Gate of Reward, in Writings and Discourses, vol. 2, p. 445.

412 Hirsch, Timeless Torah, p. 21.

413 Soloveitchik, Halakhic Man, p. 136.

414 Agus, The Evolution of Jewish Thought, p. 154.


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