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

hard cover page 106

comfortable with the thought, most of them have conceded man’s innate freedom to choose his own path. Man is created betzelem Elohim (“in the image of God”) and not as an obsequious bond servant. So insistent is Halachah on man’s innate freedom that the eved ivri-the Jew who sells himself into slavery-is required to undergo an ignominious procedure if he wishes to extend his indenture.

God wishes priests as worshippers, not slaves, either of the body or the mind. Only the service of free man is truly meaningful to God.415 Thus the deliverance from Egypt was necessary for God’s purposes. The dying out of the slave generation in the Sinai desert, and thus of the slave mentality, was also necessary for His ultimate purposes. Man is a partner (shutaf) with God in governing the world; therefore man by definition has inherent freedom, as he is a partner in the cosmic creation/development.

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415 See Abravanel, Principles of Faith, p. 149. ” . . . so it was His pleasure that man should have liberty of will, and all his acts should be left to his discretion; that nothing should coerce him or draw him to aught (Hilkot Teshvva, V. 4. p. 873). . . . This makes it clear that Maimonides did not consider choice as a principle of the Torah, but as a great principle of human action.” Cf. Stitskin, Eight Jewish Philosophers, p. 19. ” . . . personalism maintains that the most essential human values are to be found only in personal choice and self-fulfillment. The efficiency of our social structure must be judged in terms of the free existence it supports.”

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