600.02 Definition of Man’s Freedom (pps.106-107)

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Man is called to respond, and he responds with his deed. …He alone must choose and do in complete freedom of commitment.

The covenant then rests upon the juridic-Halakhic principle of “free negotiation, mutual assumption of duties and full recognition of the equal rights of both parties concerned with the covenant.”

Man is created betzelem Elohim (“in the image of God”), and, as God is free,419 Israel is free.420 Any denigration of Israel’s freedom is by definition a debasement of God.421 Freedom is an enemy of God’s enemies.422

For God had made man free and unfettered, to employ his powers of action with voluntary and deliberate choice for this purpose.

Another of the rights granted man under the Jewish theocracy, perhaps a more basic right, is the right of personal liberty and freedom. For our Sages this right was a fundamental human right. Not only did they recognize it in their general social outlook, as might perhaps be expected, but their very penal code is so drawn as to preserve this right even for the lawbreaker.

[Religion] will continue to hold aloft the banner of man’s inalienable freedom.

. . .it is life itself, and not merely religion, that insists that man is free.

——————- NOTES ——————-

417 Berkovits, elucidating on Buber in Major Themes in modern Philosophies of Judaism, p. 143.

418 Soloveitchik, “The Lonely Man of Faith.” p. 29.

419 See Bloch, as quoted in Fackenheim, God’s Presence in History, p. 57. “He [God] is the herald of freedom.”

420 Variations on this theme are not uncommon in the writings of Jewish theologians who are “freedom maximalists.” The theme is echoed in the writings of St. George of Nyssa and St. Bernard. See Merton. The New Man. p. 63.

421 See Lamm, Faith and Doubt, p. 86. “This power of free choice and the gift of wisdom, by which Saadia means the whole range of human talents from the technological and the social to the scientific, constitute the true eminence of man”

422 Christian theologians would cite the powerful episode from Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. In the piece, Ivan tells Alyosha about a story he has written. It is set in Seville during the Inquisition. An auto-da-fe is in progress. One hundred heretics are to be burned alive. So great an event warrants the presence of the Grand Inquisitor himself, a saintly old priest of ninety. Meanwhile, a man appears. Saying nothing, he heals the blind and restores a dead child to life. The Grand Inquisitor orders the man arrested. When the prisoner is brought to his study, the Grand Inquisitor speaks to him. “I know you,” says the Grand Inquisitor. “You came once before and promised freedom. That is why you were crucified.” (It should be noted, however, that there are elements of interpretation of this episode which are clearly anathema to Jewish doctrine.)

423 Philo, The Unchangeableness of God, 45-49 (Loeb ed., vol. 3, pp. 33 ff.), in Lewy, et al. Three Jewish Philosophers, p. 30.
Cf. Wolfson, Religious Philosophy, p. 259. “Philo, who was the first to formulate the philosophic basis of this kind of undetermined human free- dom, says that God endowed the human mind with a proportion ‘of that free will which is His most peculiar possession and most worthy of His majesty,’ and that by this gift of free will the human mind ‘has been made to resemble God. (Immut. 10.47-48.)”

424 Belkin, In His Image, p. 108. Cf. ibid., pp. 11 1-1 12. “The rabbinic opposition to imprisonment as a penalty is not a result of a ‘liberal’ approach to punishment or a ‘modern’ concept of penology. It is an outgrowth of the religious principle that man, created by God, is endowed with inviolable rights, among them the right to liberty, which can be abridged only by Him in Whom all rights originate. Obviously, this is a far-reaching consequence of the belief in the sacredness of the human personality, one of the pillars upon which the Jewish democratic theocracy rests. This concept recognizes man’s right to freedom and guarantees the preservation of each man’s individuality. Needless to say, this guarantee is not limited to personal liberty. It insures all men against any form of slavery or subjugation.”

425 Gordis, A Faith for Moderns, p. 212.

426 Ibid., p. 203.
Cf. Schulweis, Evil and the Morality of God. p. 99.
Cf. Mishnah Sotah 5:5 to the effect that Job served God from love and not from fear.

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