Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Ruling on Beliefs

Rabbi Akiva, in Pirkei Avos (3:19), teaches that "All is foreseen and permission is granted." According to the Rambam's interpretation, this statement presents the classic contradiction between God's foreknowledge and man's free will. If God knows the future, do we really have free choice?

The Rambam resolves this paradox by explaining that God's knowledge of the future is qualitatively different than man's knowledge. We are unable to fathom what God's knowledge means and therefore how it does not restrain our free will.

This is all old news. What is interesting is how the Rashbatz, in his commentary Magen Avos, describes the Rambam's explanation:

And Rabbenu Moshe ruled on this that God knows the future and His knowledge of this does not force man at all...
The Rashbatz refers to the Rambam's philosophical position as a ruling. In his recently published critical edition of Magen Avos (Erez, 2000), R. Eliyahu Rachamim Zeini (p. 221 n. 200) writes:
What is most important is that our rabbi [the Rashbatz] calls this a "ruling," to teach us that even in thought there is room for a ruling. This is in contrast to the many small-faithed of our generation who try to leave specifically the area of thought to complete anarchy. This point is worthy of writing a full book to uproot this poisonous and bitter root. Therefore, I will make due with just one quote from the Talmud Yerushalmi (Sanhedrin 11:4, 30a): "He [a rebellious elder] returns to his city and continues teaching... as it says 'If it is beyond you, a matter of law' -- this teaches that the Torah was speaking of someone capable of sitting on a court, 'beyond you' -- this is advice, 'a matter' -- this is aggadah, 'between blood and blood' -- a nidah and a virgin." We see that even on a matter of aggadah there is room for one to become a rebellious elder. See the Rambam (Sefer Ha-Mitzvos, root 9): "Know that all the commands of the Torah and its admonishments are on four things -- thoughts, actions, character traits and speech," and in Moreh Nevukhim (part 3)...

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