Divine Justice and Personal Responsibility

Written by BY: Rabbi Haim Ovadia on . Posted in Torah

Of all the questions surrounding the ten plagues in Egypt, none have captured the interest of commentators throughout the ages as much as the question of how G-d can disrupt Pharaoh’s decision-making process and then hold him accountable for it. This question fascinates believers because it has direct application to their lives in terms of the purpose and the value of their actions.

In a classic system of reward and punishment, evildoers are punished and the righteous are rewarded–– but what if our understanding of righteous and evildoers is wrong? What if all is directed by G-d for His own needs and purposes? If G-d can manipulate Pharaoh’s decisions in order to show His great might, how do I know that when I make a certain decision it is mine only, and not part of a sophisticated Divine plan? This is the pressing question of theodicy, Divine Justice. When a terrorist decides to slam his truck into innocent pedestrians, when a driver decides to text while driving, or when a corrupt CEO presents false data regarding the airbags in his vehicles, how should we view all the people killed on the roads because of these actions? Are they victims of the decisions of those three individuals, stemming from hatred, carelessness, and greed, or were they destined to die and G-d guided the actions of others to carry out His plans?

Was I Really Redeemed from Egypt?

Written by BY: Rabbi Hillel Shaps on . Posted in Torah

Kollel Scholar and Director of Special Projects for the Greater Washington Community Kollel

The Mishna in Pesachim (116b) relates that in every generation a person is obligated to view himself as if he left Egypt, as it is stated, “And you should tell your son on that day, ‘Because of this, G-d did this to me when I left Egypt’” (13:8). The Mishna is apparently interpreting this verse to be speaking not only to the generation that left Egypt, but to every generation. If that is the case, how can one honestly say to his or her child that he or she left Egypt? It seems to be blatantly false! In fact, in the Pesach Haggada we take this even further when we say, “Not only did he redeem our fathers but he also redeemed us.” How can we make such a statement?