Freedom of Choice
|Rabbi Mayer Lichtman
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The Pasuk reads “Va’ani Aksheh Es Lev Pharaoh…” “I will harden the heart of Pharaoh”(7:3) Many meforshim ask why the bechira chofshis, the free choice, of Pharaoh was taken away from him. Rashi answers that it was clear to Hashem that the teshuva of Pharaoh would not be b’lev shalem (sincere). If Pharaoh would have been given the choice, an insincere teshuva would have been done. At that point, to punish him would seem unfair to the world, yet such a teshuva would still not exempt him from punishment. Therefore, Hashem removed his free choice so that the world could recognize the truth and wonders of Hashem.
Rashi further notes that in the first five makos, (plagues), the Torah says that Pharaoh himself hardened his own heart. Only in the last five makos is it written “Vayechezak Hashem es lev Pharaoh” - “Hashem hardened the heart of Pharaoh.” What is this second point of Rashi and how is it related to the first point? Perhaps Rashi is saying that the proof that there wouldn’t be sincerity with Pharaoh’s teshuva or with the idolatrous nations in general is from the first five makos. Pharaoh had a good opportunity to change his wicked ways without the lessons and blows dealt to him and Mitzrayim in the first makos. By hardening his own heart – he proved his intention – his lev shalem was to hurt the Bnei Yisrael. It was not for some economical or political excuse – it was a hatred that ran deep in his heart. When Hashem was mechazek his lev during the last five makos, it was merely a result of Pharaoh’s own hardening during the first makos. If Pharaoh would have done teshuva during the final makos, it would have been heartless and meaningless.
The same is true in the positive. Generally, the difficulty of making the right choice lies in one allowing the logic of mind to overcome the desire of the heart. When one continuously makes the correct choices, his heart moves to the right place. The real test of bechira is when there is no test at all [see Michtav Me’Eliyahu]. When one truly knows or is inclined to listen to the Dvar Hashem, it becomes more effortless to do what is right. As we grow in spirituality the test of bechira changes to higher levels.
We should all be zocheh to understand the punishments doled out to Mitzrayim and other nations of the world, and take Mussar in elevating our lev towards Avodas Hashem at great heights.
Rabbi Lichtman is the Menahel of Veitzner Cheder and Menahel Ruchni of Yeshivas Meor Hatorah. He learns nightly in the Zichron Aharon Mechanchim Kollel.
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Rabbi Ari Friedman
When it comes to the kosher kitchen, one of the most familiar practices observed is the inspection of each egg after it has been cracked. Throughout the ages, the image of the busy housewife who slows down for a moment to search for the dreaded “blut struff” is that which exemplifies a kosher kitchen. What are these yiddishe mammas looking for and why are they looking for it?
The first matter, which must be clarified, is the halachic status of a blood spot in an egg. While it is well known that the Torah forbids us from consuming the blood of all animals and birds, a lesser-known fact is that the Torah does permit us to eat the blood found in eggs.1 It is Chazal who forbid us to consume such blood due to the concern of ‘maaris ayin’ – the possiblity of it being confused with forbidden blood. However, this does not explain our custom of discarding the entire egg.
Tosfos2 explains that although random blood spots found in eggs are permitted by the Torah, there are instances where a blood spot found in certain areas of an egg is indicative of a forming embryo in which case the entire egg would be forbidden under the prohibition of eating unhatched birds. The details for discerning whether one has found a forming embryo or a random blood spot are quite complicated and disputed. It is for this reason that the Rama3 says it is our custom to discard the entire egg.
HaGaon Rav Moshe Feinstein4 zt”l writes that although there is certainly a strong basis to permit our eggs there still remains the remote possibility that eggs from different farms will be mixed together. In our society where the loss of a single egg is not considered to be substantial, we should continue our practice of discarding eggs with bloodspots. Interestingly, HaGaon Rav Ovadia Yosef5 shlita writes that in his society the loss of an egg is considered substantial and therefore permits the use of such an egg provided that the bloodspot is removed.
Rabbi Friedman learns full time at the Kollel.
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