Choosing not to choose: Knowledge, control and restriction

Achiya Sandowsky  • 2018

Can we go with fate as a way of life, without crushing under its wieght? some thoughts for Purim.

And the rule for the drinking was, “No restrictions!” (Esther 1:8)

There is something paradoxical in the human behavior. On the one hand, much strength is given to his choices and desires: in our modern era, words such as “responsibility”, “self-discipline” and “work ethic” are words that describe man, he is an individual and free to choose; on the other hand, the opposite human trait: the constant search for culpability. If it failed, or if one simply did not succeed in his attempt, suddenly the ground is unstable: the appropriate conditions were inexistent. “Was it only up to me it would for sure be happening, yet …”

This paradox is our way to have the cake while still eating it. One can enter the storm of battle while, if necessary, retreat on a prepared route allowing to part from all guilt. A person can argue vigorously or act for something with all his might, and when something goes wrong - justify himself, explaining why in such a situation things can change and one must be flexible according to the conditions. If only a generation ago aiming for the end goal was the essence, in our era the formations have been reversed (“turned to the contrary” - “וְנַהֲפוֹךְ הוּא” (Esther 9:1)): man is mainly on escape routes, looking for backdoors, constantly rewriting himself and his world to know that the speculations are infinite, creating new powerful narratives.

The western abundance and vast breadth of knowledge open up endless possibilities, Infinite choices. Man becomes a chooser, a picker. Food, clothing, place of residence and work, the people I choose to socialize with: all these point at the ability to select, to choose - exalting and elevating me, for I am the one in control. This I will choose and this I will not, this will be close to me and this far from me. The desire for power and control increases. A special lust was created in the latest generation - the desire to open the options.

Yet, for a moment we shall turn the tables (“וְנַהֲפוֹךְ הוּא”). Let us close our eyes and imagine ourselves on the side of those been chosen and investigated, without neither control, nor choice, nor understanding why! How does it feel? The feeling is probably hard. When something falls upon us - it is usually difficult for us, and the root of the difficulty is a lack of understanding. If you will - the question of “why?!”, which is such a basic human question, is the question that tries to delve into the depth of fate, yet fails to do so.

The subjective approach to things develops because I cannot understand them and their meaning objectively. The question “why” cannot find a solution, thereby it is disqualified from being a correct or legitimate question. The question now being “how”: how I feel about it, how I see reality.

But there exists a third way (to reverse the reversed - להפוך את ההפוך). The third way chooses not to choose . It knows not to know. It goes with fate as a way of life, not as one crushed under its weight. Not as one endangered by it. Choosing to become a part of it, unifying itself with it. Resembling wild animals, or a drop of rain. Resembling and not resembling at the same time: “But I was brutish, and ignorant; I was as a beast before Thee” (Psalms 73:22). Losing my understanding in a clear mindset .

Two chose the third way: Israel and Amalek. All further developments that the world has been burdening upon them over the years did not dull their initial vitality, purpose and fate. “Origin of the nations is Amalek - רֵאשִׁית גּוֹיִם עֲמָלֵק” (Numbers 24:20). “Israel are holy to the Lord, the first fruits of His harvest – קֹדֶשׁ יִשְׂרָאֵל לַה’ רֵאשִׁית תְּבוּאָתֹה” (Jeremiah 2:3).

The self of existence fights for itself.

It is not for nothing that the name of the Lord is not mentioned in the Megillah - if He was mentioned, the quarrel would have been fought for Him and, thereby, might have failed.

This is opposed to Haman who, in the end, did try to control fate (he was not ready to totally give himself up), thus the Gemera (Chullin 139b): “From where in the Torah, [do we know] Haman? It is from (hamin) this specific tree” (Genesis 3:11), while Esther is in total darkness of knowledge: “From where in the Torah, [do we know] Esther? And I will surely hide (astir)” (Deuteronomy 32:18).

After Purim, we are to return to everyday life: to the investigations and choices, once again being required to act as human beings. Here we require certain levushim (‘garments’), and actions that will prove the reality of God, giving meaning and taste to existence. For it is impossible to live above taste and knowledge .

Indeed, the beginning of our meetings with Amalek, our ability to fight him, lies at Rephidim, while going above taste and knowledge, yet “immediately came the dog and bit them” ,

And upon this it is said “Remember what Amalek did to you on your journey…” (Devarim 25:17-18) - meaning before perfection had been reached. For once Israel has reached perfection, there is no room for any accuser, only as long as they are on their way and God has not yet signed upon them. […] Even though it is the truth that Israel came up higher than Torah and mitzvot, nevertheless without the levush of Torah and mitzvot there is no connection from the body’s concealment to the clarity of the head…( סוד ישרים – פורים, סימן יח עמ’ 50).

As long as there is no clear illumination in the world, our devotion is not total, hence “we are still the servants of Ahasuerus” (Megillah 14a) and we need to control our desires - “that the Jews had rule over them that hated them - אֲשֶׁר יִשְׁלְטוּ הַיְּהוּדִים הֵמָּה בְּשֹׂנְאֵיהֶם” (Esther 9:1). When we will be able to totally heal, to totally release control - there will be joy as that of dispel our doubts (Amalek)…

Le’Haim Le’Haim!

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