Shabbat Parashat Miketz | 5769
Thanking Hashem and Divine Free Will
Gemara: From the day the world was created, there was no one who thanked Hashem until Leah came and thanked Him, as the pasuk says: “This time I will thank Hashem” (Bereishit 29:35).
Ein Ayah: There is a difference between a blessing and thanksgiving. A blessing is said on any good thing that comes from a specific cause even if was not done especially for the purpose [that positively affected the one who is blessing]. Examples are: “blessed be he who begot this child;” “blessed is he who raised this child.” In contrast, thanksgiving comes specifically over a good thing that came from the free will of the provider of the good, who could have either provided it or refrained from doing so.
It is for this reason that until Leah, no person bothered to give thanks. Although Hashem is the real reason behind all things, matters do not emanate from Him in a manner that He needed to do so, as some philosophers posit, but out of Divine free will, which is deserving of thanks. One should not deflect the opinion [that Hashem is forced to by absolute Divine justice or logic] because if everything [that Hashem brings] comes of Divine necessity, then there would be no room for service of Hashem and reward and punishment, which the forefathers already taught us exist. This is not necessarily so. It is plausible that Hashem brings on all the good things and the entire existence with all of its details with wonderful providence so that even human completeness (shleimut), which is included in existence, is an outgrowth of it. It would follow from this possibility that since man needs to serve in holiness to elevate his soul and fix his attributes in order to be complete, this would cause the Divine shleimut to arrange that the more righteous one is, the more he would merit shleimut and real success, etc. Since it is plausible, one could have said that Hashem is forced to act in a certain way.
Despite the above explanation’s plausibility, the truth is not that way. After all, man’s ability to thank Hashem includes a major part of the ethical element and the loftiness of the human spirit, which could not be missing from existence. This shleimut couldn’t exist unless there was a Divine manner of leading the world that extended from Divine free will without any element of Hashem having to act in a certain way out of necessity. [In other words, Hashem ensured His own free will so that we could be able to thank Him.] This is why Leah came and thanked, to let this true idea be known. Based on this foundation was built the obligation of the korban todah (the thanksgiving sacrifice), whose level is lofty and will not be done away with even in the Days to Come.
One should understand that prayer could have existed even if Hashem would have been drawn into a certain behavior out of [moral] necessity. This would have worked in the following manner. Since a person becomes more complete through his prayers to his Maker, Hashem could be forced through His Divine shleimut to find value in the prayer, which could cause its goal to be reached. [The approach of Divine necessity, then,] would not preclude the need for all the things that prepare and uplift the value of one’s prayers. However, the matter of thanks to Hashem and the human shleimut that comes with it, would by necessity be missing had the truth not been that the Divine manner of leading the world is not forced but is of choice, as we say “life by His will” (Tehillim 30:6). [It turns out that] the human shleimut which we get based on our free choice serves as a trustworthy witness regarding our Maker [who also has free choice]. This is why there is chametz in the korban todah, for chametz is an indication of the reversibility of the good powers that are responsible for the freedom of choice. This would not be appropriate if all the powers were capable of doing only good.
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This edition of Hemdat Yamim is dedicated to the memory of
R ' Meir ben Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld
Hemdat Yamim is endowed by Les & Ethel Sutker of
and Louis and Lillian Klein, z”l.