As we continue to hear Moses’ thoughts in parshat Eikev, our Torah reading this week, Moses says something that confuses us. Moses tells Israel not to forget the past 40 years and the hardships we endured since this was God wanting to know what was in our hearts. The confusing part is that God is omniscient, all-knowing, wouldn’t God already know what’s in our hearts, and then we could be spared all the hardship and suffering?
It raises the tension between God knowing everything yet granting us free will. They seem to be opposing truths that cannot coexist. While there is no clear resolution, generally our Sages understood that God chooses not to know what we will choose, granting us the space to exercise our free will.
The greatest gift God bestowed on us is the gift of choosing. It is an ultimate statement of trust because I could choose to keep myself from God, to exclude God from my life, to deny. The gift of free will is the act of trust that I will find my own unique way to God and genuinely desire that partnership.
But why through hardship? When there are simchas in our lives, we open all the doors, as we open our hearts, to celebrate together. When there are challenges in our lives, we narrow the scope, guard our hearts and trust only those we have chosen as our inner circle. Moses has told Israel that God desires a presence in our inner circle.
The strength of free will is immeasurable. It is how we choose to shape the world around us, to form our families, to create a life journey, and to include God. Moses has reminded us that our relationships with God are tremendously empowering, often fragile, but ultimately of our own choosing.
I’d like to wish everyone a sweet and peaceful Shabbat –our Jewish time to regroup, rest, and reinvigorate.