Part 17: Chapter 4, Introduction
In this chapter the debate between Iyov and his friends begins. The opening
remarks belong to Elifaz the Teimani. Rashi, based on the interpretation of
our sages, explains that Elifaz was the son of Eisav.
Accordingly, Elifaz was
a grandson of our patriarch Issac. Rashi continues to explain that Elifaz
was raised in the house of Issac and without a doubt acquired great levels of
wisdom from him. It is important for us to know that Elifaz was qualified to
discuss theological matters with Iyov and therefore Rashi brings this to our
attention. Elifaz's represents a school of thought that views man as a
creature who possesses absolute freewill.
Man's destiny can be controlled and
determined by acts of freewill. This is a sharp contrast to Iyov's position
that man is a victim of the forces that determine fate and that he does not
have the capacity to influence these forces.
The Malbim points out that although Elifaz declares man to be an agent of
freewill we cannot take this to mean that freewill is effective in all human
endeavors. Everyone is familiar with the phenomenon that conscious choices do
not always produce the anticipated or desired results.
One famous example of
this can be found in the Bible story of Joseph and his brothers. Joseph had a
few dreams that he interpreted in a way that was very disturbing to his
brothers. They decided that Joseph had delusions of grandeur and of
dominating the fledgling Jewish tribe that was the predecessor of the great
Jewish nation. They viewed this as a mortal danger to family unity and
ultimately to the entire Jewish nation. Consequently they decided to do away
with him and so Joseph was sold into slavery eventually arriving in Egypt.
The Egyptians were infamous for their slave driving and trading. They
developed a system that made it virtually impossible for a slave to escape.
Joseph suffered the worst possible experience. Not only was he a slave in the
most oppressive regime of the ancient world, but was also incarcerated in the
Egyptian prisons. These oppressive facilities were not exactly what we could
call 'corrective institutions.'
So Joseph was put away in a distant land
where he was prevented from exercising his freewill. In such circumstances
he would certainly not be able to reign over his brothers.
The end of the story is well known. Joseph becomes the ruler of all of Egypt.
Finally, from his new position of power and influence he was able to govern
over his entire family. This incredulous course of events would have been
impossible had it not been for Joseph's brothers' decision to eliminate him.
This story vividly conveys the message that our decisions and actions may not
always achieve the desired results. While Joseph's brothers thought that they
were doing G-d's will by eliminating Joseph G-d was 'pulling the strings' to
facilitate the fulfillment of his controversial dreams.
There are areas of human activity where freewill does not play a significant
role and may even be suspended in order to bring about important events. We
can understand that at times G-d chooses to interfere with freewill
decisions to facilitate events that are an essential part of His universal
But here we are dealing with decisions and actions that were intended
to eliminate Joseph because in his brothers' eyes he posed a danger to the
fledgling Jewish nation. In the end those very same decisions and actions
paved the way for Joseph to rule over and support for the nation.
G-d's will, as revealed in Joseph's dreams, was to make Joseph the king of
the young Jewish nation and be their benevolent provider. The startling
reversal of his brothers' scheme demonstrates that no thoughts or actions are
beyond the realm of G-d's scrutiny and control. Even acts of militant
opposition are manipulated to weave the historical tapestry that reveals
G-d's presence and dominion over human events.
Text Copyright © 1996 Rabbi Y. Schwartz and Project Genesis, Inc.
The author is the Rosh Hayeshiva (Dean) of
Orchos Chaim Yeshiva in Jerusalem.