Free choice and religious coercion
Parsha and its fulfillment - Parashat Lech Lecha - Rabbi Eliezer Shenvald - 5769
At the beginning of our Parasha, Avraham is commanded to go to the Land of Israel: 'Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto the land that I will show thee. (Genesis 12: 1).
When was the commandment given to Avraham? At the conclusion of the previous Parasha, it is said that Avraham had already initiated his exit from Ur Kasdim to the land of Canaan on his own free will: "And Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran, his son's son, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram's wife; and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the land of Canaan; and they came unto Haran, and dwelt there. (11-31)
The Ibn Ezra and the Radak (ibid. 12: 1) interpreted the commandment Lech Lecha as being on the first exodus from Ur of the Chaldees, and everything was according to the G-ds command. But Rashi and the Ramban (ibid.) Explained that the commandment was to leave Haran for Eretz Yisrael, because they voluntarily left Ur of the Chaldees and settled in Haran.
The Zohar states that the Divine commandment to Avraham at this time stemmed from Avraham's free will awakening: "And when they came out, it was written, 'Go to the land of Canaan,' because they wanted to go there. From here we learn that when someone wants to be purified, you have to help him". Immediately after it says:" And God said to Avraham, Lech Lecha,' as he awoke, he began to go to the land of Canaan. It is written, “he who comes and wakes up from himself from below will get help from above.
Therefore, the way to awaken Hashem’s will is by awakening the free will of man from below, hence the importance of free choice from the free will of man.
The path of Avraham Avinu amongst the people of his generation, the idolaters to the belief in one G-d was in the propaganda and persuasion, without coercion:
"Since he knew and understood, he began to answer Ur Kasdim’s children’s questions and to judge with them, and to say that this is not the way of truth, and broke the idols and began to inform the people that it was inappropriate. And he went out and called aloud to the whole world and informed them that there is one G-d for everyone, and he would walk and call and gather the people from city to city and from kingdom to kingdom until he came to the land of Canaan. He would inform each and every one of his opinion until he returned them to the path of truth, etc. "(Rambam Avodat Kochavim).
I would like to add, that there is a fascinating and complex question: If you are forced to do a Mitzvah, but do not really want to do it, do you fulfill the obligation of the Mitzvah? A person not wanting to do so completely and say, 'I want to.' And his act is not voluntary and so does not mean to fulfill it as a commandment.
Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Zt"l joined the" League against Religious coercion "in the 1950s. And even paid membership dues. But left it when he realized that it was an organization that wanted to fight against Judaism in a sophisticated way. Creating the impression that Judaism has a compulsive and aggressive world view. Thus, leaving a substantive discussion between the secular liberal worldview and the religious worldview that has “Emunah”. An entrenched concept of spiritual and moral wealth that filled the Jewish people with all its hardships, and constitutes the basis for the creation of a modern, reformed and ethical Jewish society, facing the future.
Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Zt "l repeated to us that there is a distinction between the total negation of “religious coercion” in a person's private sphere and his conduct in his home and in his personal life, and the system of norms and laws that represent the public space of the Jewish state. In Israel, as in all the other socio-economic and security issues, there are differences of opinion between the various parts of Israeli society, and the decision between opinions, without full agreement, is translated into laws of public conduct, as well as on issues of religion and state. Laws that anchor the Jewish character of the public as public transport on Shabbat and other public services. The claim of coercion on the part of those whose views differ is similar to those who argue for socialist coercion due to the labor and welfare laws deriving from this worldview or by capitalist coercion in a dramatic cut in child allowances (תשס"ג - 2003).