Everything Is Foreseen, Yet Freedom Of Choice Is Granted; The World Is Judged With Goodness, And Everything Is According To The Preponderance Of [Good] Deeds.
This statement can be interpreted as a support for the Baal Shem Tov's teaching
that everything - not only the events that involve man, but even those which influence inanimate matter, plants, and animals - comes about with Divine knowledge. Everything, even the most seemingly insignificant aspects of creation, such as a leaf fluttering in the wind, is foreseen by G-d and controlled by His providence.
(Sichos Shabbos Parshas Ki Savo, 5746)
Alternatively, this phrase can be interpreted within the context of the mishnah at hand. By saying "everything," the mishnah teaches that all of a person's potentials and the challenges he will encounter are "foreseen." G-d knows His creations and does not confront them with unfair demands. Every person is granted a mission which he has the potential to fulfill.
Every person has the potential to fulfill his personal destiny, but the choice to fulfill that destiny is his alone. No one can stand in his way, nor is there anyone compelling him.
(Sichos Shabbos Parshas Acharei-Kedoshim, 5728)
This clause also shares a connection to its author, Rabbi Akiva. As mentioned, Rabbi Akiva descended from a family of converts. On one hand, every convert is destined to convert. This is reflected in our Sages' use of the expression , (lit., "a convert who converts") rather than ("a gentile who converts"). For even before a person actually converts, he possesses the spark of a holy soul. Nevertheless, there is no obligation for a convert to convert; indeed, the Rabbis are obligated to try to dissuade him. The decision to become a Jew is his alone.
(Sichos Motzoei Shabbos Parshas Emor, 5738; Sichos Shabbos Parshas Shelach, 5740)
Even when for various reasons a person does not completely fulfill the mission with which he was charged, G-d judges him favorably and finds grounds on which his flaws can be excused.
This concept also serves as a directive for man to imitate this trait and always view a colleague with a favorable eye. When a person conducts himself in this fashion, G-d will deal similarly with him.
interprets this mishnah
to mean that the number of times one performs a positive act is significant; it is therefore preferable to give charity in the form of many different gifts than it is to give the same sum as a single donation. By giving repeatedly, a person ingrains the trait of generosity within his character.
In Tanya, the Alter Rebbe gives a different rationale for the same principle: that each time one performs a mitzvah, one creates a spiritual bond with G-d, drawing down Divine influence to our material world. The more often one gives, the more often one draws down Divine influence.
(Sichos Shabbos Parshas Devarim, 5744)
- (Back to text) Rabbi Yisrael Baal Shem Tov as quoted in Kesser Shem Tov, Hosafos, sec. 119ff. See the essay entitled "Masterplan: The Baal Shem Tov's Unique Conception of Divine Providence" (Sichos In English, 5752).
- (Back to text) Avodah Zarah 3a.
- (Back to text) Yevamos 22a, 47a.
- (Back to text) Chidah, Midbar Kadmos, Erech Gimmel. See Likkutei Sichos, Vol. X, p. 89, note 14.
- (Back to text) Avos, loc. cit.
- (Back to text) Iggeres HaKodesh, Epistle 21.