Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi The Alter Rebbe Parshat Ki Teze 5565-1805 (2) second version
Indented text by the translator
The following Midrash elucidates King David’s verse, “Go and see the works of God. Terrible are His machinations toward mankind.”
“Even the terrible things which You bring upon us, You cause to happen through machinations. For example, the angel of death was created on the first day of Creation. How do we know this?
“Rabbi Brachia teaches, ‘A verse from the first day is the proof, “darkness upon the face of the deep.” This is the angel of death who darkens the faces of people.’ We also know that Adam was created on the sixth day. Yet a false accusation is pinned on him that he was to blame for bringing death to the world, as Genesis relates, ‘But you must not eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil; for on the day that you eat of it, you will die.’ What parable can explain this?
“A man seeks to divorce his wife. Before he goes home he has a bill of divorce written. He takes it in hand and enters his home. He seeks a subterfuge in order to give his wife the document. The husband tells her, ‘Pour me a glass so I can drink.’ She does so. Upon taking the glass he says, ‘Here is your bill of divorce.’
“The wife protests, ‘What did I do wrong?’ He retorts, ‘Leave my house! You poured me a warm glass.’ She responds, ‘You knew beforehand that I would pour you a warm glass. You had a bill of divorce in hand!’
“Likewise, Adam said to God, ‘Master of the World, before You created Your world the Torah had already existed for 2,000 years. And it’s written in the Torah, “This is the teaching about a man who will die in a tent.” If it wasn’t a fact that You established death for mankind, would You have written that verse? Yet You pin this false accusation on me!’
“This is the meaning of, ‘Go and see the works of God. Terrible are His machinations toward mankind.’”
God has the ability to preempt a person’s wrongdoing; if the sin wasn’t previously inscribed within His thought, it wouldn’t happen. But the fact that a person will ultimately transgress and receive retribution did arise in God’s thought. And just as punishment ascended in His thought, so did reward. An individual performs a mitzvah only because a “spirit of arousal” descends from above.
Although everything occurs only because it is derived from God’s general thought, nonetheless, a fraction is also contingent on man. The Talmud advises, “If a person decides to defile himself, an opening is made for him; if he decides to purify himself, he is assisted.” Even though his choice to rectify himself was originally revealed as part of God’s comprehensive thought, God nonetheless helps a person make the proper decision.
“Go and see the works of God. Terrible are His machinations toward …”
The Book of Psalms, chapter 66, verse 5.
“darkness upon the face of the deep”
The Book of Genesis, chapter 1, verse 2.
‘But you must not eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil …’ Ibid., chapter 2, verse 17.
“This is the teaching about a man who will die in a tent”
The Book of Numbers, chapter 19, verse 14.
An individual performs a mitzvah only because a “spirit of arousal”
The Third Book of the Zohar, page 93, side b.
“If a person decides to defile himself, an opening is made for him …”
The Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Shabbat, page 104, side a.