By NOAM ZION
The true prophet does not announce an immutable decree. He speaks into the power of decision lying in the moment, in such a way that his message of disaster just touches this power.The prophetic element is to connect the historic moment to the perspective of the future that makes a demand and also a promise. This is unique to the Jewish people among all the ancient nations. The prophet distinguishes clearly two possibilities in the developments hidden in the historical moment which are opposed. One is the divine goal and the other opposed to it. The prophet places in the hands of the human the decision whether this moment will help fulfill the divine goal or delay it. … There is no other people in the world that believes in the great value of the act of each and every person in humanity [to shape] the future so that the Creation will be fixed (takana) and redeemed by virtue of the will and the actions of humanity. ..Moses Hess called that the spiritual act that prepares the fulfillment of the unity [of humanity] in the socialist society of the future.
In The Prophetic Faith, Martin Buber shows the Prophets assuming a dialectical relationship, not accessible to rational understanding, between the divine decree and human responsibility. From God’s point of view, the future is already determined; but human beings must make decisions afresh every day as if the future were in their hands, knowing that, in the last analysis, they are subject to transcendent forces.For Buber, this was the lesson God taught the prophet Jonah, who had thought the course of history was predetermined and could not be diverted. The Book of Jonah sets out to destroy the belief in historical determinism and assert that anything is possible, both complete destruction and redemption. It is on this assumption that the prophetic notion of teshuvah (repentance, turning, or return) is predicated. If we do not repent, we shall certainly be lost; if we do repent, perhaps God will have pity on us and we shall not perish," but "who knows whether God will change His mind? (Jonah 1:6,3:9). ‘Perhaps’ and ‘who knows’ are key terms in this tale of repentance.’
Human turning and divine turning correspond the one to the other; not as if it were in the power of the first to bring about the second, such ethical magic being far removed from biblical thought – but ‘who knows?’
What is possible in a certain hour and what is impossible cannot be adequately ascertained by any foreknowledge. It goes without saying that, in the one sphere as in the other, one must start at any given time from the nature of the situation insofar as it is at all recognizable. But one does not learn the measure and limit of what is attainable in a desired direction otherwise than through going in this direction.
Since the world is judged according to most [of its behavior], and the individual is judged according to most [of his behavior], a person is fortunate if he can fulfill even one commandment, for [by doing so] he may tilt the balance for himself and for the entire world to the side of merit. But woe to him if he commits even a single transgression, for [by doing so] he may tilt the balance for himself and for the entire world to the side of blame. (TB Kiddushin 40b)
Each person determines the fate of the world with his whole being and all his acts to a degree that neither he nor anyone else knows; for whatever causality we perceive is only a tiny part of the totality of invisible, infinitely varied action of all upon all.