Haftora for Vayeitzei: Hosea Chapter 11-12
Ephraim has engaged in deceit and plunder, and makes illicit treaties with Assyria about oil. The prophet Hosea says Adonai is disappointed as his people “waiver whether to return to me,” and seems to ponder how to make this wayward group better:
“How shall I give you, Ephraim? Deliver you, O Israel? How shall I make you as Adamah, make you as Zeboyim? My hard is turned within Me, together My remorse has been kindled.”
Here we are seeing a reference to good ol’ Free Will as not even G-d can just “make” people behave any certain way. Despite the disappointment, Hosea conveys a promise of restraint:
“I will not execute the kindling of My anger…For I am God and not a man. In your midst is the Holy One, and I will not enter a city.”
So we have Ephraim who realizes he can get farther ahead being an oppressive jerk than he could being moral. We see a paternalistic representation of Adonai who is deeply disappointed by this, but vows not to intervene. And lastly a promise that even though Ephraim is getting all these ill-gotten worldly rewards, it’s the righteous that will ultimately be removed from the violence in Gilead and rewarded according to their deeds.
Nobody can ultimately “make” us do anything nor can we, or even G-d, compel anyone else to behave a certain way either. One half of this duality might seem disappointing, but in reality it’s very liberating. You are not in control of other people. You can try to reason with or influence or incentivize their decisions, but in this country, thankfully, you are not at liberty to force people to comply with your desires.