"The Answers May Be On A Different Plane"
Space Cadet commenting on "Predetermined" Cheeseburgers:
1. Does any of the free will we have fall under "real" and not just "apparent"? What could the concept/function of reward and punishment be in relation to free will that is only apparent? Would the rewards and punishments also be only apparent?
2. Can we from our vantage point ever know the quality and quantity of "sparks" in anything?
3. Do the above fall into the category of unanswerable questions that Rebbe Nachman cautioned against?
Three good questions!
1. To even attempt to answer the first question, we would need to define the terms "real" and "apparent." In a certain sense, the only reality is Divinity, and the phenomenal world is only an apparent reality (based on Likkutei Moharan I, 52, where Rebbe Nachman uses the terms Mechuyav HaMetziyus vs. Efshari HaMetziyus / Imperative Existent vs. Contingent Existent -- meaning approximately the same thing).
As I mentioned, this is a paradox because in terms of the absolute, there can be no freedom of choice or s'char va'onesh / reward and punishment; while in terms of the "relative" or "contingent" or "apparent" reality, there surely is! So your question can't be answered in a simple, straight forward way.
2. The "sparks" are not physical in any sense, and this term ("nitzotzos") is only a metaphor. Therefore, we cannot know the sparks via our physical senses (except maybe through inference). However, if we were to develop our hidden spiritual potential, it is possible that we might recognize the encounter with such estranged elements of holiness. Oral traditions about great tzaddikim like the Baal Shem Tov and Reb Pinchos Koretzer and Reb Nachman, etc., often allude to their "sixth sense" about such things, and their devotion to the tikkunim that cause the elevation of holy sparks, fallen souls, etc.
3. Are these among the "unanswerable questions?" In the sense that they don't admit of common-sense solutions, yes. But that doesn't mean we can't ask them. Just that we must be willing to accept the fact that the answers may be on a different plane than the questions.
After reading this, Bob, I confess that I am having a hard time recognizing myself. The last time I looked, I was an eccentric artist-recluse, and now I am mutating into a cyber-professor without a chair, but an old stump in the woods!