Free Will

Theme: Letting Go of Control

The big question that philosophers and free thinkers have always had is: Is our life predetermined? Or do we have free will? If you are born into a certain family that is dysfunctional you are doomed, so to speak, or do you have the ability to transcend? I quote Maimonides who says: “The most fundamental pillar in all Jewish thought is the idea that a human being has the free will to transcend their circumstances.” If you don’t have that, everything falls to the wayside. You can’t expect anything from anyone. They’ll say, “Well I was born into this home” or “I had this accident” or “I’m colorblind”. People have excuses for everything. There is no accountability and therefore no expectations. How did the standard get so low? Judaism has a higher standard: You were created in the divine image. Do we all have challenges? Absolutely. Some of us are born into poverty and some of us are born into wealth. Which is easier? It depends what you do. Some are born with no opportunities but they make the best of it. The dignity of a human being is: You can transcend your circumstances. There is no such thing as a pre-written script.

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8 years ago

Can exact sources be added to quotes? In addition to providing therapy, I teach limudei kodesh to adult learners and am a grad student and lecturer. Providing sources is imperative for me. Where is the above quote from Maimonides found?

Pinny Brown
1 year ago
Reply to  Rivka Leiner

And, this matter is a great and component part, the very pillar of the Torah and its precepts, even as it is said: “See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil” (Deut. 30.15), and it is, moreover, written: “Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and curse” (Ibid. 11.26). This is as if saying, the power is in your hand, and whatever human activity man may be inclined to carry on he has a free will to elect either good or evil. And, because of this very subject it is said: “Oh, who would grant that they had such a heart as this, to fear Me, and to keep all my commandments at all times” (Ibid. 5.26). This is as if saying, that the Creator forces not the sons of man, and makes no decrees against them that they should do good or evil, but that it all is in their own keeping.5
Mishneh Torah, Repentance…5.3

William McKeen
7 years ago

Free Will:

It is subjected to the laws of cause and effect. The parameters of Free Will are established early in life through our culture, upbringing and environment. Dysfunctional childhood leads to bad choices. Trauma and bipolar disorders produces bad choices. Deficits in education and training contributes to bad choices. How can we assign Free Will with the responsibility for our actions if they are greatly influenced by by past events?

Danny M
1 year ago
Reply to  William McKeen

Greatly influenced is different then definite predetermination. There are many people who grew up under difficult circumstances and became good and successful people.

3 years ago
Reply to  William McKeen

Will is the key word with ownership.

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