Judaism: Free Will, the "Behira" Point
In trying to understand the concept of the Creator's detailed supervision of our lives, it is logical to ask how that is possible if we have free will. After all, if we can make our own decisions and choose, how does that reflect any participation at all from on high?
Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto teaches us in the Way of Hashem that the world is purposeful and that the world was created so that the Creator can give to us the greatest pleasure possible. This is a tough concept in a world that is full of apparent suffering. The "out of the box" solution is to come to understand that this is not the only world, although it is the one in which our human bodies and current existence experiences through our five senses. In other words, every person is here to fix and mend something and to gain the reward of attachment to the Creator for all eternity after we pass away. This spiritual awareness is the frame of reference for free will.
In order that we can come to deserve (and experience) the reward, it has to be possible for us to choose! The reward is the emotional bliss of attachment to the Creator. When we choose to emulate his characteristics in this frame of reference, we build for ourselves what we need to experience the reward, which is attachment to Him.
We are protected from sensing the spiritual consequences of sin as well as from sensing the benefit of good choices. Nevertheless, there is a spiritual reality, a two-world spiritual ecosystem. For a description of how this affects us every day from an emotional perspective, please visit:
Human Nature Page at Jewish People Unite
There is great benefit to understanding what free will is and what it isn't. Free will is designed to give us a real choice. If we were completely clear about the ultimate consequences in two worlds of our decisions, we would not have free will and we could not earn reward.
For example, if on the next block you knew that there was a vicious dog that every year attacks and bites someone, would you let your child enter that yard without you? Chances are you probably wouldn't even let your child play on the block. Why? Because just the possibility that harm could come would trigger your parental instincts. It is the same when we are faced with a moral dilemma - shall I do something that I know to be wrong even though I can justify it? We have a choice. But, part of being able to have that choice is thinking that we really have it! If we knew that we would receive punishment for our wrong-doing, we would not think that we had a real choice. Without a real choice, doing the right thing has no relative meaning.
This is why the Creator placed the Tree of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden. For Adom and Eve to have free will, there had to be at least one "No, you can't do that."
Imagine what it would be like if we could "see" the Creator in this world, standing in front of us, with a legion of dark angels ready to strike us if we do something wrong. It is quite likely that we would no longer try to justify or rationalize it to ourselves. The door is open wide for us to choose simply so that we can remember to do the right thing and earn eternal reward.
Rabbi Efim Svirsky, in his book "Connection" (p. 74) says as follows:
"Like humans, animals have choices. they can choose what to eat, where to live and with which male or femaile to mate. But unlike humans, the choices animals can make lie only in the realms of survival and procreation...Humans, however, have moral choice. This is summed up in our Sages' wisdom, 'Everything is in the hands of Heaven, except the fear of Heaven'. According to our prophets, fear of Heaven really means separating ourselves from evil and choosing good. So, what our sages are telling us is really 'Everything is in the hands of Heaven, except our choosing good over evil' meaning, spiritual mechanisms govern all of human life, except for moral choice. This alone is up to us..." Connection
There is easy to comprehend discussion of Free Will and behira in Rabbi Dessler's Book Strive for Truth: Strive for Truth (3 Volume Set/ Parts 1 - 4)
For more by Rabbi Efim Svirsky
Rabbi Efim Svirsky Aish.com
It is freeing to know about free will, choice and eternal reward. After all, if we have a mission to accomplish, it helps to have a complete road map and comprehension of our own resources, doesn't it? Rabbi Efim Svirsky, in his book "Connection" (p.75) says:
"if our goal is to become close to the Creator, the source of all pleasures, acting morally in our various life situations is how we embrace the Creator. If we do not know how to act, then we do not really have freedom, meaning we don't know how to get to our goal. It follows that a person who is not learning continually as well as trying to connect to the Creator cannot be a free person."
The choices that face us each day are to apply the moral guidance given by the Creator to our every day lives. In other words, when we have a test, will we or won't we do as the moral guidelines dictate? Oftentimes it may be a choice on what to say or how to act - making a choice that brings the Creator's characteristics into this world shines tremendous light and builds eternity. When we do choose correctly, this brings us closer to the Creator and we achieve spiritual growth. We rise above our limitations of time, space and physicality. Naaleh.com has several video classes that expound on applying the morality of the Torah to every day lives:
Building Character - Videos at Naaleh.com
Self Improvement at Naaleh.com
Want to help save a life? There are women who have to decide whether or not to terminate a pregnancy based on their financial situations. Friends of Efrat saves the lives of over 2,000 children every year by providing support to pregnant women in distress. If they had twice the budget they could have saved twice as many Jewish children. To find out more:
Friends of Efrat
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