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18 Iyar – Free Will

18 Iyar 5783 – 9 May 2023

When asked, “What is the power of free will?” the Rebbe (Rebbe Nachman) answered, “Simple. If you want, you do. If not, not. Too many people are trapped in the customs of their habits, but if they truly want to, they can easily overcome them.”[1]

That man has free will is perfectly logical otherwise G-d would not have said: I have put before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life! [2]

Man’s free will mainly includes moral choices, choosing between good and evil. After all, we cannot choose to hold our breath as long as we would like. But also many everyday choices like what you want to eat, or what clothes you like are determined by past experiences or expectations for the future and are therefore not truly free.

Consider the first free choice man had, eating from the tree of knowledge. The choice was not based on previous experience – they had not yet tasted the fruit – yet on expectations in the future – after all, they could not yet know what “death” was. The choice was purely moral. G-d said do not touch. So taking the fruit was purely a choice between good – doing what G-d said and evil – doing what G-d did not say.

That was Adam and Chava’s choice – did they comply with what they themselves wanted to do, knowing it was actually wrong, or do what is right.

That is the true free choice we have every day. Do I choose something I want to have, want to do or don’t want or do I choose that which is right. That what is in the best interest of G-d, the other person or myself.

A practical example. Someone close to me had fallen and stayed in the hospital for a somewhat longer period of time. Then it is morally right to pay that person a visit. On the other hand, that takes up an afternoon when so many other things could be done. That creates a conflict situation in the mind. Am I going to visit or am I going to do the things I feel more like doing. The morally right choice was – of course – to go to the hospital.

Let’s train our free will to make the right moral choices, just, simply, because we want to and because G-d wants us to make the right moral choices.

By Angelique Sijbolts

Sources: [1] Restore My Soul, by Rabbe Nachman, tranlsated by Avraham Greenbaum p.XVI [2] Deutronomy 30:19

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