Let My People Know

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz: “A simple decision.”

Despite the existence of free will, it is possible to force people into slavery or to cause them to make declarations that they do not believe in, but this does not damage their free will in its purest form.

Only in rare cases, the understanding of which requires additional study, can it be said that God takes away an individual’s free will.

And since free will is the essence of man’s soul, when it is taken away from him, he ceases to be human and becomes a mere object, an earthenware shard.

Because mankind has the freedom to choose, it would seem that even God can only ask us to behave in a certain way but not force us.

Consider the following verse: “I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse; therefore choose life that you may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19).

Such a choice should be obvious, but even with such a simple decision we are still implored to “therefore choose life.”

Mankind s capacity to choose freely, then, is the manifestation of the Divine in the human being, since only we humans can extricate ourselves from the chain of causality.

–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz