Thursday, July 06, 2006

Bechirah - Free Will I

As discussed previously, there is a law of physics called causation, which means that everything that happens, happens for a reason. (Every effect has a cause.) Therefore, if you get out of bed in the morning, there must have been a cause of that action. There was, of course, namely, your decision to get up.
But what caused the decision? There had to be something that CAUSED you to WANT to get out of bed, and so forth. And if every decision has a cause then free will is impossible, because free will means the ability to choose without a cause, but rather just because you decided it.
In other words, if you had two people, with the exact same lives, the exact same biology, the exact same environment and experiences -- the exact same set of causes, could they ever make different decisions?
The answer is no, since if everything happens because of a particular cause then identical causes must create identical effects.
Yet bechirah means two people in an identical situation with identical causes can choose two different effects (choices), simply because that is the power of their free will. This is impossible according to the laws of physics.
Every decision a person makes, according to science, must have a cause. Meaning, there must be a cause that he chose A instead of B. Choice cannot come freely. There must be a REASON why a particular choice was made. Or a reason for WANTING to choose A over B. EVERYTHING must have a reason. And in a world where everything must have a reason, nothing happens "freely", including your choices.
But we know that Hashem is the Cause of Causes, First Cause. That He does things simply because He wants, without any prior cause. Hashem is not bound to the laws of causation.
That's why, in order for us to have Bechirah, Hashem had to take a part of Himself and put it into us. The Seforno explains that "b'talmainu", the "image of G-d" means Free Will.
Free will is a miracle, since free will can't really exist. And the way Hashem brought about this miracle was, He gave us a little piece of Himself ("chelek eloka mima'al") that enables us, within the boundaries of mitzvos and aveiros, to choose our course freely and without prior causes, just like He can choose.
Outside of the realm of Mitzvos and Aveiros, there is no free will.
According to the principle of ain od milvado there can be no free will. Since everything in the world is merely an expression of the Will of G-d, no will can exist independent of His. It's like if you imagine, in your mind, a little world with little people in it. Obviously they cannot make any decisions independent of you, and certainly they cannot do anything against your will. That's how the world exists in relation to Hashem, kav'yochol. We're all expressions of His will. So bechirah cannot exist.
But it does, because Hashem put a little piece of Himself into those humans that He created as expression of His will, so that in each of those phantasms, there is a little sliver of reality, of Hashem Himself.
And that's where bechirah comes from. It's true that ain od milvado, but part of the "milvado", part of Hashem, is our Neshomos, and that is what enables us to think and choose freely, as if we really existed on our own. Our Neshomos, as "chelek elokah mima'al, in a sense, do exist on their own.

[An interesting but inescapable conclusion of all this is that an atheist cannot believe in free will. Since everything in the world has a prior cause, that would include his choices, his desires, and the reasons for his desires. To the atheist, it would be impossible for two people with the exact same set of causes - heredity, environment, etc. - to make two different choices. Which means, his choices are not "his", but the result of his "causes."]

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Bechirah is NOT a manifestation of G-d's will any more than G-d Himself is a manifestation of G-d's will, since Bechirah is a "chelek elokah mi'maal". The miracle of Bechirah is that a human can have appended to him something that is really a part of Hashem.
So, in the hypothetical situation of Hashem making a rock so heavy He can’t lift it, the difference between the independently heavy rock and the independently selective human being, is that you want the heaviness of the rock to be a creation, which cannot be, but the ability to choose of the human being is not a creation but part of Hashem Himself.
So now perhaps you will ask, can Hashem likewise "graft" part of His own power onto the rock such that He would be unable to lift it, since in this case the heaviness of the rock is also not a creation?
The answer is no, because G-d cannot limit Himself in any way. He cannot kill Himself, cannot corpify Himself, cannot weaken Himself. This is because being all-powerful does not include the ability to be weak. Being weak is not considered a form of "power". G-d cannot create something beyond the limits of His power because there are no limits to His power, and that, Hashem cannot change.
So therefore, whereas Hashem CAN graft His own power onto a human giving Him free will, He cannot graft His own power onto a rock giving it the ability to limit Him.
Human Bechirah does not limit Hashem the way a too-heavy rock would, since Hashem has total over-riding control over the Bechirah. It's like a rock so heavy that Hashem CHOOSES not to lift it.
So Hashem would NOT be able to create human beings with Bechirah that He would not be ABLE to control if He would so choose.
The comparable question to the rock would be: Can G-d create people too stiff-necked for Him to control?
To that, the answer is "no."
In short: There cannot exist within the boundaries of creation, the ability to choose independently. However, that ability does exist beyond creation, i.e. in Hashem Himself. That ability, since it can exist within albeit beyond creation, can be miraculously appended to a creature enabling the creature to utilize the supernatural ability.
But the ability to overpower G-d does not exist even beyond creation. It does not exist even within G-d. Therefore it cannot be appended to any being, human OR G-d.

Bechirah only works in cases where Yiras Shemayim can be involved. If you think about it, though, even the most mundane situations can involve a Mitzvah or Aveira. An example given on the forum was painting a room. It may not seem to fall under this category, but if you wanted to, you could decide to pick a color people would like and would make the room seem more cheery, or you could pick a color you like, but makes most people feel nauseous. That is a Yiras Shamayim case, and you would have free will. The rule is this: If this decision would be made differently by Moshe Rabbeinu than by a Rasha, it is a Yiras Shamayim decision and Bechirah plays a role. If Moshe Rabbeinu and the Rasha have no reason to make different decisions then it is a non-Bechirah decision.

When you rebel against Hashem, Hashem allows you to make the decision to rebel, and then, yes, He actually causes you to bring the decision to sin to fruition. Although the decision you made was against what G-d wanted you to do, but it is not dualism because it is the Will Of G-d that you should be able to go contrary to His preferences if you so desire.
It's like when you allow your kid to do something you don’t want him to do, knowing he will get hurt doing it because that way he will learn "the hard way" and be able to ultimately function better on his own.
So too Hashem allows us to do wrong because without the ability to choose wrong, we would never develop the ability to choose right over wrong.
G-d created pain as the way to teach us these lessons because whether we learn these lessons or not is OUR CHOICE - not G-d's decision - it is a Bechirah decision whether we learn and improve. And G-d looked at the world and He saw that of all the infinite possible ways to create the opportunity to learn, people will respond positively and improve best if the lesson is taught through the medium of pain.

In other words, G-d said, "OK, people, your job is to learn lessons. It’s your choice if you want to learn them or not, and I will teach them in the way that you will choose to learn them the most."

Then G-d looks into the world and sees what will happen if he teaches lessons in every conceivable way. He sees that people are going to ignore the lessons the LEAST if they are taught through the medium of pain.

So G-d says, "OK, you want it this way, that’s what you will get." Because not leaning the lesson, not doing teshuva, not getting a kapara, is worse than the pain. And if we would be on the level to respond to our sins without feeling pain, then we would not need it - but the reality is that people chose the method of G-d's running the world, since they do not reach high levels without being prodded by the pain.

Pain is also a punishment for wrongdoing. And there HAS to be pain as punishment because otherwise there would be no justice if people would just get away with doing bad - PLUS there would be no motivation for people to do good. SO pain is also a deterrent - and it is needed because people choose not to be deterred if there is no pain awaiting their bad choices.


If a person does a sin, the pain he receives is like a slap on the wrist compared to what he would have gotten in Olam Habah. When we get to Olam Habah and we see how many sins were erased because of pain we suffered in this world, the only question we are going to have is why didn’t Hashem give us more pain to erase more aveiros??

There is a Gemora Yerushalmi where Rabi Akiva meets Nachum Ish Gam Zu. Nachum is suffering and Rabi Akiva says "Woe to me that I see you like this." Nachum answers "Woe is to me that I do NOT see you like this!"

Rabi Akiva asks "Why are you cursing me?"

Nachum answers "And why are you rejecting suffering?"

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