For an enlarged, easier to read index click here . To "google search" this site, scroll to the bottom of this page. (This site is best viewed with "Firefox")

(Tips: F11 key enables full screen viewing & Ctrl-F to search the index)


BECHIRAH-----free will

qwert Posted - 05 October 2000 22:10

Everyone tells us that we have full Bechirah, but do we really?

First off why is hashem giving us choices in which we can’t see the full picture so we don’t always understand the choice.

Like if someone were to buy me two presents and they put each one wrapped up so I picked the bigger one cuz bigger always seems better but really it ended up that the smaller thing was what I always wanted, but too late I already opened it.

And also who said I chose to be a Jew? To be born into my family? When was this? I don’t remember any of it.

Being a Jew is so much harder than being a goy, all I havta do is keep sheva mitzvos bnei noach which are quite logical and I’m a clean man, not like a Jew that opening my eye there are like 80 things prob wrong with that.

So who said I have a choice?

MODERATOR Posted - 10 October 2000 17:38

Bechirah means not only the ability to do the right thing over the wrong thing, but the ability to choose right because it is right.

If we would be able to see the full picture, a cheeseburger would look like some kind of poison which if you eat will cause you excruciating pain, stolen money would look white hot such that if you touch it, it will incinerate your hand, and a Mitzvah would look more desirable than a ten million dollar bill.

The choice between doing a mitzvah or an Aveirah would be the same as The Lady Or The Tiger, but you would know behind which door lurks the tiger.

Not much of a choice.

So if you would have the real picture, you would then really not have Bechirah, because although you would have the ability to choose, only an idiot would choose scorching fire over eternal pleasure.

In such a case, your choosing the Mitzvah would not show that you are willing to choose right over wrong, but only that you would rather choose pleasure over pain.

Evil people would choose right over wrong in equal measure with righteous people.

You would not get any credit for choosing the Mitzvah that way.

That's not the type of Bechirah Hashem wanted us to have.

Bechirah means the ability to choose right from wrong because it is right. Because you care about choosing right. because you value what's right.

So what Hashem did was to give you the two options, the lady and the tiger, and you know which is which, but in order to ensure that you choose the lady because of what she is rather than for obvious reasons, Hashem makes the tiger not so scary and the lady not so appealing.

At least not in this world.

It's to balance your Bechirah to make sure you choose right from wrong, not pleasure from pain.

It's like the story of a guy, Frank we'll call him, who meets a girl online, and, after a number of emails and IM's he is impressed with her personality and the finally decide to meet, the next day, in Penn Station. "How will I know who you are?" he asked.

"I'll be wearing a white rose," she said.

Well, the guy arrived, he looked around, and there was an elderly, diminutive lady, with white hair, wearing a white rose. He sighed, he put his chin up, he walked over, smiled and said: "Hi. I'm Frank. May I take you to dinner?"

As he looked at her, she said: "Young man. I don't exactly know what this is all about. But I was told that if you came up and asked me to dinner that I should point you over to that lady over yonder."

And there was the most bedazzling girl-of-his-dreams, who became his blushing bride and the mother of his children.

Similarly Hashem hides the "real picture" because wants to make sure we choose the Mitzvos for the right reasons. So he makes Mitzvos appear in this world not the way they really are.

But whereas Frank believed that his girl was old and undesirable, Hashem, in His benevolence, allows us to know, intellectually, that the Mitzvah is most dazzling piece of beauty that we can imagine.

Me Posted - 10 October 2000 17:50

qwert we are only given nisyonos we can handle which means you were born to be a Jew b/c that's what your neshama wants and yearns for and you'll be able to be a great Jew if you try your hardest and you know life's tough s/t and we just got to learn and grow from that and not sink lower.

MODERATOR Posted - 10 October 2000 18:07

Re: Being Jewish

Any situation you find yourself in not by your own choice was created by Hashem, and given to you because it is the best possible situation for you.

Not necessarily the least painful or the most fun today, but definitely the best for you in the long run. In other words, if you would understand everything about it, you, too, would have chosen what Hashem gave you. it's just that you can't see the whole picture, since you're not Hashem, that it looks less than the best.

The reason it pays to be a Jew even though there are many more responsibilities is asked by the Meforshim on the Chazal that says "Hashem wanted to give His people more reward so He gave them many Mitzvos". they ask, yes, more reward, but also more potential for punishment. So why is more responsibilities, more Torah and Mitzvos, a good thing?

(You ask good questions, qwert)

The Shem MiShmuel (Bamidbar, Shavuos) explains that the question is based on a fallacy.

The question assumes that the measure of reward for a Mitzvah and the punishment for an Aveirah are proportionate. That is a not so. The reward for fulfilling a Mitzvah is so great, much greater than the punishment for doing an Aveirah, such that it is worth even going through the punishment of many Aveiros to get it.

So therefore, it is better for us if we have more responsibilities, i.e. more Mitzvos, because even if it means we have more chance to slip up, as long as we have more opportunities to do Mitzvos, we are very very ahead of the game.

But that is only regarding the multitude of Mitzvos we have as a Jew. If the question is why be a Jew as opposed to a goy, the answer is simply, that through the seven Mitzvos you don't get Olam Habbah, you don't connect to Hashem.

Although non-Jews do get rewarded for their Mitzvos, their reward is in a totally different league than the ultimate, eternal, unending, beyond-imagining reward of the Jew.

Remember, to connect to hashem, to share the Perfect Pleasure that he has, there is no way except through fulfilling the Torah. (Please see the "Basic Judaism" forum for details.)

Renée Posted - 11 October 2000 15:13

Out of curiosity, what reward do the goyim get for obeying the Noachide laws?

MODERATOR Posted - 11 October 2000 16:08

They get reward after they die, some type of Olam Habah, though not like Jews. And there are those who say that they receive some subservient role after Moshiach comes.

qwert Posted - 13 October 2000 14:20

I understand what your saying about choice how we don’t really chose if we know everything, but why does hashem want us to chose. he can look down at the world so much happier seeing ppl doing the right thing because they know and see what’s right and then of course there are those ppl that can know the truth and still rebel.

So let the rebels rebel cuz that’s what they want and let the ppl that try but cant fully see everything fully see everything, and if they wanna do the right thing they’re doing it with a full heart. and some ppl see more of the picture than others, like whoever is answering my stupid questions understands 80 times more than I do, how come Hashem made me ask questions and not give answers?

MODERATOR Posted - 23 October 2000 18:14

Doing Mitzvos are not only for Hashem to see what we will do. You are correct - that he knows already. Rather, they are for US to become holy through doing them. Each Mitzvah affects us in a positive way.

Hashem made everybody according to the way he saw fit, according to the best way possible for that person. Our job in this world is to become Tzadikim. Period.

If we become Tzadikim who ask question, or give answers, or a little of both, or neither, that's up to Hashem. But all of the above can become equally great, meaning, equally righteous.

yideleh Posted - 24 May 2002 16:09

Just a question I was thinking about:

If we really do have Bechirah, then how come we didn't have Bechirah (the ability to make the choice) to be in our present situation? (I mean, to be born and have to go thru life to begin with?)

MODERATOR Posted - 24 May 2002 16:37

Because you only have Bechirah to choose Mitzvos and aveiros. All other choices you make - i.e. any that are irrelevant to the Torah - are not made through Bechirah, but rather are determined by Hashem.

Your being born is not a "right or wrong" decision on your part and therefore not in the realm of your Bechirah. Rather, Hashem does what is best for you. If He decides its best for you to be born, you will be. If not, not.

yideleh Posted - 28 May 2002 2:08

If you only have Bechirah when it comes to mitzvos and aveiros, then how does the rest of life's choices work?

If I decided to wear my hair in a pony, or to let it loose, I didn't exercise my Bechirah?

MODERATOR Posted - 28 May 2002 2:55

Right. If there is no Tznius issue involved in that decision, for instance, its not your Bechirah but Hashem putting that decision into your head.

Taryag Posted - 29 May 2002 4:09

For such an example, how can the answer be so clear cut?

There are those that hold that all hair must be tied back, regardless of the length, while others let even long hair down, as long as it isn't too seductive.

With all the different shitos, how can it be Bechirah for one person and yad Hashem in the other?

ponder2 Posted - 29 May 2002 18:09

What about doing hishtadlus for s/t...Hashem also puts the ideas of what to do in your head?

That's not necessarily right or wrong either.

MODERATOR Posted - 29 May 2002 18:28


The decision to follow one shita or another is also a Bechirah decision. You choose who to follow. Even if its your Rebbi or family's shita, you choose to adhere to it. You also choose whether to take the more stringent approach, even if it is not the one you were taught is obligatory.


The amount of Hishtadlus you put in is certainly a "Yisras Shamayim" decision. It is directly related to the amount of Bitachon you have, and to "ain somchin al haness".

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 (like whether to paint the wall green or blue) then it is a non-Bechirah decision.

yideleh Posted - 02 June 2002 19:04

Are you serious? Cuz what you're saying means that I'm not really in control of everything I do in my life at all! I'm a bit confused...

yideleh Posted - 02 June 2002 19:04

Even painting walls can have Bechirah involved in it I think. For example, a shrink might paint his walls dull colors so as to have a "calming" environment to offer his clients. A kid place will want to paint their walls in bright colors to attract attention.

Are you saying that such a decision (which is based on thoughts and reasons) doesn't involve Bechirah?

Besides, practically everything in life is based on thought processing. Which means there will be a few choices, and you gotta choose something. How could there be no Bechirah?

Even if you choose something just cuz you don't know what to choose and have to choose something (like going to a restaurant and having to choose something off a menu, but not knowing what, so you just choose anything....) how can you say that wasn't Bechirah? You still exercised your free will to make the choice. No one forced you!

MODERATOR Posted - 02 June 2002 19:58

It seems to you like you have Bechirah, but that doesn’t mean its so. You know those stories about robots who think they’re human only to discover they’re not, and they’re decisions were all programming? Its like that.

The wall case may of may not be so, it boils down simply to the question of whether there is any Yiras Shamayim involved in your decision. If so, then it is a Bechirah decision. If not, not.

On the contrary, Bechirah is a miracle. Logic and the laws of physics demand that Bechirah should not exist. I discussed this elsewhere. Check it out:





See my post of 10/16

awaysrite Posted - 24 September 2002 20:16

Hey Mod - I'm doing a report on Bechirah and I happened to chance on this forum.

I was wondering if you could help me out a little, like I have no clue where to start... It would be helpful if you could tell me of sfarim etc (doesn't need to be English - if it helps) , that I can use, sources in Tanach and Gemara would be helpful. If you don't mind email me..... thanx a bunch

MODERATOR Posted - 24 September 2002 20:21

There is a 30 volume encyclopedia on topics of Hashkafa and Agada called "Aspaklaria", written by a Dr. Adler from Zurich, Switzerland.

If you use the entry on "Bechirah" there, you will find all the sources you need.

Otherwise, Rav Dessler in Michtav M'Eliyahu has a chapter called "Kuntres Habechirah".

If you want something advanced and exotic, the Ohr Sameach has several pages on the issue of Bechirah vs. Hashem's foreknowledge in his commentary on the Rambam Hilchos Teshuva.

firefly Posted - 26 September 2002 7:00

The mod mentioned kuntrus ha Bechirah- we spent a lot of time on it in seminary. It's incredible- recommended reading for everyone esp. if you have any questions in Bechirah. (If you learn it w/someone who's well versed in r' dessler, it's even more powerful)

shmatta Posted - 05 November 2002 8:06

Earlier on you were saying something abt. going according to your family. let's say your family davens ashkenaz and you want to change to sfard or they keep cholov yisrael but you don't want to. it's not an aveira right??

MODERATOR Posted - 05 November 2002 10:56

It is. You must follow the Minhagim of your home.

And cholov yisroel is not a "minhag". It is a halachah.

This was discussed in the Halachah / Cholov Yisroel section. Please refer.

Admonit Posted - 13 November 2003 21:29


Someone asked me this and I know the answer, but I could not give the person an answer that I felt was satisfactory one hundred percent to that person.

A person is formed by various nature/nurture things that are not in his hands, he doesn’t decide his chinuch or personality etc.

So when he makes a choice whether or not to murder someone , all the things that let up to that choice were not in his hands.

So what makes one person choose yes to kill and another choose not to kill? Obviously his whole life experiences and divinely given brain/personality etc . otherwise why does one person choose yes and one no? why does one have the strength and one doesn’t feel like it?

Obviously I am giving an extreme example , put there davening in the morning or speaking lashon hara. whatever.

So one person chooses yes and one no. why do they have choice?

It seems like they are choosing based on WHO TEHY ARE. not because of Bechirah. How can I prove that its Bechirah that ppl can choose???

If you are going to answer because then they make the choice at that point , its not the answer. Bec what makes them make the choice at that point.

Is this something that can be proven to someone who is not interested in recognizing anything else in Torah?

Please answer even for myself to have it clear. thank you

MODERATOR Posted - 13 November 2003 22:10

Your question actually serves to illustrate what Bechirah is rather than question it.

You are correct form a physical, scientific point of view - Bechirah is not possible. This is because of the Law of Causation, which says that every effect has a cause. And identical causes invariably lead to identical effects.

In other words, if two people throw the dice in the exact same way under the exact same circumstances, with no difference at all in the throwing conditions, both sets of dice will have to land on the same numbers.

And since every effect has a cause, that is, everything has to have a reason it happened, if you choose to get out of bed in the morning, your choice, too, had to have a cause. There had to be a reason you made choice A over choice B.

And the reason for your choice also had to have a reason, on and on into infinity.

According to physics, and intuition, and logic, you cannot have a "first cause" (that is, something that happened without any cause). Everything had to have a cause.

This is one of the classic proofs to Hashem's existence: Since every effect had to have a cause, and the cause had to have its own cause, there had to have been an infinite number of causes stretching back into the past. However, since infinity can never be reached, the amount of causes that already happened in the past cannot be infinity.

Therefore the amount of causes has to be finite. But if so, then there had to be a first cause that existed for no cause or no reason. (This is explained at length in several other places on the site - do a search on frumteens for "Zeno" and you'll find the long version of it).

Only Hashem can be a First Cause. Because anything in the physical world has to have a reason.

And so, Bechirah cannot exist according to nature. Because there had to be a REASON why you chose one way over the other.

If you were to have two people, with the exact same set of causes - two identical clones with the same upbringing, circumstances, everything - can one of them wake up in the morning and choose to get out of bed while the other one will stay under the covers?

No, you cant. Since there has to be something that CAUSED the different choices, but if the circumstances are identical, the results have to be, too.

So how can we indeed have Bechirah?

The answer is, this is why the Meforshim say that "Tzelem Elokim" means Bechirah. In order to facilitate free will, Hashem had to instill within us a "piece" of Himself kivyachol, such that we humans now also have the ability to be a First Cause, just like Hashem!

ONLY Hashem can be a First Cause, but now, humans were given that ability as well! That is the simple pshat in Tzelem Elokim.

We were miraculously given the ability to choose for no other reason that we decided to choose. That’s where the chain of causes ends - with our decision.

Circumstance, nature, nurture et all can only cause nisyonos - temptations. But they do not affect our Bechirah. Our Bechirah is causeless, like Hashem is. What we decide to do, we do. And why did we decide? Because we have the ability to decide, not because some cause determined our decision.

What you should do is ask this Q to an atheist. They have this problem - no way to explain free will. This is why society, as it becomes more and more science-oriented, is also becoming more and more entrenched in the belief that criminal behavior is excusable on the grounds that it was caused by the criminal's nature and nurture. They really don’t want to come out and admit it, but they have no choice but to live with the inescapable fact that without Hashem's giving us the ability to be a First Cause, we are nothing but robots, resigned to nature's whims. Our choices were CAUSED by something.

But we who know the truth understand that we were granted the greatest power and privilege possible - even greater than what is possible according to nature - the power to choose.

Only we and Hashem can do that. Everything else has to have reasons.

Admonit Posted - 15 November 2003 17:59

Cool! thank u!

You answered me, but you wont answer him because he doesn’t want to know that there is choice or G-d.

But you answered me. thanks a lot.

dina17 Posted - 17 November 2003 19:58

If we would have Bechirah chufshit so we would all start from the same point and you see tons of people one is frum the other is not!!! What’s going on???

MODERATOR Posted - 17 November 2003 20:14

That’s exactly what Bechirah is. YOU decide where you will go.

who me?! Posted - 18 November 2003 3:09

Mod wow!! thanks for sharing big time!!

I was never fully clear on this I hope now I am at least till I read this again.

I usually put this q in the back of my mind so as not to let it interfere with my everyday life. thank you

yossele Posted - 30 January 2004 7:08

BTW rav mod recent developments in physics (chaos theory) imply that Bechirah is not only not scientifically impossible but very plausible

MODERATOR Posted - 30 January 2004 7:21

No, it doesn’t. Not at all. I have no idea where you got that from.

Chaos theory merely means that there is a "sensitive dependency on initial conditions" that is not measurable, which skews the accuracy of predictions. In other words, the "chaos" is the effect of causes that we are not aware of, but there certainly has to be causes.

Bechirah is a choice based not on any cause, but on itself. Thee is no such thing that something happens without a reason.

smileYJ Posted - 06 February 2004 8:31

Mod, this is abt your post on 13th November- sorry I only just read it now.

I don’t really understand how your post answers the question.

You wrote that " we decide because we have the ability to decide, not because some cause determined our decision", but that doesn’t seem to make sense because then why would we choose one option over another.

If there is no cause then surely it is a random decision? - which is not Bechirah.

The only way I can understand it is if your saying that Hashem gave us this miraculous possibility of Bechirah called 'tzelem elokim' which is inconceivable to humans due to our human limitations and we cant understand how it can work but we just have to have Emunah that it exists.

Is this right or did I misunderstand you completely?

- 06 February 2004 8:39

That’s exactly the point. Bechirah is a miracle. Any "first cause" is a miracle, and more than a miracle. Only Hashem can be a First Cause.

In the case of Bechirah, it is Hashem that gave us the ability, so we're obviously not Hashem or comparable to Him, but the idea that we can choose one way or another without any cause, is a power that cannot exist according to science and nature.

The Tzelem Elokim means, then, that we have a power that is so miraculous that it reflects the power that is possessed only by Hashem.

Elchonon Posted - 06 February 2004 13:48

Wow! Thanks Mod!

NJB18 Posted - 20 January 2005 7:43
I think some of the questions about determinism were not completely answered.

Determinism is actually quite a tricky theory to explain so I will attempt to do so briefly:

Any action or thought can be easily explained or its origins can be seen from environmental influence, genetics, or the mixing and matching of the two. Anything. For example, if I decide not to go to shul one Shabbos morning, maybe it could be traced to a bad Jewish experience, or maybe just lethargy.

Any action or thought can be traced to some tangible (not G-dly or spiritual) attribute - I do not see why one should believe one any more than the other. And if one says that it is the neshama and the ruach etc. how does one explain, “environmental influence, genetics, or the mixing and matching of the two”???

These questions have always bothered me. Any answers?

Also, moderator, you told a story about a man named Frank who found the girl of his dreams on the internet, this is actually a real short story written by S.I. Kishor, titled "APPOINTMENT WITH LOVE" - just to give credit where credit is due - also, you said that there is no such thing as an infinite past, why not? Please bring some proof.

MODERATOR Posted - 20 January 2005 7:51
Determinism: The question is more sever than you are making it. Every effect must have a cause, and so if you decide to get out of bed in the morning there must be a reason you decided that; and then a reason for the reason, and so on. This being the case, free will would be impossible, since equal causes must result in equal effects, but free will say that causes do not determine your decisions - your Bechirah does.

I answered this. The answer is that Hashem is the First Cause that had no cause (please see the "G-d" forum), and He put a chelek elokah mimaal inside us, i.e. the Neshoma, which facilitates Bechirah. In other words, He has given us the miraculous ability to be a First Cause, ability that only He can have al pi derech hatevah. Bad experiences and stuff like that are nisyonos, but Bechirah can overcome them.

Re Infinity: Please see the "G-d" forum where this is discussed at length. In short, infinity can never be reached. That’s the definition of infinite - having no end.

Therefore, if something has an end, is quantified, or has been reached, it cannot be infinity. Since the past has already ended, then the past obviously is not infinite. That’s the nutshell version. Again, for proofs (more like simple logic) see the "G-d" forum.

Re the story - never said it was original. It's pretty well known and I assumed the readers would know that, regardless of who the particular author was.

I never meant to imply that the story was original.

No comments: