Shlomo Ezagui

Free choice, does it exist?

Manuel Nägeli

The question is this: If God is everywhere and everything is predestined, do people have any choice in the results and outcome?

The answer to this question can become a lengthy thesis, which is not the function of this article. I will make it short and to the point.

God made this beautiful world. Just look around at the colors, the trees, the birds, the flowers, the squirrels… And let’s not forget the many colorful lizards. Every day, billions and trillions of elements in this orchestra we call the universe plays out for us a most stunning and dazzling piece of music just as the sun rises in the east.

In your body alone, trillions of cells work together to produce your heartbeat and breath perfectly. All of this does not fall, by chance, into the perfect position every time.

A symphony orchestra with 80 or 100 players needs a maestro to coordinate the musicians; otherwise, there is a good chance the group will not be in sync, and the music will be compromised. The same must be true—and even more so—of the numerous elements that coexist peacefully at the tiniest scale in our universe; they could never function without the knowledge of a great and wise conductor. To think otherwise is outright foolishness.

The Bible says that when God created the world, He made it in an evolved and ready-to-use fashion. On his first day, Adam was a 20-year-old adult, and the great redwood trees already had all their rings in them. It was a “prepared table” waiting for people to enjoy.

(As an anecdote, here is an interesting thought. Philosopher Bertrand Russell has argued that no scientific or rational proof can disprove the statement that “the world was created two days ago.”

Our memories, this article, and everything around us would all be part of that creation made two days ago! The trees would have many rings to show their apparent age, and older people would have wrinkles to indicate the many years they appear to have lived. The fact that our experience is so natural and genuine does not serve as logical proof that the world is any older than two days, frustrating as this argument may be.

Russell was, of course, only presenting an argument and another logically sound perspective. It is a valuable argument in illustrating the limitations of scientific proof for what is essentially a philosophical notion that the earth is (or is not) as old as it appears.)

The universe and all that it contains are the creation of God, all the time. On the other hand, God desired that people play a minor role in perfecting and completing the universe, so He left important, albeit minor, areas of life in which humans could participate.

God knows what He wants, and He always gets His way. He instructed us to do (and not to do) certain activities, which he told us in the Bible, to bring about this perfection that he intended for the world.

The Talmud tells us, “Everything is in the hands of God except for fear of God.” This means that everything that happens in the world and life is predestined. It will happen one way or the other. The only thing humans have complete control over and are held responsible for is our choices, which demonstrate how much we fear, acknowledge, and respect God.

Our choices show God and the rest of the world (“a light to the nations”) how moral we are and how well we carry out God’s mission. By our choices, God knows whether to use us to bring about a good or bad occurrence, which was already in God’s mind to happen.

In our daily prayers, we ask “that we shall not labor in vain.” From the words of this prayer, which was arranged by our great sages, we see that a person may make an effort to do good and will be rewarded for this; however, he may not be lucky enough to see his good intentions come to fruition, because it was not God’s will at that moment. A person can choose to pull the trigger, demonstrating his evil, murderous character, but the person shot may not lose his life if he is not yet destined to leave this world.

“In the path a person desires to go, God will assist him to reach.” That is the key to reaching our goals. We make every effort to get there and pray to God that our efforts succeed.

Maimonides says that even though God made the whole universe and is in charge of every atom, we must never forget that we alone are responsible for making moral decisions. Otherwise, reward and punishment, which are cornerstones of the Bible, would not be possible. The Bible is clear: “See, I give you this day, the good and the bad, life and death, and I give you the strength to choose life.”

Chapter 84

About the Author
Rabbi Shlomo Ezagui is an author and lecturer. "A Spiritual Soul Book" ( & "Maimonides Advice for the 21st Century" ( In 1987, Rabbi Ezagui opened the first Chabad Center in Palm Beach County, Florida, and the first Orthodox Synagogue on the island of Palm Beach, Florida.
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