Shlomo Ezagui

Free Choice? — God knows and created everything.

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

The answer to this question can become a lengthy thesis, which is not the function of this article. So, 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 lizards. Every day, billions and trillions of elements in this orchestra we call the universe to play a most stunning and dazzling piece of music for us every day, 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 quite obviously does not simply fall into place.

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 with each other, and the music will be compromised. The same must be true—and even more so—of the countless 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.

The universe and all that it contains are the creation of God, all the time. God, on the other hand, 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 we humans have full control over and are held responsible for is the choices we make, which show 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 are carrying out the mission God gave us to do. 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.

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. And 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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