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Our ability to choose enables us to be partners with G-d in Creation.

The Power of Our Freewill

The Power of Our Freewill

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The Power of Our Freewill
Our ability to choose enables us to be partners with G-d in Creation.

Jewish mystical tradition reveals the tremendous power that each human being has to affect the world through the unique gift of freewill. The Zohar itself illustrates this idea when it proclaims, "When man accomplishes G‑d's will below, he causes a parallel rectification above." (Zohar I:35a) This single statement can gives us an understanding of the differences between the beings that inhabit the upper, spiritual worlds, and human beings in the lower, physical world.

G‑d created a system where the ripples of our freewill in the physical world are felt even in the spiritual realms….

The idea that G‑d created a world where humans were given complete freewill is a gift of tremendous magnitude and responsibility in itself. But the Zohar teaches us here that G‑d created a system where the ripples of our freewill in the physical world are felt even in the spiritual realms.

Let's examine this concept on a deeper level through the mystical commentary on the Torah written by the great Spanish Kabbalist Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman (1194-1270), known as the Ramban.

In the beginning of parashat Vayetzei, Jacob is fleeing from the murderous intentions of his brother Esau after receiving the blessing of the firstborn. On his way to seek refuge in the home of his uncle Laban, Jacob unknowingly sets up camp on the holy site of the future Temple. The Torah recounts the fantastic vision that appeared to him that night:

And behold the ladder was standing on the ground, and the top was reaching up to the heavens, and behold, angels of G‑d were traveling up and down on it. (Gen. 28:12)

Angels are beings that in their essence completely lack freewill….

The question that drives the Ramban's comment here is a simple one: why are the angels going up first, and then coming down? If angels are truly beings of the upper spiritual worlds, then shouldn't they come down first, and then go up? On this point the Ramban writes:

G‑d shows Jacob in a prophetic dream that everything in the world is done through angels, and all that occurs in the world is done through heavenly decrees given to them. Angels themselves that are sent to interact with the world never do anything on their own accord, whether a small or a large matter, until they return and stand before the Master of the World and say: "We have traveled the earth, and behold it is filled with tranquility", or "it is filled with sword and blood", and then G‑d commands them to return down to the Earth and to do what G‑d desires.

Before we delve into the Ramban, let's first uncover the Torah's perspective of an angel. Unlike the popular image of blonde rosy-cheeked children with feathered wings, the Torah understands an angel as simply a messenger. Anything that is doing the will of its Creator is acting as angel. Even forces such as gravity and the tides, which are natural forces that G‑d creates, can be seen as "angels".

Bringing us back to our topic, the Ramban teaches here that angels are beings that in their essence completely lack freewill. They can only fulfill their assigned tasks, which is why they are going up first, to share their report, and then coming down afterwards, to complete their assignment.

Our freewill actions affect this world, and then are sent up to the heavens….

We, on the other hand, unlike every other aspect of Creation, both in the heavenly and earthly realms, are given freewill. Therefore, our actions must affect the world in a completely different way than any other being.

Both the Ramban and the Zohar are pointing out the two opposite cycles of influence based on freewill, one from the side of angels, and the other from the side of humans.

The influence of angels comes from above. Since they cannot act according to their own freewill, they are always reacting to the desires of their Creator. The will of the angels is nullified to the forces of the heavens, so therefore their cyclical flow starts from above.

The way that G‑d created the world proves the great faith that G‑d has in us….

But for mankind, it is the opposite. Our freewill actions affect this world, and then are sent up to the heavens, inspiring G‑d to react to our deeds. Based on our actions here, G‑d reacts in order to bring about the desired result. For us, the cyclical flow starts here, in the physical world.

On another level, we cannot truly oblige G‑d to do anything. Nothing can occur in this world without the desire of the Creator. But that does not deny the existence of this elaborate system that G‑d created in order to elevate us as equal partners in bringing the world to its complete state.


Copyright 2003 by KabbalaOnline.org, a project of Ascent of Safed (//ascentofsafed.com). All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this work or portions thereof, in any form, unless with permission, in writing, from Kabbala Online.

Jonathan Udren, an Israeli immigrant from the U.S., has split his schedule between freelance writing and yeshivah studies in Jerusalem since 2001. His international syndicated column is printed monthly by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, and his feature articles have been printed in newspapers and magazines across the Jewish world.
You can find his blog, “Sparks from the Fire,” where he shares Torah ideas interwoven with personal experiences, at http://sparksfromfire.blogspot.com.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
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Eugina Giiovanna Herrera New York City, New York May 27, 2015

The power of Ha+ Shem Free will G-d gave us a free will by revealing his (ten commandments). G-d never created evil; people created evil by not following his ten commandments. Reply

ruth housman marshfield, ms March 12, 2015

free will is choice I experience massive VISIBLE synchronicity. I record this. This means there is a Record that is non random. This has implications. Reply

David Samuels Long Beach September 10, 2013

Predestination The existence of predestination, the fact that G-d knows the future, seems to imply that G-d knows what choice we will make conflicts with the notion of free will. I don't understand. Reply

Anonymous Philippines June 18, 2013

Rebel angels But it says in the bible that they(angels) came down to earth and married the daughters of men. And they also rebelled against G-d. Reply

Michael Ackerley Papakura, NZ November 16, 2012

Free will. Free will is the most powerful force on Earth. The power of believing, the energy of faith, moves mountains. It is the free will in action choosing to believe the written word. "It is written", moves the hand of God, or we can choose to remain passive, both have their root in the God given ability. Joshua said, " but for me and my house we will serve the Lord." A mighty decision of His will. Reply

Alan Kellerman voorhees, N.J. September 20, 2011

Free will Very interesting and informative. Reply

Anonymous Athens, Greece via kabbalaonline.org September 2, 2010

Free will can only lead either to redemption or condemnation. The choice is bestowed on human beings so as to allow us to pave our destiny according the amount of desire we contain the the vessel . Reply

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