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Did You Ask to Be Born?

Did You Ask to Be Born?


Once upon a time there was a village full of disgruntled people. All day long they walked around with these sour faces, each bemoaning his troubles, each jealous of her neighbor's successes.

One day, a wise old man arrived in the village. He assembled them all in the village square and said to them: "I want you each to go and bring your most precious possession, the thing you cherish most in your life, and place it here in middle of the square." Soon there was a large pile of bundles and packages, of all shapes and sizes, in the center of the village square.

"Now," instructed the wise man, "you may each select for yourselves any one of these gifts. The choice is yours--take any package you desire."

Every man, woman and child in the village did exactly the same thing. Each chose his own bundle.

The Torah, as we all know, begins at the beginning, describing G‑d's creation of the heavens and the earth, the continents and the oceans, vegetation and animal life. Then, in its 26th verse, we proceed to the creation of man. "And G‑d said," we read, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness..."

G‑d is asking a council of human souls if He should create the human soul! Let us? Up to this point--and from here on through the rest of the Torah--G‑d is spoken of as the ultimate singularity. He is the Boss, the exclusive source and mover of all. But in this single instance, there is an "us," a choir of opinions, a supernal boardroom before which the Creator places a proposal and asks for approval.

With whom did G‑d consult when He desired to create the human being? Our sages offer a number of explanations. One is that G‑d asked the angels, so as to temper their later criticisms of the failings of mortal man. Another explanation is that G‑d was involving all elements of the universe, or all aspects of His infinitely potentialed being, in the formation of the multi-faceted soul of man. All these explanations, of course, raise at least as many questions as they answer. Indeed, it is regarding this particular verse that the sages have stated: "The Torah says it thus; anyone who wishes to misunderstand, let him misunderstand..." Obviously, there is an important message here to us--important enough that the Torah insists on this particular phraseology despite the fact that it allows for (encourages?) misunderstanding.

But there is one interpretation of this verse which presents us with a conundrum of a paradox. The Midrash offers the following explanation: "With whom did He consult? With the souls of the righteous."1 G‑d is asking a council of human souls if He should create the human soul!

The plot thickens. Who are these "righteous" (tzaddikim) with whom G‑d consulted? According to the prophet Isaiah, "Your people are all tzaddikim."2 We each posses the soul of a tzaddik (regardless of the extent to which we allow its expression). In other words, G‑d asked each and every one of us if we desire to be created, if we choose to accept the challenge of earthly life. Only then did He proceed to create us.

If asking a soul whether it wants to be created sounds like a catch-22, this paradox in fact resolves a much deeper paradox--the paradox of divine decree and human choice.

G‑d is forever telling us what to do G‑d is forever telling us what to do. Indeed, the very word Torah means "instruction," and that's basically what the Torah is: a series of instructions from on high. And yet we are told that "a fundamental principle of the Torah" is that "freedom of choice has been granted to man."3 What exactly are our choices, if G‑d is constantly instructing us?

The question runs deeper. Let us assume that, in any given situation, under any set of circumstances, the choice is ours as to how we should act. But what kind of choice is this, if no one asked us if we want to be in that situation and under those set of circumstances in the first place? What kind of "choice" is there, if we didn't choose whether or not we should be presented with that choice?

So the Torah reveals to us this amazing secret: that ultimate choice was made by us, before we even existed. Before G‑d emanated your soul and breathed it into your body, you were asked if you should be. So in every situation in which you find yourself, in every challenge you face in your life--you are there because you chose to be placed in that life.

The life we have is the life we want We go through life complaining, "I didn't ask to be born...!" But a thousand times a day we refute that claim. With countless choices and actions, we affirm that the life we have is the life we want.

Of course we do. After all, we chose it.

Midrash Rabbah, Bereishit 8:7.
Maimonides' Mishneh Torah, Laws of Teshuvah 5:1.
By Yanki Tauber; based on the teachings of the Rebbe.
Artwork by Sarah Kranz.
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Discussion (108)
January 15, 2017
free will is a responsibility: whether one exercises "it" or not, as a partner w Hashem...
marsha drucker
October 22, 2016
Then, if we chose this life, why didn't we opted to be ángels rather than humans? Angels are always closer to G-d's presence, listening to His voice, good communication, no complaints, happy life, no sorrows, no pain, no suffering, no regrets. We are here, without listening to His voice. Even Abraham could talk and listen directly His voice in the past. Aren't angels having God's life breath, too? What's the difference between ángels and humans, then? Animals have soul and they praíse G'd and I am sure they all see Him and hear His voice, too! I would have rather made the line with the ones choosing to live in Heaven as angels. After all, Heaven is more beautiful since is where G-d resides in a Full Time basis. We all want to be in Heaven after leaving this world. Won't we?
Hilda Maria Arias Cao
March 16, 2016
I am sorry it doesn't make any sense at all.
I don't remember asking to here. Everyday is like someone and God is doing me a favour when I didn't even ask to be here and optionally for favours? I feel bad everyday because my boss is condescending and God doesn't do anything about it as I just need to be thankful for everything even the boss who hates god and puts me down on a daily basis. I don't understand why should I be here? Why should be an example? I didn't ask to be here
March 9, 2015
Each of us has chosen to be a spark separate of the inclusive, single Divine Light. Each of us has chosen this separation, for but a little while.

If everyone could remember their birth, their time in the womb, and all that came before, all of that which cannot be but poorly described in words, this choice of ours, would be perfectly clear to all of them. We always were; we just could not perceive of ourselves as selves separate of the greater One, until we made the freewill decision to come down.

And you all actually do remember, deep down inside. The distractions of the world, its newness to you, made you forget it all consciously, almost instantly, upon your birth. But you contain it, deep down inside -- What you are, and where you came from.

Some made the conscious decision, at birth, to remember...

The day shall come, when all will return. Then, it will be the World to Come.
Gary W. Harper
Saylorsburg, PA
February 26, 2015
Gentle hugs sent your way - hope the snow doesn't make delivery difficult.

I like imaging that I was a tiny 'angel' looking for my parents. Knowing how I would like to be when I grow up meant choosing parents that would give me that combo needed. So, in spite of knowing that my parents would not stay together, I was born and raised until 4 years old with 2 parents. But the father wasn't interested so my mom raised my brother and me until we were out of the house.

Lucky us! Brother and I got to have only one parent's boobamisahs! At 77 yo, I'll become a Bat Mitzvah in May - thanks to my mom z"l.

Life has been tough - but I succeeded far more than anyone had a right to expect.

I am grateful ... and hope that you, too, S NJ, will find something to do that you love and will flourish with Joy and Peace in your heart. You are precious and free.
Meira Shana
San Diego
February 25, 2015
You say that your father abandoned you.

You have no idea how lucky you were! You have no idea how much worse your dad could have done to you.

Where do you get off telling poor S that s/he indulges in self-pity?
Have you ever heard the saying,"I don't go where I'm not wanted."
And if you're not wanted Anywhere, doesn't it seem a sin to hang around?

I am so glad that S in NJ loves life so much that s/he has stayed in this world in spite of his/her having been early infused with the insidious assumption that s/he is an intruder in this world, without any right to be here.

That's staying power. That's not self-pity. That is self-assertion, and more power to him/her.

I want S to know that s/he is welcome here and had every right to be born. And yes, S, before you were born, you did choose to come here, and you were right to come here. Now stay and fulfill your mission. GD loves you.

An exercise: for one week, greet everyone, even strangers, even frowners.

Note the smiles.
February 10, 2015
To Chaim in Cincinatti
I have no idea what S in NJ is, or has been, going through. All I offered was what I could. Your post sounds like you know S in NJ well, or well enough to know what he or she is struggling with. I am glad that someone either knows this person or reached out to him or her through Chabad. S's original post sounded suicidal to me, so I passed it along to a Chabad rabbi that I know.

And yes, Chaim, sometimes life is a pain in the backside. Sometimes it is that way all of the time for some people. A quote from one of Bob Dylan's songs: "You don't know the hurt I've suffered, nor the pain I rised above. And I don't know the same about you, your holiness or your kind of love, and it makes me feel so sorry."

Don't throw stones, boychek. You don't know what I have faced and risen above and gone through. I am scarred but not shattered. And I am not alone and neither is any other Jew as long as someone cares and cares enough to reach out.
Aaron Ainbinder
Denver, c
February 10, 2015
I ask the same question and part of the answer is in a realistic sense, my parents made that choice. And my children at least my eldest does not believe he asked to be born. My husband and I made that choice for him as did my parents for me. I still feel within that there is part of me that feels the miracle or "spark" of birth is something we cannot really explain, although my scientific son would beg to differ. Did my soul ask??? But what happens after birth, those who have miserable childhoods or hopefully good childhoods are basically human decisions or perhapys physcial or hormonal decisions or whatever. My son when a child said if God created the world he then backed off and left the rest to us. Now he doesn't believe in God. I can see how he could think that way especially with the terrible injustices in the world. On the other hand life is not so black and white and a spiritual belief gets many thru the hardships. I don't understand those who create the hardships for others
February 6, 2015
To Aaron Ainbinder and to S in NJ
You spoke to S in NJ as if life were merely "a pain in the" rear, and you added, "sometimes".

No. For S, life is constant hell..

After being raged at every night from age one at by a father who treats you like a punching bag, accuses you of being bad, clearly thinking you are an intruder in the world, it is reasonable to assume that strangers will be even more hostile to you, more apt to murder you. Even your mother failed to protect you. You learn early to numb out so you don't even know that you are terrified. You don't know it is fear that produces your queasy stomach or headaches or chest pains. You were a feisty child, so your father hit you even longer, radiating his hatred the whole time. More than twice he tried to kill you, injuring you painfully. Your fear shows in your face; you have no playmates or love, or joy, or any sense you have anything to offer anyone.

S in NJ is brave. S/He deserves praise for staying alive. And s/he does have something to offer others.
February 6, 2015
Anonymous from 2 October 2013 Again. I am not going to rehash what I wrote back in Oct 2013. I would have remembered if I was asked to be born. Looking down from a wonderful place, I would not have wanted to be born on this earth. Since I first posted my first post life has not been any better. One thing is I am an observant Jew, however it is living hell with out the flames to work for the goyim of this country. I have been rejected for promotion, because I refuse to work from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown. Try to prove that in a court of law in Florida run by corrupted goyim. I am seeking to get training in a new profession and I already have a college degree. I am also a disabled veteran. It will take some time to get through my training. Tampa does not have a large Jewish Community and I would gladly move if I could sell my house (after my technical training is over). The short and skinny is I am suffering persecution at work for being a Jew.