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Did You Ask to Be Born?

Did You Ask to Be Born?

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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.

FOOTNOTES
1. Midrash Rabbah, Bereishit 8:7.
2. Isaiah 60:21.
3. Maimonides' Mishneh Torah, Laws of Teshuvah 5:1.
By Yanki Tauber; based on the teachings of the Rebbe.
About the artist: Sarah Kranz has been illustrating magazines, webzines and books (including five children’s books) since graduating from the Istituto Europeo di Design, Milan, in 1996. Her clients have included The New York Times and Money Marketing Magazine of London.
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Discussion (96)
January 15, 2015
Is it that simple?
Yes, Life is precious. But did the souls of the terrorists and potential terrorist we have right now ask why they should be born? They were little babies and immediately (or later) put in a situation to want to kill others. It is too complicated for a simple explanation. Yes perhaps we were all born with goodness, but in this world there are many who are primed from day one to be evil. I certainly didn't ask they should be born to cause havoc and death in this world! Did their souls ask to be born so they could do evil?
Anonymous
NYS
chabadrochester.com
January 15, 2015
Indeed, we may pray for the wrong things.

But Gd demands that we make our own moral choices.

So our prayers should always add, "If it is Your Will!".
David
Denver
January 15, 2015
We do not own ourselves. Gd owns us. Gd owns our bodies and our lives. We have no right to destroy something that belongs to someone else.

But you were born from an egg and a sperm. You were born from the sperm that swam the fastest. If you didn't want to be born, why did you swim so fast? The other sperms didn't want to be born. They swam slower. The very fact that you WERE born shows you wanted it badly enough to swim fast enough to win the race.

After you were born, you must have received some terrible hurt. So did I. So did many of us. I feel for your hurt. I feel it more than you can ever know.

I ask that Gd may heal your pain. Then you will be able to enjoy life.

Gd bless you.
Steve
Denver
January 14, 2015
Not defined by circumstances
We don't always choose the circumstances of or lives. And for good or bad we are forced to accept a lot of things we might otherwise reject.

But we can always choose to live by Grace or to rebel. Who we are is not determined by the circumstances but by our choosing.

Peace and love to all.
Peter Spiro
WA
January 14, 2015
Asked..
Hey S. I pray Hashem keeps ya around long enough to see even strangers care about ya!
Joseph
Ct.
January 14, 2015
Come on Jews
I just read some of your comments and I am dumbfounded. (S) in New Jersey, blessed are you to endure afflictions from Hashem. Doesn't a parent only afflict the ones who's potential exist? When your secular self is afflicted, the soul grows stronger. The flesh is of the world and the soul is not. So, most often when the flesh is satisfied, the soul is distant from Hashem. Conversely, when the flesh is afflicted, the soul is at it's closest to the Almighty. Thank G-d for your afflictions and adversities, for at that time you are great. Secular prosperity is your enemy my friend. Doesn't affliction and prosperity come from the same place? Than how can affliction be detest? Affliction is what keep our people pious and holy. In history, when our flesh is fattened, we historically have sinned against Hashem. Look at our uniting King David. Only when he became the world's most powerful king did his arrogance consume him. But, Hashem's spirit upon caused him to recognize his sin and repent.
Adrian
MD, USA
January 14, 2015
If we asked to be born why can't we end our lives?
I know I did not ask to be born. I don't want this life, I just don't want to be here. I have nothing good in my life. I have nothing to live for. I pray to G-D to take me.
S.
NJ
January 14, 2015
The life we have is the life we want
Meditating over the captioned writing leads me to ask a question. Doing our best to walk before Hashem humbly and in full submission, can one choose or petition for G-d to accept our decision to relinquish our freedom of choice to Him? In other words, can one become wise enough to understand that his or her choices are unwise and therefore choose to have G-d decide for them? Personally, I choose not to make my own decisions. I am fearful of my lack of wisdom. Example, the Israelites and the story of manna and meat. I often wonder why people pray for a change of circumstance. Aren't we kind of saying that G-d doesn't know what He is doing when we ask for a change of immediate circumstance? I am always afraid to make request from G-d, for I have not the wisdom to understand the depth of my request and how if granted, the nature of the response will unfold.
Adrian
MD, USA
January 14, 2015
Life is a "Mystery" and what our eyes behold is even more of a "Mystery" . We are told that with "The Big Bang" life in its myriad of forms was created . To even try to comprehend such a massive explosion that created the cosmos and all that it is composed of is one thing. But to ask what caused it to come into being is even more mind boggling ! .One might even go further to ask ask what might have existed before 'The Big Bang " is even harder for the human mind to contemplate. But here we are for a limited time on this magnificent Earth that billions have come and billions have gone & who knows how many more will come after us ? So we must try to rest our weary minds for answers and just be thankful for whatever "Power" that brought us here would have wanted us to "do unto others as we would want them to do unto us", then perhaps we might just be lucky enough to get a glimpse of that "Mystery" one day and the answers we have so long craved for ? . What say you ?
Jerald Gould
Montreal
January 13, 2015
To: I know that I did not choose to be created by two parents who arranged to give me away before I was born, and I did not choose to be born with Autism Spectrum Disorder, thus to never be able to connect with other human beings. It is a very lonely existence I am sentenced to.

Anonymous

Please know that there is a purpose for you to be on this world and the purpose is for you to bring great joy to someone special and for you to receive great joy. Maybe not from the source you expected but from a surprising totally different place.(Connecting with people is not always as wonderful as its cracked up to be) There is much beauty and joy to be had in this world and often it is where we least expect it.
Anonymous
boston
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