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." 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." 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." 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.