Question & Answer With Rabbi Lazer Brody - Part IV - Decisions
A Simple Jew asks:
The Melitzer Rebbe recently said that I "should know that Hashem decides everything, and we decide nothing."
How does this relate to the teaching in Pirkei Avos 3:19, "All is foreseen, but freedom of choice is given"?
How are we to apply the Melitzer Rebbe's advice in our daily life?
Rabbi Lazer Brody answers:
The Gemorra tells us (Nida 16b) of an angel named "Layla"; Layla brings every drop of human seed before Hashem, immediately before conception, and asks: "Hashem, what shall this person be - strong or weak, smart or stupid, rich or poor?" Later, the Gemorra seems to contradict itself when it says (ibid.), "Everything is preordained, except for the fear of G-d". The Gemorra concludes that there is no contradiction here, since Layla doesn't ask Hashem whether the person will be pious or evil - Hashem leaves that up to the person.
We have no choice about the raw materials, i.e. native traits, that Hashem grants each of us. We do have the choice how to utilize these materials. For example, a person may be granted a native IQ of 130, but waste these powers on idol pastimes and laziness. On the other hand, a person may be born with a below-average IQ of 90, but with diligence and desire, that individual can become a scholar. Rebbe Nachman of Breslev explains for example, that the wisdom of Torah stimulates and develops a child's brain, while the philosophies of the nations stifle brain power.
Since Hashem is the manufacturer of the human soul, the Torah is the soul's Operator's Manual. The more a person follows the Torah - i.e. making a choice for good, the happier and more successful that person will be. The opposite also holds true - a choice that transgresses Torah will be detrimental to the soul and to personal development. For example, every marital conflict can be traced to a deviation from prescribed Torah "midos", or proper character deportment.
In short, Hashem preordains whether we'll be a barber, baker, or candlestick maker, but we decide whether we'll be tzaddikim or reshoim. Despite our efforts, our income is predetermined. But, we have a literally limitless potential for spiritual gain.
Question & Answer - Part III can be found here.
Visit Rabbi Lazer Brody's website here.