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Prayer #17

The existence of free will is a fundamental belief of Judaism. However, there is a verse in Y’hi Chavod which seems to indicate otherwise. “Rabos machshavos b’lev ish, va’atzas Hashem hi sakum, There are many thoughts in the heart of man but the plan of G-d ultimately prevails.” Or as they say in Yiddish, ‘man plans, G-d laughs.’

Rabbi Dr, Orenstein, in his book on prayer, explains that this is a reference to a principle that G-d will at times over-rule an individual’s free-will. What this means is that there is an ultimate goal and destination for history, namely, the End of Days, the Messianic era and what follows. To get to that destination certain pieces of the puzzle have to fall in to place and G-d makes sure they do. This does not mean that our free-will is jeopardized on a daily basis. Rather, there are extreme scenarios where G-d will intervene to ensure that the puzzle piece goes in precisely in its place. The rest of the time, and the vast majority of the time, our decisions are ours – we have full control in deciding and distinguishing between right and wrong.

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