Iyar 5761 – The Paradox of Bechirah and Hashem’s Omniscience

15 Iyar 5761

Dear Rabbi Orlofsky:

I recently had a discussion with a friend about our having bechira vs. Hashem knowing everything that will happen beforehand. On one hand Hashem can’t NOT know something (i.e. what we choose) but since that’s the case how is it that our bechira is not preordained? I understand that at the time of our choosing Hashem is not forcing us to do things one way or the other, but the fact is that Hashem knows who we are even before we are born. How is this reconciled with the fact that the Torah says that everything is determined by Him except for whether a person becomes a tzaddik or rasha?

Thank you.

Adina Strassburger
Michlalah 5760

Dear Adina,

My favorite example to understand this paradox is from the old game show “Let’s Make a Deal”. I’m sitting at home watching a rerun and Monty Hall tells the contestant that she can choose what’s behind Door #1, Door #2 or Door #3. Now I already saw this show the first time and I know she is going to choose Door #2. And sure enough she does. Now, did my knowing beforehand that she was going to choose Door #2 force her choice? In a sense yes, because I knew it would happen. But in another sense, her choice was free, even though I knew what she was going to do.

Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan in his very important book “Inner Space” presents the idea on a deeper level. The way Hashem created the world was by hiding himself in creation, then giving people the keys to the universe. In a sense, Hashem allows a person to tell Him what to do. And even though a person is born with a certain potential he has the ability to transcend even that.

For a deeper look into the subject see the book, specifically Chapter 5 footnote 26, where he brings down most of the major forces.

Dovid Orlofsky