By Mark Gerson
In Deuteronomy 11:26, God announces what might be the foundational statement of human responsibility: “See, I present before you today a blessing and a curse.” This is the great biblical assertion of free will. The word “present” in the Hebrew is in the present tense, and the “you” is in the singular. The responsibility is personal, and the opportunity is ongoing.
One of the important dynamics about choices is path dependency and the other choices that they create. One who chooses a spouse will face a set of subsequent choices that are entirely derivative of the first choice. One who chooses a profession will subsequently make decisions that are only presented because of the first choice. One who chooses to devote himself to a faith will have to exercise his free will in ways that are solely a consequence of that decision.
God’s great declaration of free will in Deuteronomy leads us to ask: What is the foundational decision for all of us, for all time? There are, as is common with Torah passages, many right answers—each true, none contradictory. But the one I would suggest is captured in a story about Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel.
Read more at The Fundamental Question.