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Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

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Question 12.12:
What is the Jewish view on the question of "free will."


One traditional Jewish view of free will is that in this phase of history, G-d's omnipresence is hidden from our awareness specifically to allow us free will. If we were fully aware of G-d's presence at all times, we would be incapable of sinning willfully. As it stands we are freed to assume or reject the Torah and its prescriptions for Jewish life and to be rewarded or punished accordingly. This will change at some future point when G-d's omnipresence is fully revealed.

In Devarim (Deuteronomy) 30:19 "I [G-d] have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life." From this we learn that we have free will. Furthermore, reward and punishment only make sense if we have knowledge and free will. Angels cannot be rewarded because they do not have free will, and animals are not rewarded because they do not have knowledge. There have been a few notable exceptions to this last statement, but that is the general rule.

The FAQ is a collection of documents that is an attempt to answer questions that are continually asked on the soc.culture.jewish family of newsgroups. It was written by cooperating laypeople from the various Judaic movements. You should not make any assumption as to accuracy and/or authoritativeness of the answers provided herein. In all cases, it is always best to consult a competent authority--your local rabbi is a good place to start.

[Got Questions?]Hopefully, the FAQ will provide the answer to your questions. If it doesn't, please drop Email to The FAQ maintainer will endeavor to direct your query to an appropriate individual that can answer it. If you would like to be part of the group to which the maintainer directs questions, please drop a note to the FAQ maintainer at

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© (c) 1993-2002 Daniel P. Faigin <>