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The Understanding of Free Will and Foreknowledge in Judaism

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“Foreknowledge and Free Will” was written by Rabbi Hillel Goldberg. Rabbi Goldberg has a doctorate in Jewish Intellectual Studies, and in this article, he discusses the paradox of the quote, “Everything is foreseen, yet free will is given” (Ethics of the Fathers 3:19). He uses the Tanakh to show that at first Abraham submits to God’s will and executes all commands given, therefore, he reaches a state of “God-fearing”. In result of Abraham reaching this state, he is sanctioned as the reflection of God. Abraham’s will represents the will of God, but they both still have their own free will. Abraham represents God’s will while relying on his own free will, however, God lets Abraham have this free will. This reveals that Abraham and God serve as limits to each other’s free will and foreknowledge. Goldberg also concludes that “non-God-fearing” people also serve the same relationship as Abraham and God, which shows that free will is present in Judaism.

Pierre Roth, a member of Dorshei Emet Synagogue, discusses the ethics, welfare, and freedom associated with Judaism. He is mainly known for written articles regarding Jewish faith. In the article, he contrasts Judaism with ancient religions, Roth shows that morality and justice are at the central belief of Judaism. Man is supposed to continue God’s work, and until injustice and suffering ceases to exist, creation will continue. According to Roth, the Tanakh also reveals people have free will, however there is no mention of destiny. This contradicts Goldberg’s belief of God having foreknowledge, and Roth then finishes the article by comparing the righteousness of Judaism with Christianity, Islam, and other nations.

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Dr. Abbas J Ali is one of the authors of “The Concept of ‘Free Agency’ in Monotheistic Religions: Implications for Global Business”, and he is a professor of Management and Director. He and his colleagues debate if people are truly free agents. They seek to find the different religious perspectives on free agency in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam to find insight and associate findings to business. The article uses quotes from Rabbis, theologists, and the Tanakh to imply that we have the free will to make our own choices, but God still has the power to coerce man but doesn’t. This article also makes the point of God and man being partners in creation, which is also evident in Roth’s article: “Judaism, Ethics and Justice.” The article proceeds to move on to the other religions to discover the religion’s unique perspective. They conclude their findings by associating it to business and showing the impact of understanding the perspectives can have on its organization and employees.

As I researched Judaism and its association of free will, I began to develop a new understanding of Judaism and gained more knowledge about the religion. The main points I discovered about Judaism were its belief of free will, destiny, and man’s purpose. However, the articles do contradict each other a certain extent because of the authors having their own interpretation and biases. I also discovered the connections between Judaism and other religions on their beliefs of free will, human status, and morality.

I first learned that Judaism’s belief of free will is evident in the Tanakh. The three articles quote the Tanakh to prove that humans have free will, despite God’s omniscience, and they show that this is a core principle of Judaism. On the other hand, destiny isn’t as evident as free will. The belief of destiny in Judaism differs depending on the person’s interpretation. The first article shows that God is omniscience, which results in the implication that God knows what has happened, is happening, and will happen. However, Rabbi Roth states that there isn’t any theory of destiny, and it is up to us to choose our own destiny because of free will. Man’s purpose is also evident in Judaism. All three articles state that man is created in God’s own image, and man is supposed to carry on the divine creation.


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