Talmud Tips

For the week ending 8 December 2018 / 30 Kislev 5779

Chullin 2-8

by Rabbi Moshe Newman
ArtscrollLibrary

Choose Life!

Rabbi Chanina said, “A person doesn’t experience a blow to his finger unless it is decreed from Above.”

There is a well-known saying that “G-d runs the world”. Our Sages teach that “Everything is in the Hands of Heaven except for cold and hot (i.e., a person has the choice whether or not to dress warmly in the winter and whether or not to stay outside in the sun too long in the summer). They also teach, “Everything is in the Hands of Heaven except for the fear (i.e., awe) of Heaven.”

Much of what happens is beyond our control. But it is a fundamental Torah principle that we all possess “free will” — the ability to choose between good and bad, right and wrong, moral and immoral.

The Torah says that "the inclination in man's heart is evil from his youth." (Genesis 8:21) The Talmud explains "youth" here to mean from the time of birth. However, this evil inclination is external; it is not intrinsic to a person's pure soul. Our pure soul is given to us even earlier, at the time of conception.

So, Judaism sees man as basically good, created in G-d's image, but with temptation towards evil. While the evil inclination is strong, Judaism believes that a person can choose to overcome it. This is the concept of free choice, which is basically the purpose of our existence: To choose good over evil.

  • Chullin 7b

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