My newly organized music jamming group was interrupted when the ministry of health banned social gatherings. My daughter gave birth but I could not visit my newborn grandchild. Everyone has similar stories. There is a saying in Yiddish ‘Man plans and God laughs.’ This is the year of disrupted plans.
Disrupted plans cast doubt on our freedom of choice. Someone builds a house and it’s swept away by a tsunami. A newly certified professional dies before having the chance to start a new job.
There seems to be a system of cause and effect that is beyond our control. Do we or don’t we have free choice?
Fate negates choice but so does choice alter the course of fate. Someone with stage 4 cancer whose demise seems inevitable enhances her immune system through various lifestyle changes and helps her body to heal. Someone creates an organization to help the poor, the elderly or victims of abuse. Human choice intervenes for good and also for bad. Human choice is real.
Therefore, we need to approach the question differently. Instead of narrowing our vision to designate our boundaries of control we need to expand our vision to appreciate just how far reaching are the acts of both God and man.
There is a Biblical commandment to put a fence around one’s roof in order to protect visitors from falling off. But it is worded strangely. Literally, ‘the one who falls will fall’ (Devarim 22:8). This is interpreted to mean that although the person’s fall is predestined, the homeowner is responsible nonetheless.
So too, God has an overall plan for the world, but we choose the role we want to play in that plan. We can be agents of good or agents of bad.
God orchestrates the ends; we are engaged in the means. Life is an intricate interplay between human and divine action. A process set in motion by humans may not manifest in full force or may manifest at a slower or faster pace than expected. Alternatively God may have a certain goal in mind and if a certain person does not take the steps to bring it to fruition someone else will. Everything has its designated place and every person has his time to shine.
Therefore, we must know that every choice on our part has an effect. But the results are not up to us. The question is what part we choose to play in the grand scheme of things. (Based on Ein Aya Shabbat Vol I Ch 2 Par 204)