Free will is a game changer
By Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried

Dear Readers,
friedforweb2Two weeks ago, we explained how we change ourselves through prayer and consequently cause a change in the outcome of our situations. We essentially have transformed ourselves into “someone else” other than the one originally decreed upon.
I share with you a response I received, as well as a question on the response written by the original questioner:
Rabbi Fried,
Your response is thought-provoking and enlightening, raising a new question. I had learned that it was general knowledge in Leah’s community that she would marry Esau. Therefore she could challenge this assumption through prayer. Had she married Esau, the impact could have been to everyone’s betterment. Isn’t getting approval to change the master plan, like the “butterfly effect,” changing things in ways not imaginable? (Not always for the good!)
— Shimon
Rabbi Fried,
Is this man correct? Can we ask to “change the master plan”? Or is this really the same question as before; therefore same answer?
— Hadassah B.
Dear Hadassah,
I believe you are correct in your question. I never, in fact, stated that one could “change the master plan,” only that one could change their role in that master plan. Allow me to explain by way of showing a seeming dichotomy within our belief system.
We believe that God has a master plan, which guides how history should play out. The outcome of that plan is the revelation to the world of the Oneness of God and that He is the Master of the Universe in a way which will be accepted by all. We will then see how all things which transpired over the course of history, from the best to the worst, all somehow work into that plan. We will understand how our perception of those events, as they transpired, were like looking at one small, isolated piece of a large puzzle. On its own it may make no sense or even seem contradictory to some other pieces we have already seen. Only after the puzzle is finished can one see the entire picture and perceive not only how that piece fits it, but that without it the picture would be incomplete. At the time of the final revelation of the Oneness of God, all the pieces of the most puzzling puzzle of all, the events of Jewish and world history, will be pieced together in a way that all will stand back, astounded in wonderment, over the greatest picture of all!
This would seem to imply we don’t really have a lot of choice in the outcome of our lives, as we are all pieces of a larger puzzle. On the other hand, one of our core beliefs is that of free will, which opens the playing field to unlimited choices in our lives. We believe that free will goes to the very core of our existence; it is the most important facet of our being that flows out of our creation in the “Image of God.” This apparently seems to contradict the notion of a master plan!
The answer is, we have free will to decide what our role will be in the master plan. We may choose to be one who directly contributes to building the foundation for the eventual revelation of the Oneness of God in a positive way through positive actions. We may also choose to be a cog in the system by showing how one should not be, the consequence of our actions being the futility of going against that One-ness and His will. One way or the other, everyone contributes to that final revelation. Some will be, at the end, very proud of their contribution and others, sadly, eternally shamed for their sort of contribution. Only God, in His unlimited wisdom, is able to transform whatever we do into a piece of that great puzzle and make it become part of the big picture, for better or worse. Leah, by changing herself through her prayers, was able to become a player in the game whose contribution to the master plan is one that will bring her, and the world, eternal joy.
Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried, noted scholar and author of numerous works on Jewish law, philosophy and Talmud, is founder and dean of DATA, the Dallas Kollel. Questions can be sent to him at

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