The Free Will Paradox


If God knows everything, how do we have free will to choose, if he knows what I’m going to do before I even do it?



  1. The concept of Free Will is extremely complicated. I am sending you some sources about the concept that you can read through (especially the Rambam’s description of the nature of God’s knowledge).

    If you have any questions about them, please feel free to write back and I will try to answer them. I’m not sure that I will succeed, because, as the Rambam writes, Free Will and Hashem’s knowledge of what we will choose are the ultimate paradox.

    1. Deuteronomy 30:19
    I have called heaven and earth today as witnesses against you; I have set life and death before you, blessing and curse. Choose life! So that you and your descendants will live.

    2. Ethics of the Fathers, 3:15; Babylonian Talmud, Berachot 33b
    All is foreseen and yet free will is granted…Everything is in the hands of Heaven except for the fear of Heaven.

    3. Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Laws of Repentance 5:1,3; 5:5
    Man is given the option, if he so wishes, of taking the path of goodness and of becoming righteous; or, if he so wishes, of taking the path of evil and becoming wicked… And this is a major principle and it is the foundation of the Torah and of the commandments… A person can choose to do any activity he wants whether good or bad… Lest you say, `Does G-d know everything that will be before it happens, that this person will be righteous or evil, or does He not know? If He knows that he will be righteous it is impossible that he will not be righteous, and if you say that He knows he will be righteous but it is possible that he will be evil, then He does not know the future with clarity!’ Know, that the answer to this question is longer in length than the world and wider than the sea, and a number of major principles depend upon it. However, you must realize and understand that which I am about to say. We have already explained… that G-d does not know things with a knowledge that is outside of Himself like people, whose knowledge and whose selves are separate things. Rather, He, May His Name be exalted, and His knowledge are one, and a person cannot comprehend this idea clearly. Just as a person cannot comprehend G-d’s true reality… so he cannot comprehend G-d’s knowledge… Since this is so, we have no power to know how G-d knows the actions of all creatures, but we know without doubt that the deeds of a person are in the person’s hands and G-d does not entice or decree upon him that he should do this.

    However, there is an idea that at some point, the deeper one gets into the levels of reality, everything is God’s will. This is what is alluded to by a great Chassidic master. Rav Nachman of Bratzlav, Likutei Moharan 21:4 When humanity arrives at the point where we understand the solution to the paradox of free will and G-d’s omniscience, we will have arrived at a degree of perception in which we will no longer have free will… and indeed this is the task of humanity… to come to the realization that everything is the will of the Creator…

    Best wishes from the Team