Under the Influence?


Dear Rabbi,

Are there forces or circumstances in the world that make a person a certain way, without the person being really responsible for options and results throughout life? For example, might a thief be innocent because of “the stars,” or fate or destiny?

Thank you!



  1. The answer is that a person has free will to choose to do the right thing under any circumstance. However, for one person the choice might be easier while for another person the choice might be more difficult due to factors specific to each person, usually known as nurture and nature.

    It is extremely important to stress that unless a person is forced to do wrong at the threat of a gun, no factor justifies wrongdoing. Rather, each person has the freedom of choice to do the right thing in any situation.

    Abraham and Sarah were childless until old age. When Abraham told God that He had promised him descendants, the verse states, “And He took him outside, and He said, ‘Look heavenward and count the stars, if you are able to count them’” (Genesis15:5). By doing this, God was teaching him that he was “beyond the stars” and could potentially achieve anything.

    In extracting Abraham and his descendants from the constraints of the natural world, God demonstrated to Abraham how a Jew lives. Indeed, there are laws to nature. What goes up must come down, the survival of the fittest… but Jews and the Jewish Nation is an existence of another realm. It is governed by different laws and what goes up doesn’t necessarily come down, and the weaker ones prevail… Jews are not necessarily bound by the laws of nature but by the laws of God.

    People have unlimited potential. Let’s not lock ourselves into the natural, limiting mindset.

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team