jlsinwa@aol.com (JLSinWA) wrote:

Rita, You have some interesting views but so far they are yours alone. I had a chance to discuse your beliefs with two other jewish folks this last week and neither agreed with you. So far I have not found a Jew that agrees with you. Looks like you are a minority of one in this matter. I simply can not find anyone that agrees with you.



What exactly do these people allegedly disagree with, Jim? Do they disagree about man having free will and God not intervening in our behavioral choices? Are they educated in Jewish philosophy and theology? Can they quote anything in Jewish texts that supports the ideology of the 12 Steps and the two major books of AA?

Ask your Jewish friends if they can find anything in Jewish thought and tradition to support the Big Book lines:

"The first requirement is that we be convinced that any life run on self-will can hardly be a success...

"There often seems no way of entirely getting rid of Self without [God's] aid...

"God, I offer myself to Thee -- to build with me and do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of Self, that I may better do Thy will..."

or Step 6: "Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character..."

In any reading of Jewish works on issues of free will, ethical behavior, repentance and self-improvement, etc., one is likely to find ideas such as the following:

From the Yom Kippur Service:

"Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove your wrongdoings from before my eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do good; seek justice; correct oppression... Seek good and not evil, that you may live!"

From Torah:

"Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse; a blessing, if ye obey the commandments of the Lord your God; and a curse if ye will not, but turn aside from the way I have shown you..."

(Deuteronomy 11:26-28)

On the issue of being "powerless" over behavior:

"If there was some force inherent in man's nature which irresistably drew him to a particular course... how could God have commanded us through the prophets, 'Do this and do not do that, improve your ways, and do not follow your wicked impulses'? What room would there be for Torah?"

-- Moses Maimonides, 12th century sage, "Guide for the Perplexed"

From Mishnah Study Group of Conservative Judaism:

"The fact that we have free will, to choose [righteousness] or not, means that we have been granted the capability of doing enormous good and immense harm. We can find a cure for cancer or we can blow ourselves to bits: it's entirely up to us. But in order for free will to work, God has to set a limit to Divine power: if we are to be free agents morally, God may not intervene and deprive us of that capability... In other words, God has removed human behavior from the sphere of Divine control and influence."

-- Rabbi Simchah Roth, Rabbinical Assembly in Israel

The following is a discussion between two observant Jews from a Jewish ng:

* begin forwarded post *

In article <6plal4$ogf$1@nnrp1.dejanews.com>,  wrote:

I believe this is mostly a disagreement over semantics. Some Jewish thinkers make a point of saying that free choice only exists when there is uncertainty about one or more of the alternatives.    

When we speak of "bechirah chafshi" (lit: free choice), we mean not only the ability to make decisions that aren't mandated by causality (nor are random) but also the posession of two sets of drives from which to choose.  

According to this understanding (which, again, is my own conjecture), animals could have free will, yet not have bechirah chafshi.  

Free will, as I understand the term's connotation in western thought, is about having the innate ability to make choices. Bechirah chafshi includes the idea that there are ethical/moral/religious choices to be made.  

Harry Weiss had replied to Hadass:

there is a difference between obligation  and ability to disobey.  People are obligated in Mitzvot.  Angels are more similar to robots.  

Actually, Maimonides (Guide to the Perplexed) takes this view. Angels no more have free will than rocks can choose whether or not to fall. 


Micha Berger

* end forwarded post *


Ah, but there's the rub.

It is not only atheists who are put off by this -- the assertion that you can have any concept of God that you wish and still "work the steps" falls flat for those of us whose conception of God does not include "saving" people or "removing shortcomings".

Jewish prayers to the Almighty are for purposes of adoration, NOT for "guidance" or to have "character defects" removed. Free will, or "self-will", is a gift bestowed on man, and we are all responsible for the behavioral choices we make. God does NOT intervene in our daily comings and goings and doings, but merely watches how we utilize our free will (probably with amusement), and we adore him just for being God. Learning from our mistakes, and when necessary "turning over a new leaf", is part of what makes us human, and something God likes to see. But the power to do so is ours, and the credit goes to us, not to God. Actually in traditional Jewish theology only angels are devoid of "self-will" and have their actions dictated by God.

I've yet to meet a Stepper who understands or accepts this point of view. Usually they respond with something like "But I know AA members who are Jewish." Of course this is no response at all; one may be of Jewish descent but not currently practice or believe in Judaism. It's my understanding that a pretty sizeable percentage of Moonies are of Jewish descent. But I wouldn't conclude that the Unification Church is therefore "compatible with Judaism"!

Railroad Rita