Before we are born, do we pick who our parents, guides, and rebbaim in life will be?


Before a person is born, Hashem decides his or her basic life circumstances: whether they will be poor or rich, strong or weak, etc. The only thing that's not decided, and is up to the person themselves, is whether they will be righteous or not (Niddah 16b).

"Who one's parents are," then, clearly falls into the category of things that Hashem determines in advance.

"Who one's guides, etc., are" may be more of a gray area. Suppose that Hashem decides that one person should be born into an Ashkenazic family in America, and another into a Sephardic family in Israel. It is indeed more likely that each of them will have different teachers and halachic authorities, but it's not carved in stone; each of them may consciously choose a different path in Jewish life than what they were born into (or even, G-d forbid, abandon Judaism altogether).

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    To add to Alex: the Gemara says (Pesachim 54b) that we don't know what kind of job will be best for us; we have to figure that out on our own. Similarly, Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan in his book on marriage writes that the "bashert" (before you're born, a Heavenly voice says so-and-so should be your wife) is the most-likely person for you, assuming he and she take the most likely choices in life. But either of you can use free will and choose to drastically change your life, at which point you get a new "bashert." – Shalom Apr 20 '10 at 16:54
  • @Shalom: With regards to Bashert, see my answer here for a listing of the different opinions about a bashert: judaism.stackexchange.com/a/8125/603 – Menachem May 3 '12 at 18:01

No. In fact we fight with Hashem not to send us at all.

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    What is your source? – Yahu Apr 20 '10 at 6:18
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    "Fight" is a strong term, maybe, but Avos 4:22 (4:29 in some editions) does say that "against your will you are born," and Bartenura there explains that the neshamah is in fact taken forcibly from On High and placed into the womb. – Alex Apr 20 '10 at 16:37
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    Yes, but that does not tell us whether or not we have choice where we end up when we get here other than that we are forced to come. – Bas613 Apr 20 '10 at 18:02

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