I don't remember where but I saw a chazal that states something to the effect of "the (non-Jewish) leaders of the world do not have free will". I would appreciate someone editing to source this. So I am wondering A) Does the President have free will and B) If not then does it matter who we vote for? (Even if we have a chiyuv of hishtadlus, I am asking if the choice will ultimately be effective) I would like to stay away from the fundamental discussions of bechira that underlay my questions and stick with this particular point. Thanks!

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    Although that opinion may exist (unsure if it does), there's certainly an opinion that G-d hardening Pharaoh's heart meant strengthening Pharaoh's free will. Thus, Pharaoh had free will and if Pharaoh, then kal v'chomer the US president. Commented Nov 6, 2012 at 21:57
  • I think that I understand your point. However I could argue that according to Rav Desslers famous explanation of the "point of free will" (i.e. that your ability to make a real bechira choice exists only at a certain point and everything easier or harder is not in your realm of choice) Hashem hardened Paroh's heart in order to keep him from choosing the easy option of not letting Bnei Yisrael go (or to keep him from choosing at all) in order for Yetzias Mitzrayim to happen the way it did. This might have been a one time occurrence for a very specific goal.
    – Gavriel
    Commented Nov 6, 2012 at 22:56
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    mishlei 21:1 א פַּלְגֵי-מַיִם לֶב-מֶלֶךְ, בְּיַד-יְהוָה; עַל-כָּל-אֲשֶׁר יַחְפֹּץ יַטֶּנּוּ. 1 The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD as the watercourses: He turneth it whithersoever He will. Commented Nov 6, 2012 at 23:10
  • @Gabi my point was that although you may be able to find an opinion that the US President doesn't have free will, you also have a source on Paroh davka having free will. If G-d could let Paroh have free will, when yetziat Mitzrayim is such a big deal, that opinion should kal v'chomer hold that the US President has free will. Are you specifically looking for a justification not to care about voting? Commented Nov 7, 2012 at 18:16
  • @Charles Koppelman Got it,I understand your point now. I'm not looking for a justification (as I said in my post we [could] have a chiyuv of hishtadlus regardless of the mechanics of how free will plays out in this case.)
    – Gavriel
    Commented Nov 7, 2012 at 18:53

1 Answer 1


The famous saying that you are thinking of is לב שרים ביד השם. Unfortunately this saying is not from Tanach, rather it is an adaption of the Posuk in Mishlei 21:1 לב מלך ביד השם.

This is generally understood that leaders do not have free choice on things that affect their subjects, rather God decides that himself and sways the Kings heart. For more of a discussion of this and about King Pharoah, see this Aish article which discusses this at length.

As for whether the President has free will, it follows that on things like Iran which would affect millions of citizens, he does not have free will. The Aish article seems to imply that by doing the right Hishtadlus and voting for the right person, God sways that leaders heart to the Good!

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