I saw on page 15 of this pdf the following statement quoted in the name of the Chida: "אין דבר העומד בפני הרצון, Nothing stands in the way of desire."

Does anyone know where the source for this can be found?

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    Is this a Jewish concept? How do you know it? Where have you heard it? What do you know about it? – Double AA Apr 1 '15 at 14:21
  • In The Six Constant Mitzvos press ctrl+f and type "Ein davar" – Chiddushei Torah Apr 1 '15 at 19:58
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    אין אפוטרופוס לעריות--חולין יא ע"ב – wfb Apr 1 '15 at 21:11
  • @wfb: What does that have to do with the question that I asked? – Chiddushei Torah Apr 1 '15 at 21:26
  • @ChiddusheiTorah Why do you think that rule is true? – wfb Apr 1 '15 at 21:56

According to Wiktionary.org this expression is based off something that appears in the Zohar 2:162, which says

כל מילין דעלמא לא תליין אלא ברעותא - כל הדברים שבעולם אינם תלויים אלא ברצון.

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    That is one of two possible sources listed there. – Double AA Apr 1 '15 at 20:11
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    I'm no expert in the Zohar but I think that is referring to Hashem's ratzon, which is a different concept than the OP was seeking. – robev Oct 6 '20 at 1:31

Searching around I saw a lot of places quoting the Imrei Emes (again a 20th century source) as saying it is from the Chida, but no one actually knowing where in the Chida it is found.

The exact terminology is credited by Wiktionary to Menachem Ussishkin, a Zionist who was a native of Russia.

However, this is also a statement in the writings of the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson.

One example is Sefer Mamarim 5703 p.12 as a known "saying" where the exact wording is אין לך דבר העומד בפני הרצון. The most recent Lubavitcher Rebbe wrote the footnotes at the time of publication, and he writes that it is brought in many places, but until now I don't know its place. The implication is that it is brought in many places in the writings of the previous Rebbe, but he doesn't know an earlier source. A more knowledgeable source explained to me that the intent of this statement is that many quote it as a "saying" but the most recent Rebbe could not find the source of the saying.

The previous Lubavitcher Rebbe and Ussishkin were contemporaries and from the same country (and Ussishkin was from a Chabad family), so it would probably be impossible to demonstrate who took it from who, or if it developed in parallel.

The statement has a close parallel in Zohar Volume 2 162b, which says "All things in the world are only dependent on will".

The most recent Lubavitcher Rebbe connects the idea to Megilah 6b (with regard to Torah learning) ("If someone says I tried but didn't succeed, don't believe him", etc.) and in Rambam Hilchos Teshuva 5:1 with regard to free choice ("Permission is given to every person - if he wants to turn himself to the good path and be righteous, he has the ability, if he wants to turn himself to the bad path and be wicked, he has the ability"). It is in the free choice sense that the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe uses it - the ability to overcome habitual behavior, and the most recent Lubavitcher Rebbe as well - the ability to choose to improve in doing Torah and Mitzvos.

See R. Tzvi Hersh Notik's comments on the sourcing here.

Based on all the above, a tentative suggestion is that it is a saying of a kind with היינו דאמרי אנשי, a common folk expression used to illustrate a Torah idea, kind of like using "where there's a will there's a way" to illustrate a Torah point.

  • The Gemara megillah explicitly limits the context to Torah study, and even further limits it to understanding Torah as opposed to remembering Torah. – mevaqesh Apr 1 '15 at 19:00
  • The implication of the quote "ein davar omed..." is that a person can always succeed if he tries. THe Rambam is saying something different; that a person has free choice. THe statement "ein davar" implicitly acknowledges this as its starting point and then adds that this free will (ratzon) is unstoppable. – mevaqesh Apr 1 '15 at 19:03
  • @mevaqesh, Right, a person can always succeed if he tries - the "at what" is left unsaid. No reason to think it is without limitation. The Rambam is saying that person can be a Tzaddik if he wants to, and nothing external can stop him. That is the basis of free choice. – Yishai Apr 1 '15 at 19:07
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    See updates to the question that this may date to at least the Chida. – Double AA Apr 1 '15 at 20:12
  • @DoubleAA, interesting, but all I could find was 20th century references quoting this in the name of the חיד"א, so it may be a mis-attribution - at least in form, if not in content. – Yishai Apr 1 '15 at 20:43

I heard in the name of Rav Ruderman z"l that this idea has no source in Torah literature. (For the record, he was known to have a photographic memory of all of Torah.) This fits with what @yishai wrote that it actually started with Menachem Ussishkin.

  • Could you clarify what you mean by no source in Torah literature? There are many sources which say it in the past 100 years. You mean the original source is non Torah? – robev Oct 6 '20 at 2:54
  • @robev Remember that Rav Ruderman said this before many of those sources were even written, and he probably would not be impressed just because someone in his own time put it in a speech, etc. He probably meant that it had no source in the Torah tradition except for its recent infiltration from wherever it came from. – N.T. Oct 6 '20 at 5:53

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