In many Jewish prayers and throughout Tanakh, God is strongly praised for His goodness, that which He does for the Jews, His amazing miracles etc. However, those same sources, and most Jewish sources, also agree that God is perfect. That presents something of a contradiction, as a perfect being always needs to make a perfect choice and therefore does not have what most would traditionally define as free will.

That being the case, does it make any sense to praise God if you believe God to be a perfect being incapable of doing anything other than that which is perfect? Is God praiseworthy if He doesn't have a choice in what He does?

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    philosophy.stackexchange.com/q/4181/1144 This is part of the classic Euthyphro argument en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euthyphro_dilemma#Jewish_thought
    – Double AA
    May 13, 2016 at 21:18
  • No, this is not a chicken an egg question about morality and God's choices, this is about a specific description commonly attributed to God and its how it does not seem to apply to Him.
    – ezzi386
    May 13, 2016 at 22:06
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    It only doesn't seem to apply to him bc of how you are approaching that chicken/egg question. These things are interrelated. See the section of problems en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euthyphro_dilemma#Problems_2 about "God's goodness". For instance "Alternatively, as Leibniz puts it, divine command theorists 'deprive God of the designation good: for what cause could one have to praise him for what he does, if in doing something quite different he would have done equally well?'"
    – Double AA
    May 13, 2016 at 22:07
  • @DoubleAA although I am hesitant to voice an opinion given my lack of background, it seems at first glance that the question is indeed different; not 'how is God meaningfully good, if it is defined by him', but how is God worthy of praise if he is is merely performing his acts under coercion; as a slave of his own characteristics.
    – mevaqesh
    May 16, 2016 at 5:22
  • Rambam considers the concept of Good and Evil as subjective rather than objective constructs, and thus they are not relevant to God. I'd address the question on philosophical grounds - what is "praiseworthy" in man is distinct from that which is "praiseworthy" in God. Man is praiseworthy when he follows the will of God. The Power of God from the perspective of man is itself praiseworthy, and that is what we praise, not his "morality." May 16, 2016 at 19:22

3 Answers 3


G-d is too sublime for us to actually understand Him or describe Him in any way. However, He has revealed to us through the Torah and through the Nevi'im (and maybe through the chachmei ha'Shas as well) how He wants us to view Him and His attributes. We have to accept that our traditions are the best way of understanding Him, even though we may know that from the standpoint of "truth" or philosophical study it may not,and probably isn't, a proper description of who He really is. And this understanding of Him is not a bi'dieved because we just can't do better - it is how He wants us to view Him. It is the "necessary truth" instead of the "actual truth" as described by the Rambam in the Moreh. So as far as we are concerned G-D is worthy of praise because we were told so. We are taught by the Torah what our releationshship and attitudes should be towards Him.The ultimate truth as far as we are concerned in our dealings with G-D is that He is praiseworthy. Beyond that is already beyond our capacity to understand.


Just because He always does what is perfect does not mean He doesn't have free will in this.

Some sources:

(shaar bechina ch.1):

Since the Creator has free will in whatever He does, is not forced, needs nothing and is not forced by any nature, therefore He created things diverse, according as His wisdom each time dictated; so that the variety shall point to His unity and His free-will in whatever He does, as it is said "Whatsoever the L-ord pleased, has He done in heaven and on earth" (Tehilim 135:6)

Pas Lechem comments there:

"has free will, not forced, etc." - His intent in this is that something which is bound to a nature such as inanimate objects, always do the same thing. But something which acts by will and desire, namely, a human being, which possesses free will - he will have different actions, but not at the same time, rather according to his needs of the time. And the Creator is not bound by any "nature", ch'v, nor is he forced, nor needs anything. The latter two terms "not forced" and "needs nothing" the author wrote to contrast with man. Because a man is sometimes "forced" in his actions, to avoid harm, or he needs to bring some benefit. Therefore, though he acts with free will and desire, one cannot truly call him as doing with "free will", except in a borrowed sense since necessity may prevent him in this. Hence, the term "free will" correctly applies only to G-d, since His will is free of any form of need or necessity, and all the more so of any "nature".

Hence, in the above sense, God has even more free will than us. Also sometimes He completely overrides His attribute of justice (which is truth), as the Ramchal discusses in Kalach Pitchei Chachma, petach #2. Thus He does not always do what is perfect from an absolute truth perspective.

The desire of the Creator is only [to bestow] good. It is impossible to say that the Divine will desired that there could be other forces which can prevent Him [from bestowing good] in any manner whatsoever. Because the Divine will wants solely and exclusively to bestow good, [and if it were the case that other forces could prevent this] then it would certainly not be good that His goodness not be capable of spreading over His creations. And if you ask: "[Perhaps] this is good, namely, the bestowing of good to the righteous and the punishing of the wicked [is good]?" Behold, it is written: "I will have mercy upon whom I will have mercy" (Shemos 33:19), [which was expounded to mean:] "even though he does not deserve it" (Berachos 7a), and it is written: "[In those days, and in that time, says the L-ord,] the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; [and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found: for I will pardon them whom I preserve]" - behold G-d desires to bestow good also to the wicked.


Hashem is, first of all, beyond our understanding. EVERYTHING that we see, think, hear, understand etc; including time and space; is all part of Hashem's creation.

The Gemoro learns from the Torah that we can give descriptions about Hashem 'כביכול', but it says that without learning it from the Torah, we wouldn't be allowed to give descriptions about Hashem.

So you say that if Hashem is perfect, them he has no choice and no free will other than to be perfect. What you're doing is what all people do which is understanding Hashem similarly to how we understand other things. In truth, the concepts of 'perfect', 'choice' and 'free will' are all creations, and and therefore don't really apply to Hashem.

Robots have no free will. Therefore, to praise them when they help you would be meaningless. Similarly, if you held a gun to someone's head and asked them to do something for you, thanking them would also be meaningless. But Hashem of course isn't bound by these limitations. He has the choice to do whatever He wants. He's a supernal being, beyond emotions and intellect; and He can do whatever He wants to us.

(He made us, chose us as a nation, and while he doesn't need us or our praise as he's infinitely greater than all, he wants us and our praise. (Michoel's answer quoted this chassidus based article: http://chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/248150/jewish/What-Does-G-d-Need-Us-For.htm))

Is He perfect? Well, in the language of humans, yes. Whatever He does is perfect, whether He makes the sky blue or red, whether He makes people live or die, it's His decision, and He Who made the word perfect decided that He will always be perfect, whatever he does.

  • It sounds now like you are saying he's not praiseworthy, but we say praises anyway since he wants us to. Is that right?
    – Double AA
    May 16, 2016 at 4:35
  • @DoubleAA He is praiseworthy. I answered that quite clearly. That's the answer to ezzi386. However, I explained that while He's praise WORTHY, he really doesn't need our praise, it's just that he wants it
    – user613
    May 16, 2016 at 4:40
  • How can you say you answered that quite clearly when you didn't use the word "praiseworthy" or even "worthy" in your answer??? And why is he praiseworthy? I also don't see where you answered that. It sounds like you are saying he's not praiseworthy, but we say praises anyway since he wants us to. They are meaningless drivel, but we same them because God told us to.
    – Double AA
    May 16, 2016 at 4:49
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    To perhaps add to this answer, one might consider what we mean by choice. It seems that choice is largely tied to indecision. God's lack of choice is really a lack of indecision. Given that he has no indecision, no deliberations are necessary, and hence no choice is necessary. It is perhaps flawed to confuse a lack of indecision; ostensibly a feature, with lack of choice; a bug.
    – mevaqesh
    May 16, 2016 at 5:27
  • Even If this line of reasoning is correct one still needs to consider the nature of praise to answer the question. It seems likely that much praise, especially addressed to God, centers around that which one received from Him; not praising him in the abstract. It in turn seems likely that this ought to stem from feelings of indebtedness independent of the sacrifice of the provider. An example of this in classical rabbinic literature, might be Moshe's inability to strike the water and earth that sheltered him. Perhaps the lesson is that feelings of indebtedness need not stem from sacrifice...
    – mevaqesh
    May 16, 2016 at 5:31

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