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The next world/techias hameisim/any world after that- is a place to receive sechar for the work done in this world. I was wondering if in any of these worlds people will have free will (more specifically, the capacity to make a free-will decision).

Another similar question: will there be an avodas Hashem that we can/will perform in any of these worlds?

  • This sort of gets to the fundamental question of what bechira is. Many rabbonim distinguish between the capacity of choice (which will be retained regardless) and the meaningfulness of that choice. Molochim "don't have bechirah" not because they can't independently act (we find that they frequently DO act independently), but because their complete awareness of reality/right&wrong/etc. makes their choices inevitable - would you stick your hand in a fire, apropos of nothing? Presumably, "umala ha'aretz de'as Hashem" is the same situation - we will have bechira, but the choice will be trivial. – Isaac Kotlicky Dec 22 '16 at 13:40
  • @IsaacKotlicky You bring up an important (and to me, extremely complicated) topic. In truth, I never fully understand that distinction. Adam HaRishon sinned! Are you saying he did not have a super-awareness?! In fact, the Nefesh HaChaim actually writes that his choice was like going into a fire... but he did it anyways!!! I imagine that in such a state, the choices are much more subtle/refined and will have to do with how exactly to best have a relationship with God etc... but there will still be room for error! I just don't get it. – Gavriel Dec 24 '16 at 20:05
  • R. Zaddok's interpretation of the Mishna in Avot seems quite reasonable. What more are you looking for? – mevaqesh Jan 1 '17 at 2:27
  • Do you mean to ask whether people have capacity for free will, or whether they would have any free-willed decisions to make because the right choice would be too obviously right? – Micha Berger Jan 3 '17 at 19:48
  • The first option, vis a vis the capacity for free will. – Gavriel Jan 4 '17 at 11:44
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Free will is premised on the existence of a domain which need not submit to Hashem's will. As the Ramchal writes in the Daas Tevunos, the existence of this domain, while requisite for receiving reward for what we accomplish in this world, at some point will disappear, since ultimately Hashem's will is to reveal his oneness, and the existence of this domain is contrary to this end. So ultimately, there will be no free will.

There will be growth at this point, which Rav Dessler in the end of the first volume of Michtav MeEliyahu describes as a never-ending cycle of discovering Hashem's greatness, humbling oneself, and then discovering more of Hashem's greatness, and so on.

However, before that time, there will be the times of Moshiach. In this period of time, as the Ramban writes in his commentary on the Torah (Devarim 30:6), we will have free will comparable to what Adam HaRishon has before he ate from the Tree of Knowledge. While the distinction between this free will and our free will presently is not so well defined, the most classical approach is outlined by the Nefesh Hachayim: Just like one doesn't have a desire to put his hand in a fire, since he perceives the fire as outside of himself, so to was that existence of Evil before Adam HaRishon's sin. I'd recommend reading Rav Chaim Freidlander's Sefsei Chaim (Emunah VeBachira, Vol I). He has a whole section devoted to this subject.

But practically speaking (whatever that means in this context...) in the times of Moshiach we will have the ability to actualize the potential of our connection to Hashem, according with the effort we exerted while we still had full free will.

  • Welcome to Mi Yodeya Ester! Thanks for sharing the answer. – mevaqesh Jan 1 '17 at 2:28
  • I edited in a source for Ramban. Feel free to remove this edit, or otherwise further edit the answer. – mevaqesh Jan 4 '17 at 16:08
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The Mishna in Avot (4:17) states:

יפה שעה אחת בתשובה ומעשים טובים בעולם הזה מכל חיי העולם הבא

One minute of correcting one's ways and performing good deeds in this era, is better than all of life in the future era.

R. Zaddok HaKohen of Lublin explains that the former is so valuable, since only it allows for free-will.

מחשבות חרוץ אות ז

ידוע דיפה שעה אחת בתשובה ומעשים טובים בעולם הזה מכל חיי עולם הבא ויש מצד זה מעלה בעולם הזה שהוא רק לפי שעה אבל בו הוא מקום ההשתדלות והבחירה

It is well known that one minute of correcting one's ways and performing good deeds in this world, is better than all of life in the world to come, and in this respect, there is an advantage to this world, which is only temporary, but in it, is the place of exertion and free-will.

Rambam understands the Mishna to refer to the period after death. He seems to understand that not only is there no behirah in the World to Come, there are no acts at all; it is simply a static state of being:

שאין אחר המוות שלימות ולא תוספת

This seems (to me) to be consistent with his understanding of the world to Come, as bonding with the active intellect (referenced here).

More explicitly, R, Mattitya Hayitshari writes in his commentary to the Mishna, that in the period of the resurrection of the dead, according to R. Shim'on ben Elazar (Shabbat 151b) there will be no free-will:

שבזמן תחיית המתים... אין שם בחירה לעשות טוב או רע

Similarly, (as noted by @EsterLin) Ramban writes (Deut. 30:6):

אבל לימות המשיח, תהיה הבחירה בטוב להם טבע, לא יתאוה להם הלב למה שאינו ראוי ולא יחפוץ בו כלל

That is, in the days of the messiah, there will be no desire to behave badly, and the only urge will be to do good.

This is in turn references by the Recanatti, and Tol'dot Yitshak (the uncle and teacher of the Beit Yosef) there. However, the latter disputes this view, writing:

ולפי דעתי אינו ביטול בחירה שא"כ לא יהיו אנשים, וכבר אמרו [ברכות לד ב] אין בין העולם הזה לימות המשיח אלא שעבוד מלכיות בלבד, אבל הוא נטיה כדרך החסידים ופרושים שנולדו מוכנים לכל טובה ומדות טובות

That is, he explains that people will not fully lose the will to do bad, rather the scales will merely be shifted, so that like the very righteous, people will have more of a proclivity to good.

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read in Rabbi Avigdor Miller's books (Forget where) that the gemora which says sleep is 1/60th of death does not mean that after death one has no consciousness but rather that one has no free will. that is the "taste" one gets from sleep

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