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Freedom of choice (Behirah Chofshit)


Rabbi Moshe Kaplan

29 Kislev 5763
I would like to know if all the beings have freedom of choice or only the human being, or even, only the jews. The question is because I read the Rashi about the moon discussion, and about the trees not doing as G-od wanted and the animals during Noah time, were not behaving as they should have.
The Ramban (Nachmanides) comments on the Torah (Breishit/Genesis 1:29): “Creatures with movement have a certain advantage as regards their soul, resembling in a way those who possess the rational soul: they have the power of choice affecting their welfare and their food, and they flee from pain and death.” (Similarly, see Ramban on Leviticus 17:11 and Radak commentary to Yirmiyahu 8:7.) This “power of choice” is actually an instinctive choice, unlike the free will of man. An animal is born with this instinctive power of fleeing from danger, knowing its enemy, and where to find its food. The Ktav V’Kabbalah commentary to the Torah (Levit. 1:2) writes that the “speech” of an animal is instinctive and not based on free choice. The Rambam (Maimonides) in his Guide for the Perplexed (III:17) and the Akedat Yitzchak (Genesis 2:7) state that there is no free will to animals. The “sin” of the moon and the land are expressions of deviations from the original Divine ideal. These deviations are not products of free will as we know it, but rather are due to the basic and inherent imperfection of the created world which is distinct from the “perfect” Creator (see the Mizvah Candle by the Maharal of Prague, English Translation, p. 5). This imperfection is not a mistake in creation but rather is part of the Divine Plan which created the world such that it would be not a static existence but dynamic, one of continuous development – teshuva (return) - toward the Divine Ideal. As Rav Kook states (Orot HaTeshuva 11:4): “All of existence is built upon the principle of teshuva. The levels of existence are revealed as a descent from the Divine to the worldly...” This is what enables man with his free will to be “partner” with G-d in bringing creation to its completion and thus to reach the highest good which is attained only when the good is reached out of choice (see Ramchal, Derech Hashem at length).
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