Life and death I set before you, the blessing and the curse. And you shall choose life

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(Devarim 30:10)

Freedom of choice has been granted to every man: if he desires to turn toward a good path and be righteous, the ability to do so is in his hands; and if he desires to turn toward an evil path and be wicked, the ability to do so is in his hands . . .

This concept is a fundamental principle and a pillar of the Torah and its commandments. As it is written, “See, I have set before you life [and good, and death and evil]” and “See, I set before you today [a blessing and a curse]” (Devarim 30:15) . . . For were G‑d to decree that a person be righteous or wicked, of if there were to exist something in the very essence of a person’s nature which would compel him toward a specific path, a specific conviction, a specific character trait or a specific deed . . . how could G‑d command us through the prophets “do this” and “do not do this” . . . ? What place would the entire Torah have? And by what measure of justice would G‑d punish the wicked and reward the righteous . . . ?

(Mishneh Torah, Laws of Repentance 5:1–3)

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