The key is to find among all our properties, among everything that happens with us in thought or in action, where we have some small degree of personal freedom to form a thought or desire. In other words, are we given any room for an independent thought, desire, or action?
A growing body of scientific evidence suggests that everything depends on the genes, hormones, and information that was instilled within a person. And if a hundred years ago we thought that man is free in his life and everything is up to him, today we understand that his behavior is determined by what parents he had and what genetic traits he received.
It wasn’t up to a person when and in what family to be born, with what characteristics, and what education to receive. Since childhood, he or she had been imbued with certain attitudes to life and self, and by the time he reached 15 years of age, his character was totally formed.
A person steps into life having nothing of his own, but only what he received from birth, education, and what he will later pick up from the environment that he will end up in upon reaching twenty years of age and becoming an adult. The environment will dictate all his behavior and the decisions to be made, and whether he likes it or not, he will have to observe the same system of values that is accepted in the society.
Even if a person may wish to go against the society, he will still fully depend on it because the environment determines everything for him and he has nothing unrelated to it. Where then may he get some independent thoughts or desires, from what distant star?
In any case, they would not be autonomous. The only autonomous action was the creation of the created being “from absence” (Yesh Mi Ain). Only the Creator is capable to create something that has no previous history, something absolutely new.
Moreover, if my current state includes all possible preliminary conditions and forces that produced it, then everything that derives from them is an obvious result, pertaining to which I have no freedom. I live according to a certain program that passes through me while leaving me no choice; I act as a machine or a puppet that is pulled by the strings in all directions.
We are the product of all these alien, internal and external causes and various forces merging within and governing us. Even though it may seem that a person can do something independently, it is not an autonomous action either, but merely what these forces allowed him or her to do.
And yet, there is a chance to find free will. If a person evolves by employing the wisdom of Kabbalah, he draws additional force onto him, the force opposite to one’s current nature. And then, between these two opposing forces, a person finds the point of his free will.
On one side, there stands the power of man’s nature and this entire corporeal world, with all there is in it; on the other, there stands the power of the Light that came from Above. And between them, in the middle, we have a neutral point where one can have his say. A person can reach a condition when both these forces get equalized, and then he or she will receive free will.
From the 4th part of the Daily Kabbalah Lesson 2/18/2011, “The Freedom”