Between Man and God: Issues in Judaic Thought

By Martin Sicker | Go to book overview
Save to active project


Man’s Moral Autonomy

Regardless of the extent to which one’s capacity for autonomous action is constrained by externally imposed physical, social, and economic circumstances, most traditionalist Judaic thinkers insist that the sphere of moral conduct remains substantially within the individual’s field of control. In this view, no matter how limited one’s options, each competent person remains in a position to make effective moral choices. This emphasis on individual moral autonomy is clearly biblical in origin. See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil…. I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before thee life and death, the blessing and the curse; therefore choose life (Deut. 30:15–19).

The biblical message is clear. Man has the autonomous capacity to choose his moral course, and will be held accountable for his choice. The extent of his humanity is reflected in the use he makes of that moral autonomy. Ben Sira elaborated on this theme by arguing: “It was He, from the first, when He created humankind, who made them subject to their own free choice. If you choose, you can keep His commandment; fidelity is the doing of His will. There are poured out before you fire and water; to whichever you choose you can stretch forth your hands. Before each person are life and death; whichever he chooses shall be given him.” 1

Man alone of all created beings is conceived in Judaism as endowed with the unique capacity to commit a conscious and deliberate act of will. Accordingly, he is not and should not be viewed as a merely passive participant in a cosmic drama over which he can exert no influence. As Eliezer Berkovits put it: “We do not find ourselves in a universe of puppets, dangling from strings held by the Almighty and automatically obeying every one of His commands, but rather in


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Between Man and God: Issues in Judaic Thought


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 261

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?