Thanks to Jeff Bernstein for his further inquiry about angels and free will (“Willful angels,” June 5). Jeff asked: The angels gather each day to recite the K’dushat, a sublime praise of Hashem that speaks of how God’s Glory fills the universe. If angels don’t have a choice whether to participate, is there any value to this lip service?
I appreciate this chance to clarify my understanding of this topic. By way of example: A thug approaches someone and threatens, “Give me the $10,000 that you have hidden in this house or I will kill you! No mercy! No excuses.” Does the victim have a choice about complying?
In one scenario, the victim has no money. He has no choice. He wants to give the cash and save his life, but he cannot comply.
But what if the victim indeed has $10,000 hidden? Does the victim really have a choice to forfeit his life in order that the money remain hidden?
Let’s consider a variation of this case. The thug threatens, “Tell me where your child is hiding or I will kill you!” Here the parent is faced with an awful moral dilemma. Should he save his own life or his child’s? Again, does the victim really have the choice to disclose his child’s location in order to save his own life?
Although the victim weighs the possibilities in the second and third scenarios, it is likely a very obvious choice, which requires almost no thought. This can be referred to oxymoronically as forced choice; because the variables were so imbalanced that it was rational, albeit obvious decision.
Angels have the choice to comply or not with Hashem’s orders. Figuratively speaking, if an angel receives an invitation to participate in the K’dushat service, does it really think, “I wish I didn’t have to go…How can I wake up so early? I really need a better incentive!” The answer is, no! He says to himself “Wow, what an amazing opportunity. I know clearly that Hashem’s glory fills the universe. There is nothing that I would rather do or find more important than sharing my emotions about this at the K’dushat service! Of course I will participate!”
The reasons that angels always participate in the K’dushat is not that they have no choice. They do have the ability not to go, but the two possibilities are very uneven. An angel would never miss an opportunity to participate in the K’dushat for any reason.
On Wednesday, July 24, I plan to discuss this at my weekly class, which will be held that night at Congregation Ahavath Torah in Englewood at 7:45 p.m. Please join us.