The Third Temple  The Center for
Messianic Learning 

Unapologetically Pro-Torah
Unashamedly Pro-Israel
Irrevocably Zionist
“… out of Tziyon will go forth Torah, the word of ADONAI from Yerushalayim.”
(Isaiah 2:3)
Jew and Gentile (Synagogue and Church), one in Messiah. (Ephesians 2:14)
“For He is our peace, Who made both one, and broke down the middle wall of partition, …”

If your life is not in jeopardy for what you believe, you’re probably on the wrong side!
If you don’t believe Genesis 1-11, how can you possibly believe John 3:16?
“Indeed, all who want to live a godly life united with the Messiah Yeshua will be persecuted.” (2Tim 3:12)
It is what you actually believe that determines how you walk out your faith, “but avoid stupid controversies, genealogies, quarrels and fights about the Torah; because they are worthless and futile.” (Titus 3:9)

Please Note: Absolutely nothing on this website should be taken as anti-Church or anti-Rabbinic. I am not anti-anything or anti-anyone. I am only pro-Torah and pro-Truth (see “Philosophy”), but sometimes the Truth upsets our long-held beliefs. I know it certainly upset mine! For example, see “Why Isn’t My Theology Consistent Throughout the Website?”

Developing a
Systematic Messianic Theology

“The purpose of careful theological formulations is not to put barriers in the way of people who are seeking salvation, but to define clearly the truths upon which genuine [Biblical] faith rests, so that people will not be misled by false doctrines.” [Bowman]

“It must be clearly and unequivocally stated that theology cannot save you. Only faith in Messiah Yeshua can save you. Theology can only give you sound doctrine.” [RLS]

Unless otherwise specified, throughout the Theology section of my website I use the term “Torah” in the wider sense of including the entire body of inspired Scripture: both the Tanakh and the Apostolic Writings. I personally do not consder any other so-called “sacred writings” either inspired by God or authoritative for the Believer’s walk of faith. Thus, I do not consider the Mishnah (the “Oral Torah”) as part of Torah. You should make up your own mind.

[Explanations of rabbinic citations are HERE]

What Torah Says About
Free Will

It is one of Heaven’s “mysteries” how God can possibly “predestine” (or “predestinate”) any outcome without violating our “free will,” but as astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson is fond of saying, “The universe is under no obligation to make sense to you.” So my understanding, greatly simplified, is that God says, “This is how it’s going to be, so go ahead and knock yourself out (exercise your ‘free will’), and you will find out that your free will decisions will lead you to the very conclusion that I told you about.” [See also Deuteronomy 10:15]

[Edited from, “Yetzer hara” accessed 16 February 2022]

Free will, and the choice between evil and good inclinations

The underlying principle in Jewish thought states that each person — Jew and gentile alike — is born with both a good and an evil inclination. Possessing an evil inclination is considered neither bad nor abnormal. The problem, however, arises when one makes a willful choice to “cross over the line,” and seeks to gratify his evil inclination, based on the prototypical models of right and wrong in the Bible.[1] This notion is succinctly worded in the Babylonian Talmud: “Everything is determined by heaven, except one’s fear of heaven,[2] meaning, everything in a person’s life is predetermined by God — except that person’s choice to be either righteous or wicked, which is left to their free will.

The Bible declares that every person on some occasion succumbs to his evil inclination: “For there isn’t a righteous person on earth who does [only] good and never sins.” (Eccl 7:20) The Talmud speaks of the difficulty in overcoming the evil inclination: “To what is it like, the evil inclination in man? It is like a father who takes his small son, bathes him, douses him with perfume, combs his hair, dresses him up in his finest accoutrements, feeds him, gives him drink, places a bag of money around his neck, and then goes off and puts his son at the front door of a brothel. What can the boy do that he not sin?”[3] In recognition of this difficulty, repentance (and in some cases, affliction) is said to atone for most sins, while the preponderance of good works keeps him within the general class of good men. [4]

Maimonides gave instructions for how to view the Evil Inclination and ensuing hardships on that account: “… Therefore, let a man prepare his own mind and request from God that anything that should ever happen to him in this world, whether of the things that are by God’s providence good, or of the things that are by Him evil, that the reason [for their occurrence] is so that he might attain true happiness. Now this was stated with regard to the Good Inclination [in man] and with regard to [his] Evil Inclination, that is to say, that he might lay to his heart the love of God and his [continued] faith in Him, even at an hour of rebellion or of wrath or of displeasure, seeing that all of this revolves around [man’s] evil inclination, just as they have said: ‘In all your ways acknowledge Him’, (Prov 3:6) [meaning], even in a matter involving transgression.[5]

Moshe Chaim Luzzatto wrote in Derech Hashem that “Man is the creature created for the purpose of being drawn close to God. He is placed between perfection and deficiency, with the power to earn perfection. Man must earn this perfection, however, through his own free will... Man’s inclinations are therefore balanced between good (Yetzer HaTov) and evil (Yetzer HaRa), and he is not compelled toward either of them. He has the power of choice and is able to choose either side knowingly and willingly...[6]

The power within man to overcome sin

While God has created man with both good and evil inclinations, the two powers or tendencies that pull him in opposite directions, God commands each man to choose the good and right path over the evil. In the narrative of Cain and Abel, God tells Cain: “Isn’t it true that if you do good, you shall be forgiven? However, if you will not do good, it is because sin crouches at the entrance [of your heart], and to you shall be its longing, although you have the ability to subdue it.” (Gen 4:7, JPS Tanakh) Rashi explains: “and to you shall be its longing,” meaning, the longing of sin — i.e., the evil inclination — which constantly longs and lusts to cause you to stumble...“although you have the ability to subdue it,” meaning, if a person wishes, he will overpower it.[7]

 The implication is that each man is capable of overcoming sin if he really wishes to do so. This may or may not be difficult, and may require some reconditioning, but it is still possible.

Positive role of the evil inclination

However, rabbinic sources also describe the yetzer hara (when properly channeled) as necessary for the continuation of society, as sexual lust motivates the formation of families, and greed motivates work:

Rabbi Nahman bar Samuel bar Nachman said in the name of Rabbi Samuel bar Nachman: ... “And behold it was very good” (Genesis 1:31) - this refers to the yetzer hara. But is the yetzer hara indeed very good?! - Were it not for the yetzer hara, a man would not build a home, or marry a woman, or have children, or engage in business.”[8]

  1. Moses Mielziner, Introduction to the Talmud (3rd edition), New York 1925, pp. 269-270. [BACK]

 2. Niddah 16b;[GN] compare to Pirke Avot 3:18: “All things are foreseen [by God], yet the choice is given [to man], and the world is judged on [its] merits.” [BACK]

 3. Berakhot 32a [BACK]

 4. Pirkei Avot 3:18; Genesis Rabbah 9:7; see also Yoma 69b [BACK]

 5. Maimonides, Commentary to Mishnah, Brachot 9:5 [BACK]

 6. Way of God, Moshe Ḥayyim Luzzatto, 1998. “He has the power of choice, and is able to choose either side, knowingly and willingly, and possess whichever one he wishes. Man was therefore created with both a Good Urge (Yetzer HaTov) and an Evil Urge (Yetzer HaRa).” [BACK]

 7. See also Sifrei on Deuteronomy, P. Ekev 45, Kidd. 30b [BACK]

 8. Genesis Rabbah 9:7; see also Yoma 69b [BACK]


Originally posted on Wednesday, 16 February 2022

Page last updated on Tuesday, 26 September 2023 01:32 PM
(Updates are generally minor formatting or editorial changes.
Major content changes are identified as "Revisions”)

Anxiously awaiting Mashiach’s return

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