Contributed by Rabbi Geoffrey W. Dennis

Hebrew: Goral, Mazzal, Hashgacha, Yid, Beshert. While belief in free will is the bedrock of Judaism, various fatalistic beliefs are found in Jewish tradition. The belief that there is a person one is destined to marry is one example; belief that poverty or prosperity is fated to certain people is another. A general belief in Providence, both general and individual, is evident throughout Jewish thought.

Humans, however, have the power to change their doom. Thus in the High Holiday liturgy it is declared that God records "who will live and who will die" each Rosh Hashanah in the Book of Life, but also it affirms that "Prayer, repentance and charity avert the severe decree." Belief in fate is also evident in Jewish thought through astrology, and even the Talmudic Sages occasionally remark that the stars determine some human circumstances. And as for the ultimate form of fate, the universal doom attached to being mortal, is a belief implicit to all Jewish thought, but even this destiny is undermined, or at least mitigated, by the possibility of eternal life.

Article copyright © 2004 Geoffrey Dennis.



  • B.T. Ber., Avot, Sotah, Chullin, Ta'anit, Avot.