Is it possible to know our destiny?

Rabbi Aron Moss contributes regular Q&A commentaries to Gather the Jews.  Rabbi Moss is the proprietor of Nefesh and can be reached at rabbimoss@nefesh.com.au.  The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Rabbi Moss.

Question:

What is Judaism’s take on looking into our future? I’ve always been under the impression that it is forbidden for us to consult with spiritual ‘mediums’, but more and more I’m hearing of people who are paying big money to find out what their future may hold. Is it possible to know our destiny?

Answer:

The Torah forbids looking into the future, not because it isn’t possible to do, but because it isn’t a good idea.

There are indeed ways to divine the future. There are Jewish sources that speak of things like horoscopes and palm reading. The problem is not that these are false (though many practitioners of them are), it is that there is a danger when they are used to predict the future.

These readings can do nothing more than predict someone’s destiny based on current circumstances. The way things stand now, if all variables remain unchanged, this is your fate. What they can’t predict is human free choice.

We have the ability to choose our path, to change our destiny and to outsmart fate. We are not bound to a future that is out of our control. While we can’t change the forces of destiny, we can change ourselves. When a person improves themselves, becomes a better person, then they are now a new being with a new destiny. The human power to change is a variable no seer can predict.

This is why we are better off not knowing what is in store for us. Because once we hear it, we may become stuck in the belief that our future is set. And this itself may affect our future negatively, as our will to change and freedom to choose becomes paralysed.

If I am told that my future is all good, I will have wealth and love and happiness, this knowledge may make me complacent and lazy, expecting these things to just come on their own. But they will not. If I want wealth I need to work, if I want to find love I need to meet people, if I want happiness I need to live a life of meaning. G-d may want to bestow much good upon me, but it won’t happen without my effort.

So too if I am given a negative prognosis, if I am told that I am destined to suffer and be sick, then the worry and anxiety caused by such a prediction can itself lead to the suffering and sickness I am dreading. The prediction becomes self-fulfilling, as I give in to a fate that need not be mine.

For these reasons and more, you are better off leaving the future for tomorrow and focusing on today. If you do that, I predict good things in store for you.

All the best,

Rabbi Moss

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