There is disagreement concerning the merit of forefathers: Once it is written that the merit of forefathers ceased to exist, yet the covenant of forefathers has not ended. And elsewhere it is written that the merit of forefathers is eternal.
Question: If the merit of forefathers exists, then is there no choice, since the merit of forefathers causes one to be righteous? It is also written that the merit of forefathers is for the righteous alone. It turns out that first, one has the choice to be righteous, and then he may enjoy the merit of forefathers.
It is written (Zohar-Pinhas, 91) that we have the power to make a choice as a result of the merit of forefathers. However, we see that even with the merit of forefathers, we still do not have the power to choose. Rather it is the merit of forefathers which assists us in making choices, since choice is the place of two equal things, and the determination is upon me. For if one force is stronger than the other, then there is no determination of choice, as inevitably one will already lean towards the stronger. Hence, in the merit of forefathers both forces are equal, and then we have the opportunity to decide. That is called that we have been given the strength to make a choice.
Accordingly only the nation of Israel is capable of receiving the Torah, since only they have the merit of forefathers. The forefathers practiced the Torah even before it was given. The forefathers, out of the exaltedness of their souls, attained the entire path of the Creator, without any precedence of a ladder of actions from the Torah, which they had no opportunity to carry out. It is their purity affecting their sons.
It turns out that we have choice as a result of the merit of forefathers. However even after merit of forefathers, great mercy is needed, in order for us to make the choice to leave the love of self and to receive the love of others upon ourselves, for all of our aspirations will be only to give contentment to the Creator. Along with all of the remedies of Torah and Mitzvot, so we may win the evil within us and turn it into good.
But what existed before the merit of forefathers ended and what does it mean that the merit of forefathers ended? Then was there no need for choice, since there was merit of forefathers? Rather man's prayer, requesting assistance in bringing him closer to the work of the Creator in the merit of forefathers, is in itself called "choice," for he is doing whatever he is capable of.