Torah Portion: Shemini (Leviticus 9 – 11)
“Pavlovians No More”
Of course, you won’t do it because you “want to”; you’ll do it because you enjoy money more than lightning. Pavlov would be proud.
This is an extreme case, but it illustrates the point. God does not want to compromise our free will. He does not want robots. He wants us to be thinking, responsible human beings. In order for that to be the case, He has to leave room for doubt, room to question and rationalize. If we cannot make the “wrong choice,” then making the right choice becomes meaningless.
God has created a world where the consequences of our actions are not immediate. They are often delayed, and always subtle. Though you may not see justice immediately, if you look deeper, sometimes very deep (though never too deep for us to understand), it always exists.
We may not like the idea of God, so to speak, being hidden from us. But were this not the case, we would be no better than Pavlov’s dogs. For the gift of independence, this frustrating lack of clarity is a small price to pay.
The Guiding Light
Acquiring a Friend
Rather, he must realize the necessity of finding a friend who will be prepared to offer advice and even rebuke when necessary when he sees that his friend is blinded by his desires. May we all merit to acquire true friends who can help us find the true path in our spiritual growth.
A. He didn’t want to go because he felt afraid that he would make her feel bad like he did with his grandma.
A. No. We can always start fresh and do the right thing from now on.
A. She was able to help him realize that a person always has a second chance to improve. The fact that he had made some incorrect choices in the past was no reason why he couldn’t act correctly now. Her words encouraged Michael to try again in spite of what happened in the past.
A. Some things we can’t change. A tall person can’t become short or vice-versa. But when it comes to how we choose to behave we’re never stuck. While we might not be able to improve overnight, if we keep trying, we can eventually come to behave in ways that we really want to.
A. Life is a dynamic process. Inevitably, a person who is focused on spiritual growth is going to encounter challenges and tests, sometimes he will pass these, sometimes he won’t. Yet even when it seems like he “failed,” this in itself is really only a test. God wants us to unlock the hidden ability within ourselves to pick ourselves up and continue along the path of personal growth. The dynamic process of growing toward goodness is good in itself. The boy in our story accomplished this when he overcame his fears of past failure and agreed to visit his aunt.
A. Certainly such a person faces a greater challenge to make the proper choices. Nevertheless she, like all of us, is ultimately responsible for the choices she makes. God wants all of us to succeed and He gives us the tools to do so. If we honestly search within ourselves we can often discover the means to overcome the most challenging circumstances. God never gives up on us and He doesn’t want us to give up on ourselves either.
Q. Can you think of a time you decided to do something that was very difficult?
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QUOTE OF THE WEEK
— Rabbi Nachman of Breslov
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JOKE OF THE WEEK
To which Morty replies, “What?”
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