Saturday, December 13, 2008

Destiny vs Free Will

One of the starkest differences between Orthodox and Reform Judiasm is the difference between believing that G-d has a plan and everything is predetermined, opposed to the idea that we all have free will, regardless. Now, I don't know if the Orthodox view also includes free will, and just deals with the tension between the two opposing options as part of the mystery of life or what. I do know that by and large Reform Jews don't believe in our lives as being predestined.

Rabbi Lustig retold an older story (imagine that) about a man -- Zussman, I think -- who upon entering heaven was asked why he was not more like Zussman. Not why was he not more like Jacob, or more like Moses. But why was he not more himself.

These actually are connected. If we believe that all is in the hands of G-d, then what will spur us to act? We must act. We must take action first, and then perhaps Divine intervention will take us the rest of the way... perhaps. We must be ourselves fully; to understand oneself, and allow all of it to become real, alive, full, vibrant. Each of us with our own gift, with our own uniqueness, has a responsibility to ourselves and everyone around us, to be ourselves. To be real.

I know, I'm spinning in circles. Hang in there with me. Think of the things you've done in your life. Think of what could've happened if you hadn't done some of those things. Sixty thousand dollars in debt, but two beautiful children. Increased rent and additional sneezing but a beautiful home and a loving, fuzzy cat. Hormone therapy and the horrible side-effects, but a child nonetheless. Money stress but the knowledge that studying continues, and the path shortens a step each day.

The future is wobbly and uncertain. We fear. Still, steps must be taken. Maybe believing it's all predestined makes it easier to step. Maybe wishing for a Big Papa in the Sky will ease our concerns, soothe our fears. It's hard to take the idea that we are all alone, whether we are childless or not, single or not, loneliness creeps in through the cracks. People pull us together, eventually. The magic of friendship and love connects us to a life line. And there we find G-d. Time passes, and a heavy heart becomes lighter. Crazy thoughts subside and clarity breezes into the brain. Everything changes: up and down. Rollercoaster rides are macrocosms of our internal self-sitting, how we view ourselves as we respond to the turning of time. Sometimes we steer, sometimes we just hang on for dear life.

At some point, though, you must try to steer. Overcome, overwhelmed, overtaxed, overburdened. Sure. And this too, like even happy times, will pass. Space to breathe? Time to think. Plan. Think. Act! If not now, when? The next time we can come up for air? Sure, except there's no itenerary for when that will happen again.

You know, I say these things, but there is nothing saying I can do it myself. I am coaching myself, as much as anyone, believe me. Myself, I get scared and I hide. Very good at hiding. I can duck and cover like no one else. And it's only me saying to myself: Get up! Get up! The sun in shining and you are alive and breathing. So many times -- how many times -- I thought that would not happen again. Amazing.

1 comment:

  1. You are a beautiful writer, Shel.

    But I got you beat on the duck and cover. :)

    Write on, sista. Your words are music to these worn-out ears.