Jul 31, 2013

The Devil Made Me Do It

Rabbi Wolbe is quoted as saying that the most prevalent kefira (heresy) in our generation is in the realm of free will.  "I couldn't help it," and "My circumstances forced me," are some of the most common excuses given today to explain one's behavior and choices.  This week's parsha Re'eih begins with, “See that I am placing before you today a blessing and a curse.”  As the Rambam puts it in Hilchos Teshuva:

Freedom of choice has been granted to every man: if he desires to turn toward a good path and be righteous, the ability to do so is in his hands; and if he desires to turn toward an evil path and be wicked, the ability to do so is in his hands... This concept is a fundamental principle and a pillar of the Torah and its commandments.

A recent magazine cover had a picture of the Boston bomber which annoyed many people as it seemed to glorify him.  What bothered me more than the picture was the accompanying text:

"How a popular, promising student was failed by his family, fell into radical Islam, and became a monster."

When I saw the phrase "failed by his family," it was, here we go again ... I read many articles about him and don't recall that part of his bio.  He seemed to be doing well in college and had friends.  But if we can say he was failed by his family, maybe we will feel bad for him and understand "where he is coming from."  It's a good thing we didn't psychoanalyze Hitler and his cohorts; just labeled them as evil and fought to destroy them. 

And the phrase "fell into radical Islam," sounds accidental.  You know, you only fall accidentally, not on purpose.  So poor guy, he was failed and he fell and he became a monster.  Do all those crippled and bereaved by him feel for him too?

1 comment:

  1. I am the first one to oppose moral relativism, and of course I believe in the existence of Free Will, but it seems to me that there is a difficult tension between calling an act evil, but being melamed z'chus on the person, and calling the person himself evil, and dismissing his action as utterly evil and not just forgivable weakness.