Do we really make our own life decisions?
We as Reconstructionst Jews think that we do.
Why live, look, learn, try to grow in wisdom and good deeds if we are creatures pre-programmed for good or for evil, if the script is already written?
Yet many religions and cultures, past and present included, believe that a higher being dictates every individual’s actions. People who believe in predetermination base their relationship with God on obedience to and compliance with God’s orders. Or rather, on the orders they imagine to be God’s.
Sociologists claim that social realities play a fundamental role in our behavior.
Psychologists say that the subconscious plays tricks on us without our knowledge.
Our tradition tell us, “Re’eh! – Look!” This is the first injunction of our parashah, and at the same time, its name.
“Look, I have set before you blessing and curse.”
Elie Munk was a French, 20th century Orthodox rabbi. He wrote about “Re’eh – Look!”: “To understand the problem of free will, it is necessary for the individual to look first at his or her own conscience.”
Rabbi Munk and Sigmund Freud converge at this point and encourage us to grow in self-knowledge.
The Sages of Pirkei Avot remind us that the wise person is the one who learns from others.
The dialogue between the Jewish people and the nations continues. For Reconstructionists, this dialogue remains a source of constant enrichment.
The dialogue between the currents of thought and practice within Judaism continues. Some fear it and would like to put it on hold, but this is not desirable because communication among Jews of different sects will disappear if we remain silent, if we cut off the dialogue.
If we accept the diversity of interpretations; if we build on what unites us as well as what sets us apart, we gradually come to know ourselves and others better and better. We recognize that we are endowed with free will and with the ability to rise above superstitions, social pressures and old wounds. Our tradition encourages us to translate this quest into concrete actions that permeate our daily routines.
If we learn to do this, we determine our own destinies.