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December 21, 1984 - Image 68

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1984-12-21

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

68

Friday, December 21, 1984 THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

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TORAH PORTION

An old view of fatalism

BY RABBI IRWIN GRONER
Special to The Jewish News

The Biblical story of Joseph
portrays the role of destiny in
human affairs. As we follow the
story from week to week, we grasp
that each detail is related to the
unfolding of a Divine plan,
encompassing a scope far greater
than Joseph and his family:
As a result of the hatred of
Joseph by his brothers, he is sold
into slavery, transported to
Egypt, and becomes available to
interpret Pharaoh's dreams. He is
then elevated to the position of
viceroy, becomes the provider for
his family, and finally brings his
father and brothers and their
families to Egypt. Their descen-
dants having settled in Goshen
become numerous, are enslaved,
and finally are liberated by
Moses, the servant of the Al-
mighty.
This redemption made possible
the achievement of the highest
goal; the ratification of an ever-
lasting covenant between God
and the Hebrew people, whose
content is embodied in the Torah.
Every episode of the story is a
particular link in this chain of
God's design. How is this to be un-
derstood? Does this imply that
people do not direct the course of
events, that the tides of history
carry us along without our will? I
meet people who declare to me:
"Rabbi, I'm a born fatalist. I be-
lieve that what will be, will be; my
destiny has been determined."
When challenged, these indi-
viduals can cite incidents to sup-
port their view that fate inter-
vened dramatically into their
lives. A plane was missed, an
automobile ride wasn't taken, a
party was attended — and the
consequences altered the rest of
their days.
Consider how our lives would
have been different if, at a certain
moment in the history of our fam-
ily, we, or our parents, or our
forebears had not made the deci-
sion to come to America.
Do we then have control, or does
the world about us (fate) control
our lives? Are we driving, or are
we driven?
How we answer this question
will shape our existence. When a
person believes that he has lost
control over his life, he has abdi-
cated his moral power. From a
Jewish perspective, timidity is a
worse sin than chutzpah; a feeling
of futility is more reprehensible
than egocentricity. The reason?
The individual who has declared
he can do nothing has created a
self-fulfilling, worse, a self-
justifying diagnosis.
The Yiddish term for fate is
bashert. He who hides behind this
slogan has written his own
prescription for failure, for we are
to say bashert only,after the event
and not before it. The student who
begins with the attitude that he
has no power over his academic
achievement will fail. A husband
and wife who make no effort to
define and create the quality and
character of their relationship
will ahve an unhappy and unful-
filled marriage. The businessmen
who forfeits all initiative because
the market is not under his con-
trol has already begun to estab-
lish his bankruptcy.
Jewish thought views man as

both powerful and helpless. Much
of his ife is beyond his control, but
some of it is. A margin of freedom
is available to each of us, and be-
cause of it we are granted dignity
and moral authority.
This is the Sabbath of
Chanukah when we celebrate the
victory of the Maccabees over
their Syrian enemies in the year
165 B.C.E. That group of Jewish

Vayigash:
Genesis 44:18-47:27.
Ezekiel 37:15-28.

loyalists could have said that the
forces of Hellenism were "fated"
to conquer the civilized world and
eradicate the Jewish religion. In-
stead, they affirmed their power
to choose and their moral force in-
spired the hearts of their genera-
tion to light the flame of Jewish
faith.
Our creative survival was not

then (nor is it now) a result of ex-
ternal force or fortuitous circum-
stance. It was (and is) a conscious
spiritual exertion based on com-
mitment to God, Torah, Israel,
and mankind.
The Maccabees demonstrated
by their lives that we must not
only adapt ourselves to the
environment, but there are times
when we must adapt the
environment to us. The fatalists
may be sustained temporarily by
their view of a heavenly lottery
which draws lucky and unlucky
numbers at regular intervals. But
a deeper strength comes from the
doctrine of freedom and responsi-
bility which both enourages us
and challenges us.

Circumstances may limit the
range of our possibilities but there
is always an area of freedom to
make a moral choice and to shape
a decision which is uniquely our
own. Chanukah celebrates the
choice and decision of our ances-
tors and challenges us to do no less
for our descendants.

a

SYNAGOGUE

Mr. and Mrs. Manuel Levitsky were honored Dec. 9 at the annual
banquet of Y oung Israel of Oak-Woods. Rabbi James Gordon is shown
making a presentation to the honorees. In the background are
Oak-Woods President Gary Torgow and Philip Applebaum..

YOUTH

B'NAI MOSHE offers babysit-
ting and services every Shabbat
beginning at 10 a.m. for children
of members and non-members, in-
fants through 13 years.
Infants to 2 years old are cared
for by Andrea Spillet. Story Hour,
ages 3-6, is led by adviser Betty
Elster. Children pray, have
snacks, hear stories and learn
prayers and songs. Junior Con-
gregation, ages 7-13, is led by
Mark Eichner. Children play to-
gether and discuss the weekly
Torah portion. All children join
the main congregation at the end
of the service and lead the congre-
gation in "Adon Olam."
B'nai Moshe youth groups are
open to members and non-
members on the following levels:
Ruach, grades one-five, with ad-
viser Robin Pappas; Kadima,
grades six-eight, with adviser

Nancy Ankerman; and United
Synagogue Youth Chazon, grades
nine-12, with adviser Yale Cohen.
Officers for Kadima Chapter of
USY at B'nai Moshe are: Beth
Bodzin, president; Jeremy Cohen,
vice president, and Melinda
Gruenberg, secretary-treasurer.
For information on youth pro-
grams, call Pearlena Bodzin,
youth commission chairman,
357-1157.

SHAAREY ZEDEK youth de-
partment will suspend Shabbat
youth services during winter
break. Services will resume at
10:30 a.m. Jan. 5.
Youth Shabbat will be observed
Jan. 26 in the main sanctuary.
Luncheon will follow. There is a
charge for the luncheon. For in-
formation, call Risa Strauss,
357-5544.

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