Thursday, October 07, 2010

Infantile Evasions

As a father with small children, I have noticed that there is a manner of argumentation which is used by both children and adults alike.

For example, if a child spills out a toy box all over the living room floor it is a reasonable request on our part to ask our child to clean it up. Invariably, the child will resist doing do so and then claim that they cannot do so because their brother or sister is not helping them either. This is the famous old line, “But he or she isn’t doing it!”

Although this line of argumentation is known as “infantile evasion”, it persists into adulthood. Many of us don’t seem to outgrow using it. You may have even heard it this week in the office when a boss asked one of your co-workers to perform some task and was subsequently fought tooth and nail in your co-worker’s attempt to get out of it.

Or, you may even have heard it outside the office in relation to a person’s rationalization why this or that mitzva was not required of them because “he or she isn’t doing it.”

When we stop for a second and analyze this, I think most people would agree that it is an invalid argument for both children and adults to use. After all, if we are directed to do something, what does it matter what another person is or isn’t doing?

Avraham Avinu was the first person to understand that what another person was or wasn’t doing simply didn’t matter.

Of Avraham, it is said, “Avraham was one”. What this means is that Avraham served Hashem as if he was the only person in the world. Avraham knew what needed to be done and did it despite the fact that his generation was full of those who diverged from doing Hashem’s will and those who outright opposed him.

Avraham, in essence, provided us with the roadmap of how to approach our Yiddishkeit with simplicity. Just as he served Hashem as if he was the only one, so too should we.

Too often our personal growth is hindered by the nagging voice in our head that tells us “You don’t have to that! Afterall, he or she isn’t doing it. Don’t you know that we are living in ---- and not in Meah Shearim?” Yet, as we said before, this isn’t a valid argument. It has nothing to do with us and what we have been directed to do.

So, when approaching each mitzvah, we need to honestly ask ourselves just two questions:

1) Is there a G-d who created and continues to run the world?
2) Did G-d give the Jewish people the Torah and command me to do this mitzvah?

If the answer to these two questions is yes, we then have only two recourses:

1) Do the mitzvah, or
2) Daven that we be able to do it since our present circumstances prevent us from doing so.

If we use any other line of argumentation we are simply skirting the issue.


At October 7, 2010 at 9:13:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Bob Miller said...

In the case of a chumra or kula, as opposed to the basic mitzvah, someone might be able to claim that his community or family or associates don't do it, so he won't either.


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