“We are the sum total of the decisions we have made.” — E.A. Bucchianeri
A few months ago, in this column, I wrote about change; how essential it is both to allow it in ourselves and to accept it in others. Change is only possible however if we have the autonomy of free will. If we have the ability to make choices.
The Torah is the story of God’s interaction with humans and the choices they make. Adam and Eve choose to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. Cain choose to kill his brother Abel. On and on, throughout the Torah, choices are made. God rewards those who listen to God’s will and help perfect the world; punishes those who disobey and destroy it. Without free will, there could be no reward and no punishment. We are not unwitting pawns in a celestial chess game. The choice to do one thing or the other, good or bad, perfect or destroy, is firmly in our hands.
“But free will is what it means to be human, and no one can determine the path you take through this universe. Choice is our greatest right, our greatest gift-and our greatest responsibility.”— Amie Kaufman
We are faced with a multitude of choices on a daily basis; from the mundane — “What should I make for dinner?” — to the profound, such as the course of treatment for an illness. Each choice, small or big, creates an effect, produces a result, some fleeting and some lasting. When a choice made ends up producing a negative or bad result we are often caused to exclaim, “I didn’t have a choice!” We deny the responsibility of our actions like Eve blamed the snake and Adam blamed Eve. We may not like the choices offered to us, but there they are. We always have a choice.
Choice is a gift. It allows us to be active, not passive, in our lives. We determine the course of our lives; hopefully fully aware of how our choices effect not only ourselves, but those around us, our community. Choices ripple outward. When we choose unwisely we must accept the responsibility, learn from it, and change so that we can make better choices in the future. If having free will is what it means to be human, then being able to take responsibility for our choices and correct our course when needed is what it means to be engaged in the world, in working to perfect it as has been asked of us since the Garden of Eden.
We have important choices to make in the coming days. Choices that will have lasting effects on not just our lives, but also on the lives of others. The responsibility is great. Choose wisely.
“A person’s looking for a simple truth to live by, there it is. CHOICE. To refuse to passively accept what we’ve been handed by nature or society, but to choose for ourselves. CHOICE. That’s the difference between emptiness and substance, between a life actually lived and a wimpy shadow cast on an office wall.” — Tom Robbins
• Patricia Turner Custard is a member of Congregation Sukkat Shalom. Living Growing” is a weekly column written by different authors and submitted by local clergy and spiritual leaders.