Life’s Not Fair (And We Don’t Compare)–Thoughts On Emor

As every parent of more than one child has learned, it’s impossible to treat each child identically, and even if that were possible, it would be terrible parenting technique. Each child is born unique, with unique skills and strengths and with unique needs as well. Actually, this is pretty obvious from a spiritual point of view in that we also realize that each נשמה (Neshama), soul, while fully connected to the Almighty, is completely unique with its own set of נצוצות (Netzutzot), Holy Sparks, to locate, restore and elevate.

We had a mantra in my home when my children were young, each jockeying for their “best deal” as wonderful kids are wont to do. “Life’s not fair and we don’t compare,” was oft-heard those years.

Nothing, of course, runs more contrary to current political sloganeering which calls for equal outcome for all. I think that attitude shows how far liberal secularism has drifted from a world view that includes God. It’s only possible in an atheistic universe for Man to become the center of it, all powerful and able to solve everything if only he’s smart enough (or, in the minds of radical environmentalists, all powerful and all evil–if only humans didn’t exist, goes their fantasy, Mother Nature would roll merrily along without any inconvenient disruptions…).

But even allowing for a totally empirical view, it’s obvious that Man is neither wise nor powerful enough to perfect the world on his own. Disregarding the fact that human-defined “perfection” is a rather trendy and changing concept, I don’t think we’ve ever lived in a more dangerous, and rapidly deteriorating environment than what all our engineering, social and otherwise, has brought us to today.

There’s probably no other parsha which more offends modern liberal sensibilities than אמור, Parshat Emor. In it, God demands that the Cohanim, the Temple priests, be free from a large catalogue of physical defects in order to perform the Divine Service. What would the American’s With Disability Act have to say about this? It is unapologetically discriminatory, unfair if you like. There is no appeal process, no advocacy authority. Of course, no one misses out economically–even a disqualified cohain receives his share of the sacrificial meat and other priestly gifts–but the prestige is never available to him. (For that matter, women born to a priest are also not eligible to participate in these activities, but that’s another discussion….or is it?)

Life’s not fair and that’s just the way it is. It never has been and, in this world, עולם הזה (Olam Hazeh), it never will be. Partially, this is because we don’t view this world as the only, or even the supreme phase of existence. But it’s also a reality, as described by the Ramchal (Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzatto) in his classic, ‘דרך ה (Derech HaShem), 2:2:7, that our souls will occupy different levels even in Olam HaBa, the World to Come, according to our deeds in this world.

Ultimately, if we grant and believe in God’s existence, we also need to realize and admit that we humans, no matter how gifted, brilliant or even holy we might be, have no access whatsoever to understanding His priorities. Our tradition assures us that, ultimately, they’re consistent with our (more specifically, our souls’) best welfare and that we should welcome and accept them, but whether we do or not, ‘רצון ה (Ratzon HaShem), God’s Will, will prevail, whether we think it “fair” (and whether or not it is, by our standards).

Frustrating and infuriating as it is, and it frequently is even to the most devout of us, it can also empower our spiritual journey.

There is a famous disagreement whether we should enter prayer, תפילה (Tefilla) focusing on the grandeur of God, which will make us realize our own humility, or if we should begin thinking of our own humility which will bring us to appreciate the greatness of God. Both approaches bring us across the entire gamut and are acceptable strategies, but, ultimately, the latter is preferred.

Life’s very unfairness and our inability to play the role of The Great Equalizer, while frustrating at first, can open the door to great revelations.

Shabbat Shalom

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2 Responses to Life’s Not Fair (And We Don’t Compare)–Thoughts On Emor

  1. Mr. Cohen says:

    I recite the prayer for the Israel Defense Forces [IDF / Tzahal] 7 days a week.

    I recite it at the end of the Shemoneh Esrei, in the middle of the paragraph that begins with: Elokai Netzor Leshoni MeRa.

    Five Orthodox Rabbis have told me that I am allowed to do this, both weekdays and Shabbat.

    Using this technique, it is possible and permitted to pray for the Israel Defense Forces up to 22 times each week.

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