Fostering the Ability to Choose

Thursday, 14 July, 2022 - 2:33 pm

The only correlation these thoughts have to Roe vs. Wade is the word choice. This article has nothing to do with abortion. Truth be told, after listening back and forth about the right to choose, etc., I realized that choice is a very powerful concept.

I met this famous Rabbi and author once on Fire Island. We developed a relationship and we spoke many times. Rabbi Weiner was the founding rabbi of Temple Israel of South Orange, N.J. He served his congregation for over 34 years until his retirement in 1982. Rabbi Weiner was the author of two books, "Nine and One-Half Mystics" (1969), and "The Wild Goats of Ein Gedi" (1961). He once told me a story that affected me deeply and I share this idea with many people I meet.
Rabbi Weiner told me that on one occasion during a meeting with the grand Rebbe of Chabad Lubavitch, Rabbi M.M. Schneerson, the Rebbe asked him as to whether the Bar Mitzvah students at his Hebrew school are taught about the mitzvah (command listed in the Torah) of tefillin (phylacteries). Tefillin are worn daily for life beginning when a boy reaches 13-years-old, which is the age of Bar Mitzvah. Rabbi Weiner responded that he does not want to force this mitzvah on the kids, and therefore, he will let them decide for themselves when they become adults.
The Rebbe pressed on. Do they know what tefillin are? Have they seen what tefillin look like? Rabbi Weiner responded that no, they have not seen a pair of tefillin. The Rebbe was incredulous and asked the following question. How are they able to make a choice about the tefillin if the choice has been taken away from them?
What the Rebbe meant was for real choice to be had, the individual who needs to make the choice should have all the cards on the table before them. You cannot remove some of the items/concepts and expect a person to make a choice if they have no idea what it is they are choosing. This is true in many aspects of life. I tell many parents who enroll their child in our education system that our goal is to empower your children to be able to make a choice when they go to college and beyond. 
This is where faith comes in, and why it is so important. The idea of faith is that you do not know factually and with certainty about what you are choosing because it is not humanly possible to understand Divinity. Therefore, you make a conscious decision that even without all the information, you will “choose” to believe.
It is vital that parents give their child a proper foundation and give them the tools to be able to know universal right from wrong. If they have no idea what right is, then how are they supposed to make an informed choice? The greatest threat to Judaism in my opinion is continued ignorance. So many people do not even know that they do not know. Who knows? If they knew, then maybe different choices would be made.
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