The big question that philosophers and free thinkers have always had is: Is our life predetermined? Or do we have free will? If you are born into a certain family that is dysfunctional you are doomed, so to speak, or do you have the ability to transcend? I quote Maimonides who says: “The most fundamental pillar in all Jewish thought is the idea that a human being has the free will to transcend their circumstances.” If you don’t have that, everything falls to the wayside. You can’t expect anything from anyone. They’ll say, “Well I was born into this home” or “I had this accident” or “I’m colorblind”. People have excuses for everything. There is no accountability and therefore no expectations. How did the standard get so low? Judaism has a higher standard: You were created in the divine image. Do we all have challenges? Absolutely. Some of us are born into poverty and some of us are born into wealth. Which is easier? It depends what you do. Some are born with no opportunities but they make the best of it. The dignity of a human being is: You can transcend your circumstances. There is no such thing as a pre-written script.
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Cracks in our systems shake us up; but a crack also exposes what lies within. We can be demoralized by the cracks or we can attempt to look between the cracks and see an emerging larger picture.
Free will remains the unwavering foundation of life. Nothing—neither good nor bad pedigree—impedes our free choice. True, lineage can help a person, just as other personality traits may create more conducive conditions; but we all have our strengths and our challenges to overcome.
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We desperately need a Meaningful Life Center here in Berlin, Germany! We have a couple of spiritual centers here but they are completely esoteric, and I find Rabbi Jacobson to be far more profound and very relevant. I really wish you could open a center here.-Stephanie Ewald