Thought for Shabbat – October 19, 2018
Scientists have consistently tried to determine the source of our greatest influences. What causes some to succeed and others to fail? What causes some to have good ethics and others to tend the other way? It is certainly an important question.
An attempt was made to answer that question in a bizarre study that teamed up science and a Jewish New York adoption agency that intentionally split up twins and triplets, having them adopted as single children, while not disclosing the existence of the siblings to each other. The psychiatrist or someone working on his behalf would go to the houses of each of the children at various stages and interview them to determine their influences. One of the case studies of this heinous experiment is documented in the recently released independent film, “Three Identical Strangers”, in which triplets learn of each other’s existence by accident in 1980. The film eventually reveals the far-reaching aspects of the scientific conspiracy. Various other twins were reunited as well.
The filmmaker, Tim Wardle, who had always been a “nurture” person, in looking at as much of the information as he could obtain was surprised to see the interplay and between the two aspects of our upbringing: the biological and the environmental. He realized that his nurture answer was too simple, and that there was no single simple answer to the nature vs nurture question. It is clear that both are important. Nature, in his mind, clearly interplays with our inherited characteristics.
In the beginning of the creation of a Jewish people, God says to Abram (later to be called Abraham), “Get out from your country, and from your family, and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you.” Until Abram moves, he will continue to get messages and communication from God, but he will also get a conflicting message about the nature of life and the universe from his family and community, the place from which he received both nature and nurture.
By telling Abram to move and begin the most important journey of his life, God not only removes Abram from the influence of his idol-worshiping family and community: God becomes the major influence on a man who will eventually be the father of an entire people and way of life. It is therefore Abraham who teaches us to always be aware of our influences, and to insure that our values are influenced by the inclusion of God’s ethical ways in our lives.
With this understanding of the influences in our lives, each of us is better armed for our own personal journeys. Rabbi Alvin Fine in one of his poems writes, “Birth is a beginning and death a destination, but life is a journey, a sacred pilgrimage. Made stage by stage … to life everlasting.” Our ability to navigate that journey with the correct influences in our lives will determine the quality and meaning of that journey.
Rabbi Yaier Lehrer
I once again look forward to seeing many of you at our upcoming services this weekend. Next Shabbat will be our first Contemporary Service of the year, which I hope is on your calendar. Also, on Shabbat morning November 10, the incredible Bible Players will be part of our Shabbat morning service and will also conduct a workshop following lunch.