Tuesday, October 28, 2008

On Being Responsible for What Happens to You

The Gemara in Kiddushin that we're going through these days is involved in a long and detailed discussion of Avdut - generally translated as slavery, though the details make it clear that actually indentured service is a more accurate translation. As with many segments of the Talmud, it seems devoid of direct relevance as the whole institution being described is long since dead. It's the indirect relevance, however, which is so interesting.

Most of the discussion so far has been highly legalistic. Today's page suddenly veered off in a different direction, and wondered how the actions of the indentured man contributed to his getting there; the assumption being that had he lived correctly, he wouldn't have.

It's a startling assumption, seen from our perspective. We live in a world where people who suffer are victims, and victims by definition suffer because of the malice of perpetrators - or at best, societal conditions which were created by malicious people. If anyone ever tries to say otherwise, he is immidiately castigated for "blaming the victims".

Sometimes you have to go back 1,700 years for a breath of fresh air.

Kiddushin 20, a-b.

This thread began here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Yes, we are responsible. It's the human condition to try and understand events that happen to us. And, that puts us IN the event. (It looks different when seen from the outside.)

How can a person "be responsible" if they're beaten up by a bully?

Turns out that in life lots of stories enter. Most of them are very sad.

But in one example, it turns out my son practices a form of martial arts called WING CHUN.

He says Wing Chun was a small woman. Pretty. Who was to be married off to a bully. And, there was a Buddist priest who wanted her to learn enough so that she could protect herself.

Unlike "black belt" arts; Wing Chun is learned and practiced while you are wearing street clothes.

And, yes. You can see that people also seek out ways where they can be less of a victim.

Then? If you look through Jewish history, especially with the ways Jews accepted the progroms. Because they thought it would be worse to fight back. You'd see that this led to a European community (led by Church teachings), that made the hurting of outsiders "acceptable."

Heck, in Ireland, a man who murders a protestant ... can go to a priest ... and get blessed. He's told "no crime will be used to judge against him. God forbid. But religions, allow.

The world is a very crazy place!

And, just like a coin has two sides, humans have a good record for trying to determine not just the seen, but the unseen.

How many thousands of years of Jewish history has passed ... where protecting our loved ones wasn't possible. Now, this has given way to a real concept of self-defense.

Even better, good instruction can be systematized. Just think of Wing Chun.