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In a rapidly changing world of technology, advances in medicine and ever shifting social mores, there remains one constant in life and that is the unchanging nature of human beings. No matter how clearly the failures of the past are recorded for us, we seem determined to repeat those errors. This is especially and poignantly true when considering that we have now entered the time of contemplation and mourning over the destruction of the Temples and the ensuing exiles, persecutions and tragedies which have been our lot over the past millennia.

Though the Talmud and Jewish tradition described particular sins and reasons for these past debacles, the stark lesson of history is that the weaknesses of human nature continually confound better judgment and wiser choices. The prophets of Israel clearly outlined the coming destruction and for centuries warned the Jewish people of their impending fate if, somehow, they did not overcome their natural inclinations that are so influenced by societal norms, false gods and uninhibited desires.
The Jewish people certainly could not complain that they were not put on notice as to where there behavior, lack of loyalty to God and Torah and wanton sexuality and venality would ultimately lead. Yet the prophets of Israel were in the main ignored, vilified and even persecuted for telling the truth to their people.
Part of the weakness of human nature is to whistle past the graveyard and to ignore unpleasant warnings and impending challenges. Human nature always wishes to kick the can down the road and not face the consequences of reality. It is human nature, even more than the particular sins of Israel; outlined for us by the Talmud and rabbinic tradition that precipitated the disasters that befell us during this period of the yearly calendar.
It is very difficult to break habits and preconceived notions. It takes a concerted effort and consistent exercise of will over desire in order to combat the weaknesses of human behavior. The Torah warns us to be aware of this fact when it stated that the “nature of human beings and of the human heart is intrinsically evil from the moment of birth.”
We are all aware that successful parenting requires molding the child's nature to further cooperation, industry, good behavior and manners and to promote a serious and constructive attitude towards life and its challenges. Left to their own devices, most children grow up to be weak in morals and deficient in education and social behavior.
Jewish tradition and spirituality discusses the animal nature – the animal soul, so to speak – that is part of our personality. In effect, the Torah commands that we domesticate ourselves and make our nature more exalted and holy. To do so, we must be aware of past errors and of dire warnings that were ignored or ridiculed. Any study of the book of Melochim and of the writings of the prophets of Israel of First Temple times will surely indicate to us the stubbornness of human nature, even when reality denies the basic assumption that that nature implies.
The Talmud teaches us that the Jewish people worshiped strange gods and adopted paganism, not because they believed in that nonsense but because it allowed them sexual freedoms and removed the obligations of the moral inhibitions of the Torah from their lives. They allowed their nature to overtake them and warp their sense of logic and clear thinking.
Too often in life, human nature trumps common sense and reasoned intelligence. That is the bitter lesson that is most evident to me from the events of these weeks of mourning that we now commemorate.
Much of the folly that surrounds us in world, national and personal affairs, is the product of our nature. We are very complex creatures and are able to mask, even to ourselves, the true motives that lie behind many of the current ideologies, policies and mores that dominate our society. The struggle against the inherent weakness, if not even depravity, of human nature always appears to be a futile one. Yet, the Torah does not allow us to give up in that struggle.
King Solomon noted that “the righteous may fall seven times,“ but in the end the righteous person rises again to continue the struggle and the quest for meaning and holiness in one's life. The beginning of successful combat against the evil in our personalities lies in the recognition of our nature itself. An identified foe can be overcome and defeated. It is only the vague and unidentified aspect that constantly defeats and frustrates us. I think this concept is worthy of consideration and internalization, especially during this period of the year when we recall those weaknesses of human nature that brought us to our knees.
Shabbat shalom
Berel Wein

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