Tuesday, April 11, 2006
While central to meaningful human experience, the ability to delay gratification doesn't come easily. We don't naturally graduate from childhood into mature and disciplined altruists. What we gain at adulthood is the capacity to control ourselves, but development in this area is a lifetime's work. One need look only at advertising and the media to see that immediate gratification with no consideration for the consequences is very much in vogue. High-risk sports, sexual exploration and many other activities that focus solely on immediate gratification are as popular as ever. The descent into instant fun and the consequential move away from the development of quintessential human sensitivities is all too easy. And we have all experienced people consumed with physical needs of one sort or another — they are unstoppable until they have what they want. In position as major leaders, such people can quite literally destroy the world; they nearly have on a number of occasions.
The Jewish people are expected to be the world experts in the field of delaying gratification, when necessary, to achieve higher goals. All humanity was originally destined to be proficient in this area, as evidenced by the prohibition of eating from the fruit in the Garden of Eden. Seen through Kabbalistic eyes, G-d did not demand that Adam and Eve forever deny themselves the fruit, only that they wait to eat it until after the first Sabbath. Had they demonstrated their ability to postpone their desire to eat it in order to fulfil G-d's will, they could have enjoyed the fruit legitimately. Instead, they were expelled from the Garden, forever changing the course of history.
Or, the relationship between self control and grace.