“No man faces the world as if it had just left the hand of the Creator.”

March 19, 2009

Will Herberg poses a situation in which a man is forced to choose between killing one man (an enemy aviator) or letting that man destroy an entire town by taking no action — both result in responsibility for death and violation of the sacredness of every life.  “Why is it he is compelled to violate the divine law?  The compulsive factors are obviously not of the natural order…” (Judaism and Modern Man, p. 217)  To answer, he brings up that (often problematic) line of Scripture: “The Lord visits the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children unto the third and fourth generations.”  His use might be more commonplace than I realize, but I find it fascinating nonetheless:

“What men have done at other times and places, what men do elsewhere in our own time, what we ourselves have done in the past, enter into the conditions that compel us to take life, to live by exploitation, to eat while others go hungry — just as what we do now adds to the burden of sin that will beset the men of time to come and cruelly restrict their freedom of action.  […]

“The sins of the fathers are visited upon the children not merely in the sense that one generation has to bear the consequences of the deeds of another — ‘Our fathers have sinned. . .and we have borne their iniquities’ (Lam. 5:7) — but in the far more important sense that the sins of the fathers create a situation in which the children, too, do evil, if only because, in the concrete circumstances, no course of action is open to them that is not to some degree infected with it.  There is no escaping the solidarity of sin because there is no escaping the solidarity of mankind.” (Judaism and Modern Man, p. 218)

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One Response to ““No man faces the world as if it had just left the hand of the Creator.””


  1. […] isn’t a call for perfection. Perfection isn’t a possibility within history. It is the simple statement that Jews – as Jews and especially as Jews in Israel – have an […]


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