I always wondered, is destiny like a wave, carrying along any loose object, person, or cause? Do the objects being carried along have any choice? Is anyone’s future really out of their personal control or is it predetermined?
Before Moses appeared on the scene and the story of Passover begins, the Hebrews had been enslaved more than 200 years by the Egyptians. Imagine the feelings of the Hebrews, after 100 years of servitude. They must have seen no way out from slavery and abuse. I imagine those people saw their destinies defined by their enslavement. To them, it probably appeared as if they had one singularly defined future, a destiny to be slaves forever. A lifetime of no ability to affect their own present and future.
Much later in Jewish history, Maimonides wrote in his magnum opus, the Mishneh Torah, a compendium of Jewish law, that “free will is granted to every human being.” This great teacher clearly defined Judaism’s view that no one is born with a predetermined destiny. Every human being has the inherent power to change their lives based on the choices that they make.
I was inspired by the above quote in a conversation with Dima, a sixteen year old that I met at the Coffee and Small Talk- Hafuch Al Hafuch program in Tel Aviv. Born into a troubled Russian Jewish family that emigrated to Israel in the 1980’s, Dima articulated that his future on the street was his destiny, that he would have little and survive on petty crimes. I said to him, reminded by the quotation, that it doesn’t have to be this way and that his future is in his own hands. Later I learned that Dima deepened his involvement in ELEM as a volunteer and later went into the army at age 18, a tremendous sign of healthy maturity and growth.
ELEM believes that each troubled teen has the power to change their unique destiny and is given the encouragement for this change by ELEM’s volunteers and professional staff. Our programs offer personalized attention to address their needs and role models who display healthy adult behaviors and boundaries. Through understanding that each person has free will and through the support of the ELEM team, our teens learn that they can improve their lives and become healthy individuals. They can become leaders of their families, full participants in society and productive citizens of Israel.
Dima was supported and nurtured by ELEM staff and their work together allowed him to change his destiny. ELEM staff, through example and guidance, assisted Dima to free himself from a destiny of living life on the streets. On a personal note, I am so grateful to the ELEM staff for their vision and the way they teach troubled teens to view and actualize their potential. We look to Dima’s life as an inspiration on this coming Passover, and to be remain hopeful for the future of the thousands of troubled teens living on the streets of Israel.