Good Intentions Are Not Enough

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This week’s parshah is Lekh Lekha, which introduces the character of Abraham. Abraham is known as a good and obedient man. But I’ve always doubted that blind faith in G-d is the same as being good.

Studying Abraham, I found myself asking, “Was he a good person? What were his intentions?” But good intentions aren’t all that count; a good person has to stick with a  situation and make sure everything turns out well or at least try to fix things if he or she makes a mistake. With this in mind, I looked at Abraham’s actions in this parshah.


In short, the goodness of a person can be judged by whether that person means well and by how it turns out in the end.

 

Consider Abraham’s obedience of G-d when G-d told Abraham to go to Canaan. The scholar Leon Kass questioned whether Abraham obeyed G-d to be good or because he was greedy for all the rewards G-d promised him. However, elsewhere in the parshah, he built altars spontaneously without G-d telling him, just to thank  G-d. Abraham probably intended to make G-d happy.

He also tried to make his wife, Sarah, happy, but the  results were more complicated.


Abraham had a baby with Hagar because Sarah told him to. However, Sarah and Hagar both wound up angry. Soon, Sarah became jealous of Ishmael, Hagar’s son. Abraham kicked out Hagar and Ishmael when Sarah told him to. Did Abraham, blinded by love for his wife, really think that what he was doing was the right thing?

Although Abraham almost always had good intentions, he did not always live up to the ideal of thinking before doing.  When he had a baby with Hagar, he did not think about Sarah’s possible jealousy and instead just obeyed his wife. And when he made mistakes, he did not usually try to fix them.  For instance, when he found that Sarah was getting mad at Hagar, he did not try to settle differences and instead just kicked out Hagar, making the problem worse.

Abraham’s behavior teaches me that intentions aren’t good enough. Good intentions are still important, but Abraham should have gone further. In short, the goodness of a person can be judged by whether that person means well and by how it turns out in the end.

I can come away from this parshah with a lesson about my own character. I have to try my best to live up to the ideals of thinking before I do things and to fix my mistakes.

Talia Eisner is a seventh-grade student at Krieger Schechter Day School.

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