How do you understand the phenomenon that sometimes you have non-religious or anti-religious parents who have religious children and sometimes it’s the other way around – you have religious parents who have non-religious children?
How do we explain the phenomenon of non-religious parents who sometimes have a religious child or sometimes vice versa?
And the answer is this. We explain it with the principle that Hakodosh Boruch Hu told us: החיים והמות נתתי לפניך – I put before you a choice of life and death, ובחרת בחיים – and you should choose life! It’s an announcement from Hashem that there is free will in the world.
The fact that a man is born from ignorant or irreligious parents does not mean he cannot become a great tzaddik. If he chooses, then Hakodosh Boruch Hu will not prevent him. And the fact that a man is born from great tzaddikim, the fact that his parents are saints, doesn’t mean he’s going to be a saint. Every man must make it his business to be the best that he can.
That’s why it states, לכלב חי הוא טוֹב מִן הָאַרְיֵה הַמֵּת – A living dog is better than a lion that already died (Koheles 9:4). What does that mean? It’s explained like this: A man might be as low as a dog, but if he’s alive, he’s better off than a dead lion. The biggest lion, the biggest tzaddik, once he dies, he’s finished – he can’t get any better. But a dog, he can change. He can lose his tail. After a while he can make himself look like a human being. He stands on two legs. He becomes a mentch.
And that’s why, when you see such a phenomenon – of course, it’s a tragedy when the sons of tzaddikim go wrong and of course it could be his parents were to blame too; maybe they didn’t put enough effort in training him – however when it does happen, it’s a demonstration of the power of free will.
Anybody can change. Anybody can change! And he can change tremendously! And therefore, as long as a man is alive, there’s still hope. That’s one of the lessons we learn when we see some children who are very different from their parents.
TAPE # E-43