One of the best things and worst things about Western society is undifferentiated tolerance. While it keeps people from blood libels and various other evils, there is another side to the coin. Every idea is seen as equal to every other idea, because they are, after all ideas. The same holds true of lifestyle issues - all are equal because they are all lifestyles. You may very well be wondering why I am talking to you about this; you aren't likely to adopt this way of thinking.
At least not consciously.
What threw me was the response to the "murder" of an authentically innocent gorilla, named Harambe.
Part One: A four-year-old child climbed into the exhibit moat in Cincinnati's zoo... His mother was with him and was distracted for just a few moments by her baby. The gorilla's initial response was far from savage; he picked up the little boy and stroked him. Of course, no one could assume that that was where the story would necessarily end. The security man had few choices; shooting the animal with a tranquilizer gun was not an option. It takes about twenty minutes to take effect, and the immediate consequence would be to irritate the animal, who would of course have no idea of why it was being attacked. He had to choose between the ape and he child, and he chose the child. Many of you may have heard about what I consider part one of the story.
Part Two: The mother has received a huge number of online death threats. None of this surprised me. What did, was the response of one of my frum students; let's call her Chasya (which is of course not her name). She is furious at the boy's mom. At first I just assumed that she was totally unaware of what taking care of young children is about; I had her pegged as the youngest one in her family and assumed that her extended family must live far enough for her not to have much to do with any possible nieces or nephews. It takes seconds for a pint-size adventurer to start moving. I know her well enough to not fall into the trap of assuming that Chasya is emotionally or mentally instable. That's an easy out (and one that many people use with distressing frequency), but it just doesn't fit. When I thought about the episode more deeply, I realized that Chasya is a victim.
She has been trained to devalue the preciousness of her own life.
Rambam tells you (in Hilchos Deos) that it is human nature (he doesn't say weakness) to be influenced by your environment. Tolerance and equality are very attractive, and in fact are spiritually beautiful if they are rooted in truth and in compassion. They become ugly when they are corrupted by falsehood or envy. Think of Korach's rebellion. Rabbenu Bachaya sees the problem as one that stems from being unable to accept Hashem's unique plan for each individual. This leads inevitably to envy. Here are the steps.
- You don't see why some people have more, and other's less. Since Hashem isn't a player, you call your desire to have what everyone else has, "justice". Since your self-esteem is involved. "If I have less, I must be less" is the subconscious version of this way of thinking) you will have no peace until the "injustice" is corrected.
- Having what others have materially doesn't do it. You also need the appreciation, validation, and acknowledgment that makes you feel like legitimate contender for Best. Or else you have to determine that there is no Best.
- You need control. Without control, others define you. With control, you define them! You feel unfree if you can't make up the rules of the game.
- Ultimately, this can lead a person to resenting Hashem's "right" to define anything at all. Avoda Zara is a form of presumed connection to a Higher Being in which you call the shots.
The only way out of this trap is to really embrace your life (and that of other people) as being a mirror of Hashem's providence for you and for them. You aren't exactly like anyone else who ever lived.
You have everything you need to be a genuinely great person.
So does everyone else. The issue is never "Elitzafon". Elitzafon was appointed as leader of the Levites in spite of Korach being the logical next in line. The real issue wasn't Elitzafon as a person, nor was it the heredity issue. It was Korach's dissatisfaction with his own life. You have amazing potentials and everything you need to actualize them. Every minute of your life has infinite value. You are not an "innocent gorilla".
You are what Hashem had in mind when He created His world.