Good Intentions. Bad Decisions

The decisions we make in our lifetimes are usually motivated by harmless intentions. Few people do not really understand that harming someone else with his actions is repugnant.

Sometimes we take a course of action with the specific intention of doing what we feel is right or correct. We do this with the best of intentions and with the purest of motives.

But very often we do not look too far to see all the ramifications and precipitants of our good intentions. How many times in our lives have we found that our good intentions have had negative side-effects?

The Scripture states: “And Leah went out to greet him (=Jacob)” (Gen. 30:16) because it was her night to be with Jacob. It also states regarding Dinah, Leah’s daughter: “and Dinah went out” (Gen. 34:1).

The Talmud of the Land of Israel points out the common usage of “went out” regarding Leah and her daughter Dinah which is intended to tie their actions together. (Sanhed 2:6 13b)

Leah’s intentions were pure, she wanted progeny for her husband. Her act of “going out” was noble in its local sphere. But in its broader sphere it was much less fortunate. It did not end well for Dinah who (unjustifiably) was raped as a result of “going out”. Dinah learned only part of the lesson from her mother.

The lesson that the Talmud of Eretz Yisrael teaches us here is that even the purest of intentions can have negative repercussions. Just because one means well does not mean that all’s well. Good intentions alone do not always yield good decisions.

May God grant us the insight and far-sightedness to make good decisions!


About the Author
Rabbi Michael Linetsky has published a number of works, some of which receiving approbations from scholars such as Nahum Sarna, David Weiss Halivni, the late Lord Emanuel Jacobovits and Dr. Norman Lamm.