Outcomes

Measuring outcomes is something we like to do.  Results matter.  What are the numbers on the economy?  On jobs?  Yet outcomes don’t always convey as much as we think. 

Sandy Koufax elected not to play in a World Series game because it fell on Yom Kippur.  By the way, did his team win or lose that game?  The Series?   

Stories from this week’s portion of Torah convey the importance of looking beyond ultimate outcomes. Abraham argues on behalf of Sodom and Gomorrah.  We honor his courageous defense of justice.  How important is it that, in the end, the cities are destroyed?  Also, the Binding of Isaac, presents a vexing parenting challenge for the sake of the covenant.  How often do we pause to consider how this act lays the foundation for locating Jerusalem’s centrality to faithfulness for all time?   Elsewhere in the Torah, Moses is remembered for striking the rock which prevents his entry into the Promised Land.  Does it matter that his misdeed produced a successful miracle, with water flowing from the rock to quench the people’s thirst?

In each of these stories, the The Torah’s message seems clear – means may matter more than outcomes. How we do what we do supremely matters.  Some say, it’s everything.  They say that how we do what we do writes its own outcome.

Yet the Torah may be saying something else.  You don’t control it all. You determine how to execute the task.  As to what ultimately comes of it, this is out of your hands.

As we pursue our daily deeds, may we be responsible about the means.  And may we remain humble about the endpoints.

About the Author
Rabbi William Hamilton has served as rabbi (mara d'atra) of Kehillath Israel in Brookline, MA since 1995.
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