This confusing case about mitigating factors had me thinking about the concept of mitigating factors in divine judgment. Does God take mitigating factors into account in His judgment? There seems to be a frightening answer to that in this week’s parsha, in the multi-part trial and punishment of Adam, Chava and the Nachash.
Adam blamed “the woman you gave me”. So it was her fault, and God’s fault, for giving him the woman. Not only did that passing of the buck not work, it was used against him. And even though he was correct: God specifically made her to advise him on fruit matters. Look at the flow of the story. God tells him not to eat from the tree, and then has an adviser made specifically for the purpose of helping him deal with the tree. She is standing right next to him as she is convinced to eat the fruit, and then hands it to him!! But it doesn’t matter. He had his own mind as well. Not passing the buck on causation!
The woman blamed the Nachash. Not only did it not work, it was used against her.
And the Nachash? God didn’t even ask the nachash. Why? Because any answer was irrelevant.
Imagine a gorilla escaping from a zoo and causing a considerable amount of damage and injury. Who is to blame?
The guard who didn’t lock the enclosure properly?
Well, the guard was distracted by a boy who was distracting him.
The boy’s parents were busy with the boy’s baby brother who had a leaky diaper.
The baby’s diaper was leaking because it was the pharmacy-brand diaper, instead of Pampers brand.
Can we conclude then that the pharmacy is to blame for the gorilla’s rampage!
It would seem that:
we can’t claim that others are responsible for making us do things,
but we are still held responsible for the role we played in encouraging others to do things.
There is no “there was another agent of causation” exemption in True Justice,
but we will be judged by the causation we played a role in.
This isn’t only a negative force. The Gemara points out that the good that God dispenses outweighs the negative.
The role we play as role-models, unconsciously, in other lives, is a real act of causation, even when those others have the free will to take the lesson and act on it, or not.