By Mark Gerson
A married man with a loving family goes on a trip and has an affair that ruins his marriage, damages his kids, and destroys his family. A successful executive buys the stock of a corporation that his company is ready to acquire, is immediately fired, and is then prosecuted for insider trading. A promising young attorney has several drinks at a firm event, drives home, and gets into a devastating car crash.
None of these is good as a story, and Aristotle explains why. A good ending, he says, should be “surprising, yet inevitable.” One can debate whether the aforementioned endings were inevitable. But there is nothing surprising about any of them—or anything else in the stories. This is what should be surprising. Why do people so frequently make catastrophic and obvious mistakes? The Torah, and the Jewish tradition around it, has a lot to say about that question. And the conclusion of this Torah portion (Parsha Shelach, in Numbers 13-15) has a deeply sublime, entirely practical and eternally relevant answer.
Read more at The Torah’s Compelling Case for a “Why Do” List.