This week we had a discussion at the Medical School (over delicious and free kosher lunch) about our responsibilities to the mentally disabled in our communities, and how to appropriately care for them medically. Reading fascinating real-life case studies here in the US, we tried to identify what would be the Jewish take on these same scenarios.
We identified a Talmudic rule used in many situations. "We may act to bring benefit to a person who is absent. We are not permitted to make decisions that are disadvantageous to a person who is absent."
Although usually applied in business law and transactions when you are operating on another's behalf, this would be the guiding light to any and every decision made on behalf of someone who is absent - whether practically or mentally absent. Is it for his/her benefit right now? As adults we may sometimes put ourselves in uncomfortable positions to help others, to save lives, and for our own potential future benefit (i.e. clinical trial). For someone we are responsible for, we would never be permitted to make them uncomfortable unless they needed it for their own good - and it would directly benefit them.
I was thinking that we could also apply this personally. We often find ourselves in a setting, group or behavior pattern that is not the best and we feel like we're in a spiral of descent. At that moment we are feeling cognitively 'absent'. We need to remember that we have an inner adult that is responsible for us and fully capable of asserting itself! We have the capacity (although sometimes it might be hard) to stay focused on the guiding principle. "Does it truthfully benefit me to do this or to associate with this group of friends?"
Don't ever give up on yourself! You are responsible for your own well-being, and therefore it must be true that deep inside you have the courage and capability to make the right choices.
Shabbat Shalom! We hope to see you tomorrow evening!