Let My People Know

"True soul-searching"

There is a well-known fable about the animals who decided to repent because their sins had brought disaster on them. 

The tiger and the wolf confess that they prey on other creatures, and are vindicated. 

After all, it is in their nature as predators to hunt and kill. 

So all the animals in turn confess their sins and, for one reason or another, all are exonerated. 

Finally, the sheep admits that she once ate the straw lining from her master's boots; here at last is obviously the true cause of their misfortune. 

All fall on the evil sheep and slaughter it, and everything is in order again.

This fable is usually taken to point out the hypocrisy of the animals, who ignore the sins of the strong and attack those of the weak. 

The basic issue, however, is something rather more profound: This is an example of the kind of soul-searching that merely confirms the status quo. 

The wolf may hunt and the tiger may savage because it is in their nature to do so. 

As long as soul-searching does not address itself to such basic and fundamental issues, as long as it does not question even the most obvious assumptions, then the sin singled out for correction will be trivial and no overall change will be forthcoming.

True soul-searching is based on quite a different premise, one that assumes that those matters we take for granted, the status quo, the general consensus, are all the very things that require review and revision. 

–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz
From "Soul-searching," an essay by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz in The Strife of the Spirit