You Know You Want To
Hey there, friendly blog reader. Please divert your eyes to the upper right side of this web page for a moment. See that button over there marked "Attention, DO NOT CLICK!!" Don't you want to click it? I know you do. You're kind of curious what will happen, and the fact that you're not supposed to click makes you want to even more, right? (DO NOT CLICK it, though, whatever you do.) "What could she have behind that button," you're thinking. You wonder, "Is this just a joke?" (No, it is definitely not. DO NOT CLICK.)
According to Jewish thought, if a child does something nice for her parent without being asked, like cleaning her room, it's not considered to be as meritorious as if she cleaned up her room because her mother told her to. The opposite of what you would have expected, right? It seems nicer to do something that you came up with on your own rather than just doing something because you followed instructions. But Judaism recognizes that most people have a natural inclination not to want to do what they're told to do. (You're still not allowed to click that button, by the way.) Nonetheless there's an inherent value in being able to listen to an authority figure. No, I didn't say listen like a mindless drone (for all the readers out there who hate the idea of submitting to a Higher Authority). Rather, if we find an authority figure worth listening to, like a loving parent or a caring teacher, we ultimately end up benefiting if we are able to overcome our natural urge to rebel. That's because there are people out there who know more than we do or have experienced more than we have. Their advice, if we took it, would be invaluable to us.
The Torah has an entire category of mitzvos (commandments) called chukim, which are laws whose reasoning is not explained to us.
Although there's nothing that a child hates more than hearing "because I said so" from his parent, every parent understands that not all reasons can be explained to a child, and that sometimes the child just needs to learn that the parent is in charge. (A child who doesn't know how to listen to authority is never very pleasant to be around, and frankly many adults that can't listen to authority end up in jail!) So Judaism too teaches us to trust in God as an authority figure, not just to listen to the rules, but also to trust, when things in life don't go our way, that there's a greater meaning and purpose, even if we can't understand it.
And in terms of that button, you're still not allowed to click it. Although, truth be told, I'm not your parent or your God, so maybe it wouldn't be so bad to follow your inclination, after all.