Whether or not you care to keep up with the latest gossip coming out of Hollywood, doing something as simple as logging on to email basically guarantees that you will. Which means that almost everyone at this point has heard the recent news in the ongoing saga of actress Lindsay Lohan who has been sentenced to ninety days in jail for probation violations.
Lohan is clearly on a destructive path, but as some writers have pointed out and as Lohan herself has stated in interviews, her alcohol and drug abuse was fueled by her alcoholic, abusive father. The pressures of being in the spotlight from the time she was a child as well as being immersed in the Hollywood scene didn’t help much either. And let’s not forgot about her enabling mother.
While Lohan is the story of the day, history is replete with people who have ended up on the wrong path, and such a story – no less tabloid-worthy than Lohan’s – is told in the Talmud about a man named Eleazar Ben Durdia. He was known as the most immoral person of his generation for there was no prostitute in the world whom he did not hire.
As the story begins we find that Ben Durdia has crossed seven rivers and paid a purse full of dinars in order to enjoy the services of a prostitute (I know – they never taught stuff this good in Hebrew school!) who is so disgusted by Ben Durdia’s ways that she tells him that he is beyond salvation and that he will surely rot in hell!
Upon hearing her words, Ben Durdia is suddenly moved and runs out of her house determined to change his ways. He cries out, “Mountains and hills, request mercy for me,” but there is no answer. He does the same with the heavens and earth, the sun and moon, the stars and constellations, but they all remain silent.
Each of the entities that Ben Durdia calls out to represent a different aspect of his upbringing – the mountains “haharim” is a Hebrew play on the word “hahorim” which means parents. The Heavens and earth represents the corrupt environment in which he was raised. The stars and constellations are Ben Durdia’s way of saying that he was born under the “wrong star.”
Finally, when he realizes that there is no one else to blame but himself, he declares, “Eyn hadavar taluy ela bi” [This matter depends solely on me]. It is at that point a heavenly voice declares, “Eleazar ben Durdia is ready for the world to come.”
Of course we must have compassion for people who are struggling and have been dealt a rough hand in life, but at the end of the day Judaism believes that no matter how much adversity a person faces the responsibility to choose right from wrong, good from evil, is up to the individual and the individual alone.
I hope that Lohan’s time in jail will give her some time to think and perhaps take responsibility for her actions. Then, maybe the next time I check my email there will be some good news.