Those Who Say “What Will Be Will Be”

“Life’s uncertainties and frustrations, its bewilderments and mystery gives rise to the notion that what will be will be, it is fate.”

Doris Day’s 1956 hit song, “Qué Será, Será,” was on Rabbi Olan’s mind in February of 1963. To Olan, the song voiced a dangerous sense of fatalism that pervaded American culture in the early 1960s. This sermon was written and delivered at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, a moment when many Americans felt powerless and wondered if there would be no tomorrow. The thought of simply giving up and accepting “whatever will be” offended Olan greatly. He used this message to challenge his listeners to believe that humans do have free will and that positive choices and actions can still make a difference.

“The pressures of so many threatening forces have made our day not only an age of anxiety, but what is more dangerous, one resigned to its doom.”

Rabbi Olan quotes Omar Khayyam, Arthur Schopenhauer, Paul-Henri Thiry (Baron) d’Holbach, Clarence Darrow, William Faulkner, Rabbi Avika, Deuteronomy 30, and the Talmud.

This sermon text was shared with Bridwell Library by the Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Cincinnati, Ohio.