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Thought for the Day: Kirvas Elokim Li Tov

You don't tug on superman's cape, you don't spit into the wind, you don't tug the mask off that old Lone Ranger and you don't argue with a song.  The song says, "HaShem is here, HaShem is there; HaShem is truly everywhere.  Up, up.  Down, down.  Left, right, and all around; that's where He can be found."  Yet, Chazal tell us: "Seek HaShem when He is to be found - these are the days between Rosh HaShanah and Yom HaKippurim." (TB Rosh HaShanah 18a)  Meaning that HaShem is not so readily found the rest of the year.  So where is He?

The Mabit gives one answer.  He says that a person will be embarrassed to do certain things when other people are around.  That is, when they are close.  So too, says the Mabit, the closer a person is to HaShem, the more difficult it will be for him to sin.  Not that he doesn't feel like sinning; that would be not indication at all.  Its more like that feeling when the you look in the rear view mirror and see police car behind you.  Immediately you sit a little straighter, glance at the speedometer, put your cell phone down, etc.  You drive differently and more carefully when the police are close.  So too, when we feel a closeness to HaShem, we live differently.  Not necessarily more comfortably, but differently.

The Chovos Levavos compares HaShem's presence to the sun shining through a window.  Each sin, he says, is like drawing a single spider web across that window.  The decrease in brightness and warmth with each sin is barely perceptible.  After years and decades, though, the window can be blocked and the light all but forgotten; covered by a thick mat of sticky web.  There has been no difference in sun, only in the window's ability to transmit the light and warmth.  So too, HaShem is a constant source of love and warmth, but we block Him out with our sins.

Why in the world would we block Him out?  The mashal of the Mabit tells us why: it can be uncomfortable to be so close.  Do you see HaShem as a policeman in the rear view mirror or your loving father?  If He is the policeman, then sinning will have a double benefit: the pleasure of the sin itself, but also blocking out the discomfort of being so close to The Man (as we used to call anyone in authority).  That is why learning mussar must be a constant avoda along with learning halacha.  Knowing what to do is not enough; ultimately you must also want to do.  Then, and only then, you can experience kirvas elokim li tov.

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