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Thought for the Day: Doing What's Right, Not What's Popular, Take Real Effort

There was one thing my mother used to say to me that I vowed to never say to my children: "If that's the worst thing that ever happens to you, you're pretty lucky."  I didn't like it at the time because whatever was going on felt pretty yucky and it didn't make me feel any better hearing that there was worse to to come.  I believe I never broke my vow.  (Any children beg to differ?  No?  Good.)

She had other aphorisms, however, with which I couldn't argue.  There were times I wanted to do something that Tommy was doing and she would ask, "Would you want to jump of a bridge if Tommy was doing that?"  I couldn't really argue on that.  Frustrating, yes; arguable; no.  Truth often feels like that, as a matter of fact.

This feeling of wanting to do something that is wrong just because a lot of people are doing it goes back to the very first person, was cured (for a short time) at Matan Torah, then we were re-infected by the Cheit haEigel.  We tend to abbreviate long names that we use frequently; sometimes that's a very bad idea.  Adam haRishon did not eat from ate from the eitz ha'da'as (Tree of Knowledge), rather he ate from the "eitz ha'da'as tov v'ra" (Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil).  The eitz ha'da'as tov v'ra is what allows one to see good aspects in evil and the evil aspects in good.

R' Dessler explains that the 50th level of tuma is when there is no longer any hope of ever seeing the good in something for which you have no ta'ava; aka "if it feels good do it".  The 50th level of k'dusha, on the other hand, is the inability to even comprehend what would be the benefit of doing anything evil.  All the levels between represent various levels of struggle.  As long as one has not achieved the 50th level of k'dusha, a strong desire will have the possibility of negating all the logic in the world.  As long as one has not fallen to the 50th level of tuma, there is still hope that one's intellect can win against damaging pleasure.

It is vital to realize that as long as we are in this state below the 50th level of k'dusha, we can never be completely objective.  Peer pressure is a particularly insidious problem because we have not only our desires but all our "friends" voting to just do it.  Often, that is a self-fulfilling prophecy as we tend to choose our friends by those who are like minded.  However, there is also the very real and invasive pressures of the norms inflicted on us by the surrounding culture.  Never in the history of the world have our homes been so infected with external values.  Between internet and cell phones, we are never (except during Shabbos and Yom Tov, chasdei HaShem) disconnected from interaction with any and all of their values; both bad and worse.

Both David haMelech (in T'hillim) and Shlomo haMelech (in Mishlei) recognized the difficulty of standing up to peer pressure.  So just keep telling yourself, over and over, "Just because Tommy is doing a swan dive off that bridge into oblivion, do I really want to join him?"

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