Skip to main content

Thought for the Day: Taking Responsibility for Your Actions

If asked, "Do you follow the laws of gravity because of your belief in physics?"; my answer would be an incredulous, "No; I follow the laws of physics because they are true and there is really no choice.  I could certainly choose to ignore them, I suppose, but the consequences are dire."  I have a similar answer to, "Do you follow halacha because you are religious?"  There are certainly times that it would be convenient for me if reality (both physical and spiritual) would take my feelings into account, but they don't.  Therefore I don't consider myself so much religious as simply rational.

I spent a glorious week in Florida with my grandchildren and their relatives.  If I weren't religious at all, I would say that the highlight of the visit was the two times I walked my grandsons (5 and 3) to school and my granddaughter (6) home from school.  Since I am a bit religious, though, I am compelled to say that those are among the highlights... after all there was also Sukkos, Simchas Torah, and Shabbos in that visit.  Still...

The walk to school was filled with discussions of bugs, dogs, sticks, etc.  They are boys, after all.  On the way home, though, we talked about what she was learning.  I knew she had been learning a little about parshas B'reishis and she told me that they were learning about their five senses in science.  I figured this would be a great opportunity to discuss both.  I wanted to explain that we use spices in havdala because Chava used her senses of sight, touch, hearing, and taste when she sinned and that left the sense of smell untainted to nourish our neshama on motzai Shabbos as the neshama y'seira is leaving.

I asked her if she had learned about Chava's mistake in eating from the eitz ha'da'as tov v'rah.  Her reply was, "Chava's mistake?  The snake made her do it."  "Did the snake hold her down, pick the fruit, and force her to eat it?", I asked.  "No."  "So who made the mistake?"  "Chava."  "Right.  The snake did something terrible and was punished, but at the end of the day, it was Chava who decided to listen to the snake instead of HaShem; right?"  "Right."  "And we are all still suffering from her mistake."  "We are?  Still?  How?"  "We aren't in Gan Eiden, right?"  "Oh... right."

Taking responsibility for our actions is a lifetime of work, and it traces its roots back to that very first mistake.  The Ohr Chayim haKodesh explains that the yeitzer hara really only has one weapon; he talks up the pleasure of sin and play down the reward of mitzvos.  HaShem didn't even ask the snake for excuses, there is not excuse for him.  He did ask Adam, who replied, "The woman that You gave me made me do it."  He also asked Chava, who replied, "The snake made me do it."  Sigh.... all they had to say was, "Chtasi"/I made a mistake.  Which is precisely what Dovid haMelech did 2000 years later, which is why Adam gave him 70 years of his life, and why Dovid haMelech is the father of the mashiach; bringing things full circle.

Ok... you are probably thinking, "Whew!  I sure am glad he's not my zeidy!"  Just to redeem myself a bit, we actually finished the walk with a race to the front door.  She won, giggling and panting through that beautiful (front) toothless grin.


Popular posts from this blog

Thought for the Day: Battling the Evil Inclination on all Fronts

Yom Kippur.  When I was growing up, there were three annual events that marked the Jewish calendar: eating matzos on Passover, lighting candles on Chanuka, and  fasting on Yom Kippur.  Major news organizations around the world report on the "surreal" and "eerie" quiet of the streets in even the most secular neighborhoods of Israel.  Yom Kippur.

As you know, I am observant of Jewish law.  Some have even called me "ultra orthodox" (not in a kind way).  Given that, I have a question.  How likely do you think that I would be tempted to eat on Yom Kippur, that most holy day of the year?  Let's make the scale zero to ten, where zero is "as likely as driving through McDonald's on Shabbos and ordering a Big Mac with extra cheese." and ten is "as likely as breathing regularly".  Take your time.  If you answered "zero"; thank you, but -- sadly and penitently -- no.  The answer is more like nine; I'd like to say lower, but i…

Thought for the Day: Sometimes a Food Loses Its Identity When It Loses Its Bracha; Sometimes It Doesn't

Let's start with a question: Why are We Allowed to Drink Coffee and Whiskey Made by Non-Jews?  Before you ask,"Why would I think that I shouldn't be able to drink whiskey and coffee made by non-Jews?", I'll tell you. Simple, we all know that Chazal made a decree -- known as בישול עכו''ם/bishul akim -- that particular foods cooked by non-Jews are forbidden.  There are basically two criteria that determines if a dish falls into this category:
Is not consumed raw.Fit for a royal banquet. Cooked carrots, therefore, are not a problem since they can be eaten raw (I actually prefer them that way).  Baked beans are find because the are not prestigious enough.  (For great synopsis of the laws, see the article on the Star-K site, FOOD FIT FOR A KING, by Rabbi Moshe Heinemann, shlita.)  There are lots of cool questions and details (baked potatoes are prestigious, does that make even potato chips and issue?) which are for another time.  Clearly, though, both coffee an…

Thought for the Day: Coming Into This World for Torah, Avodah, and Acts of Loving Kindness

This TftD is so self-serving that I should be embarrassed.  But I am not... talking about grandchildren is always off budget.  I have, bli ayin hara, a beautiful new grandson; born at 6:11 PM CDT last Friday night.  The secular (aka -- by me, anyway -- slave) date is October 20, 2017 CE.  The Hebrew (aka Real) date is certainly Rosh Chodesh חשון/Cheshvan and certainly in the year 5778 since Creation.  The date, you ask... good question!

Sundown on Friday night was 6:01 PM CDT, which means he was born either at the end of the last day of תשרי or the beginning of the first day of Cheshvan; a period know as בין השמשות/twilight.  What's the big deal, you ask... I am so glad you asked.  We all deal quite handily with בין השמשות every week and every holiday; we're just stringent.  We start Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov before בין השמשות; that is, before sundown.  Likewise, we end Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov after בין השמשות; some 42, 50, 60, or 72 minutes after sundo…