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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.

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