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Thought for the Day: Cost/Benefit vs K'fira

I sometimes feel sorry for my yeitzer hara.  I mean, he gets up every morning and sees one item on his to-do list: Entice Michael to sin.  Can you imagine a more boring job than that!?  Honestly, that's about as boring as a tic-tac-toe competition where he gets the first three moves.  So he plays with me sometimes, just to relieve the boredom.

Like this one: a driver in a 3/4 ton red pickup truck gets irritated seeing me riding a bike on "his" road.  So he lays on the horn as he roars past me and makes a point of just missing me.  But then I see him stopped at the intersection and my yeitzer hara whispers, "Just pull around him, park your bike right in front of his truck, go over to his window, tell him how much you miss having a radio on your bike, and thank him sincerely for his horn rendition.  What could go wrong?"  First of all, I have learned from bitter experience that the answer to "What could go wrong?" is the same as the answer the question of "What is your name?" that Yaakov Avinu asked the Sar shel Eisav.  Basically... anything you can imagine and more.  Secondly, though, I make a cost/benefit analysis.  True, the cost is high (that truck driver will cream me), but there is a tangible benefit... I'll feel soo clever and will get my revenge.  What saves me, however, is that cost will be incurred almost immediately after the benefit; just too little time to enjoy.

Chazal (Bava Kama 79b) ask why a robber (gazlan) gets off easier than a sneak thief (ganiv) in the case of stealing cows and sheep.  Where as the thief, who makes off with his booty in the dead of night, has to pay quintuple (cow) or quadruple (sheep); the robber, who steals at gun point, only has to pay the standard double.  The gemara answers that the robber gives equal respect to people and the Creator, but a thief treats people with more respect.

The Maharsha explains that the robber is making a simple cost/benefit analysis.  Everyone knows and has actually seen criminals brought to justice.  He reckons that the benefit of enjoying his ill gotten gains is worth whatever punishment he'll have to suffer later; at human and/or Divine hands.  He doesn't deny reward and punishment, nor does he deny that HaShem runs the world; the robber simply feels immediate gratification is a fair price for eventual punishment.  (He's wrong, by the way.)  The thief, on the other hand, is kofer b'ikar -- he completely denies that there is any higher power to which he has to answer.  As long as he doesn't get caught by the (human) police, then he feels that he has gotten away with it.  The Torah therefore gives the thief a harsher penalty.

You have a yeitzer hara and can't control desires when in certain situations?  That's bad.... very, very bad; but t'shuvah is a real possibility and hope springs eternal.  But a Jew who feels there is no Judge and no Justice... rachmana latzlan... he's probably not coming back.


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