Skip to main content

Thought for the Day: Encouragement to Do T'shuva

In case you had any doubt as to the power and effectiveness of the yeitzer ha'rah, he staged an extraordinary public demonstration in Chicago over the last few days.  We had below zero (that's Fahrenheit, boys and girls) temperatures with wind chills down to 30 below due to winds gusting to 20 mph.  Even with parka, face mask, down gloves, over-boots, and ski pants it was still painful to be out for more than a few minutes.  Yet there were people without gloves or face masks, sometimes even just a light coat.  Who were these supermen?  Smokers.  Those guys will brave any weather for their 10 minute smoke break.  It's not just fearlessness, either.  Oh no, they have also developed amazing skills; being able to light a match in gale force winds and driving rain.

With such a powerful adversary, we need powerful ammunition.  Chazal have given us takanos to help.  Even though the word takana is translated as "regulation", it comes from the same root as the word "tikun"/to repair.  Chazal tell us that the fate of S'dom would not have been sealed except for the rampant theft.  As a prerequisite to t'shuva for theft, the Torah requires that the object itself (so long as it is in existence) must be returned.  Suppose, though, someone stole a beam and then used it as the central pillar for his mother-in-law cottage in the back (way, way, back).  For him to have to return that beam, the entire cottage would need to be demolished.  Chazal effected a repair: he can return the value of the beam, but the beam itself he can keep.  That repair goes by the name of: takanas shavim/the repair to encourage t'shuvah.

You want more?  Check out Bava Kama 94b, which records the following incident and the response it inspired in Chazal.  A man said to his wife that he wanted to do t'shuva for all the stealing he had done.  His wife told him, "If you return all the money you stole, you won't even be left with a belt to hold up your pants!"  In other words, he had funded so much of his life by fencing stolen property, that he would have to sell everything he owned to pay back all his victims.  The response:  If someone comes to give you money for something (long gone, by now) that he stole from you, you must refuse.

What if you don't refuse?  "ein ru'ach chachamin noche heimenu", an expression that usually means that the sages expected more from you.  Here, though, Rashi says it means that there is no wisdom nor piety in you.  Apparently, if you don't appreciate the danger we all face from yeitzer ha'rah by the extreme lengths to which Chazal have gone to remove any obstacles to t'shuvah, then you just aren't getting it; there is no wisdom or piety in you.


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…