Skip to main content

Thought for the Day: HaShem Defines Good, Not the Other Way Around

"Climber Falls 70 Feet Into An Ice Crevasse", reads a recent headline.  He took "selfie" videos, so you can get a pretty good feel for his situation.  He fell the 70 feet and landed on a ledge.  Looking down he could see that had he not landed there, right beside him was another drop to which he could not see the bottom.  Looking up he could see the hole -- light at the top of the tunnel mamash -- through which he had fallen and was the only apparent way out.  His right arm was broken.  70 feet... basically on the ground floor of a 15 story building looking at a skylight in the roof.

If you want to know how Adam HaRishon felt after eating from the eitz ha'dahs tov v'rah, then imagine our climber feel on a moonless, cloudy night.  Pitch black and lost; all he knows is that he isn't falling anymore.  He knows which way is up, and he has a memory of what it looks like to be out.  Our situation?  We don't even have that memory.  We know nothing but our current situation and we can barely sense which way is up; not even a fading memory to guide us.  All we have is the intellectual knowledge of how to get back up -- the Torah HaK'dosha.

Even though we have intellectual clarity, our "moral compass" is so battered that once an aveira is repeated even once, it feels permissible to us (Yoma 87a).  Repeat it a few times and we are not only looking for a heter ("there is no way in my circumstances this could be forbidden..."), we are actually starting to believe it must be a mitzvah!  That's why, says Da'as T'vunos, we can only have a general picture of what our perfection/shleimus is supposed to be; we just can't appreciate the details, as we have no frame of reference.

Even the broad details may not sing to you.  We know that there is no drinking, no eating in olam ha'bah, rather tzadikim sitting with their crowns and rejoicing in the radiance of the Divine Presence.  I am not even embarrassed to tell you how not so appealing that sounds.  "I'd rather laugh with the sinners that cry with the saints; the sinners are much more fun."  It is a constant avoda to remind ourselves that the "non-funness" of olam ha'bah is our damaged perception, not the reality.  In fact, those general ideas of perfection are revealed specifically to give us a feel for how broken our moral compass really is.

So the Torah gives us specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely goals; aka, mitzvos.  So instead of "if it feels good, do it", we are in the position of bringing our actions under the direction of our minds.  Isn't that precisely what being human is supposed to be?


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: Using a Mitzvah Object for Non-Mitzvah Purposes

As I am -- Baruch HaShem -- getting older, I am more cognizant of the fact that I'd like to stay as healthy as possible right up the moment I leave this world.  Stuff hurting is not the problem (I am told there is an old Russian saying that once you are 40, if you wake up and nothing hurts -- you're dead), stuff not working, however, is a problem.  To that end, for several years now I commute to work by bicycle (weather permitting, 30 minutes on an elliptical machine when weather does not permit).  I recently took up some upper body weight training.  Not because I want to be governor of California, just simply to slow down loss of bone mass and extend my body's healthy span.  Simple hishtadlus.  I have an 18 month old grandson who is just the right weight for arm curls (yes... I am that weak), so I do about 10 reps when I greet him at night.  He laughs, I get my exercise; all good.  (Main problem is explaining to the older ones why zeidy can't give them the same "…

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…