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Thought for the Day: Making Mistakes in Avodas HaShem

My seven year old grandson has a quite advanced sense of humor.  One afternoon at carpool, his mother said good night to one of her students, Mayer.  My grandson, in mock shock said, "Mom!  You are so mean!"  She didn't know what he was talking about, so... with a huge smile on his face, he said, "You told him he should have a bad dream when you told him to have a good nightmare."  He got a lot of positive feedback on that joke.

Here's one where he got less than positive feedback.  He asked his mother for something, was told no, and replied, "Perhaps you'd like to think about it and give me a different answer."  If it had been a sitcom 30 years ago (last time I saw one), then the laugh track would have been guffawing at that parent being once again upstaged by the precocious child (or at least, made up to be child looking) star.  However, this was real life in an Orthodox Jewish home.  He got appropriate mussar and I suspect he will not repeat that mistake again.  I say "mistake", because he really didn't have intention to be rebellious.  He thought it would be taken as a funny way for him to say that he really wanted whatever he had been denied.  He was wrong, but it was an honest mistake; sort of "growing pains" of a budding sense of humor.  (By the way, I merited to have all of my grandchildren under one roof for a month this summer, so don't think this is the end of cute grandchild stories; I'm just getting started.)

Chazal (Brachos 29a) discuss what R' Yehoshua means when he says that before there were siddurim, that a person should say מעין שמונה עשרה/sort of sh'moneh esrei each day.  Everyone agrees that the first and last three brachos are always the same, the question is only on the 13 middle petitions.  Rav says he means that one may shorten up each of the intervening petitions.  Shmuel, though, says that R' Yehoshua means the prayer that we call הבנינו, a one sentence summary that encapsulates and expresses the essence of all our petitions.  Obviously that words are chosen with extreme care.  One phrase is "judge those who make a mistake about Your opinion".  Rashi (first explanation) says that means those who transgress Your words; ie, the sinners.

I thought it was an amazing way to look at sin.  Really, a Jew wants his actions to express what HaShem desires, but be err in our judgement.  We are immature in our thought, so we make mistakes.  R' Aaron Lopiansky said he was asked how we can know if we are making the right decisions.  He answered, "Did you think about it?  Do you make a considered choice, weighing all the factors?  Then you made the right decision, whether or not you did the right thing."

Our job as human beings and Jews is not to never make mistakes; that's for beings without free will -- angels and animals.  Our job is to use our G-d Given intellect to make reasoned choices instead of being lead around by our desires.


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