Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Thoughts of Sin

"הרהורי עבירה קשו מעבירה"

“The thoughts of sin are worse than sin itself.” The Toras Avos zt”l explains that “thoughts” refers to the character defects that are the growth medium in which sin propagates. What makes those defects worse is that they also provide the mechanism by which we rationalize that the sins are actually mitzvos. And if we feel that the sin was justified, that it was a mitzvah, how can we possibly repent of it? Even Yom Kippur cannot atone for sins to which we don’t admit, and that we don’t regret!

The author of the Tumim zt”l was in a certain city for Yom Kippur, seated on the eastern wall next to a prominent resident. His neighbor clearly prayed with intense concentration and emotion, and focused especially on the words, “I am dust during my lifetime, and all the more so after death.” He repeated the phrase over and over, and wept over each word, long after everyone had finished their prayers. When he finally finished, the gabbai notified him that he was to receive a certain aliyah.

The prominent man responded as passionately as he prayed—but quite a bit louder. “Are you meshuggah? How can you give me an aliyah that isn’t shlishi or shishi?”

The Tumim couldn’t restrain himself. “Just this very moment you were crying intensely that you are nothing but dust! How can you possibly argue with the gabbai for not honoring your distinguished self?”

His disgruntled neighbor defended himself. “True, I cried about the fact that I am dust before Hashem…but what does that have to do with how I speak to the gabbai? Just because I’m dust, it doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have to give me shlishi! What a chutzpah!”

Afterward, the Tumim remarked, “You see how it is possible to cry intensely for a long time that one is just dust, and not believe it for a single moment!”

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