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Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Don't get caught

Yoma 81

Is my eleventh commandment, “Don’t get caught”?

Rabbi Gidel bar Menashe of Biri d’Neresh was teaching his congregation about the prohibition of drinking on Yom Kippur.  According to Rebbe, one is liable for drinking vinegar because it restores one’s vitality.  “I disagree,” said Rabbi Gidel, “one is not liable for drinking vinegar on Yom Kippur.”

The following Yom Kippur, the reports came back to the rabbi.  All day long, the people had been drinking vinegar.  After all, didn’t Rabbi Gidel say that vinegar is okay?  When Rabbi Gidel heard this, he was outraged.  “I never said that vinegar may be drunk on Yom Kippur, I simply explained that one would not be liable for punishment for consuming vinegar!”  Unfortunately, in the people’s minds, their calculation was, ‘If I’m not going to get punished for drinking the vinegar, then I may as well drink it.’

Most of us strive to be good people.  But what drives us?  Are we doing the right thing out of fear of punishment or getting caught?  Or are we doing it because it is fundamentally right?  Are we just waiting to break out of our shell of goodness to break the law when nobody is watching or are we fundamentally committed to doing the right thing, come what may?

If I want to truly consider myself a good person, I need to constantly ask myself, ‘if there were absolutely no negative repercussions to me, would I still act the same way?’  Once we can answer that in the affirmative, we have started on the right track to truly becoming a human being created in the image of G-d. 

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