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Sunday, 25 May 2014

Do we believe in Original Sin?


Rosh Hashanah 17

Today’s Life Yomi has been dedicated by Andrew Gergely in honour of his wife Aliya Spigelman’s birthday.  Till 120 in good health! 

Do you ever feel so tied down by your past that you just can’t move forward?

When regular counseling fails to work, mental health professionals sometimes turn to hypnotherapy as a tool to guide their clients.  The goal is to pinpoint the moment when the challenges began.  If they can reconstruct the moment and choose an alternative direction, perhaps then the butterfly effect that has led the person to this unfortunate point may be rectified. 

Many problems that people experience in their lives today are due to deep-seated issues that began way back in their past and are embedded in their subconscious.  If the original point of departure can be mended, the consequences will hopefully fall into place. 

One of the thirteen attributes of G-d’s mercy is that He is “abundantly kind.”  The House of Hillel teaches that the Torah means that G-d “tips [the scales] in favour of kindness.”

The academy of Rabbi Ishmael explains: When an individual is being judged by Heaven, G-d “removes the first sin first.”  Imagine all the merits are on one side of the scale and all the sins on the other.  G-d, in His abundant kindness, extracts the first sin that the person committed and allows the scales to tilt to the side of merit.

How does that work?  It makes sense if the merits and sins are more or less equal.  Take away one sin and the scales are now imbalanced in favour of the merit side.  But what if the person has many more sins than merits?   Simply removing one sin won’t achieve anything!

The key to understanding Rabbi Ishmael’s statement is in the fact that G-d is removing the first sin.   Oftentimes, it’s that first sin that leads the person astray.  At that critical juncture, the individual was tested.  Exercising his free will, he unfortunately chose to sin.  What then happens, though, is that he triggers a chain reaction where he ends up committing a slew of further sins in the wake of the first transgression.  

The reason that G-d sees fit to remove the initial sin is that in reality that was the only time the person acted of his own volition.  All subsequent misbehaviour was merely the consequence of his ‘original sin.’  And so those sins don’t really weigh much on the scales.  Remove the big sin and the scales automatically tip in favour of the side of merit.

The key to improving your relationship with the Almighty is look back on your life and figure out the turning point that led you on a path that parted ways with your ideal spiritual direction.  If you can pinpoint the decision you made that triggered your current path, you can work on redirecting yourself towards a different path in life.

Often it was just one bad decision that led you to where you are today.  Don’t let one mistake determine the rest of your life!  If G-d can remove that impediment, so can you!  Find the fork in the road, backtrack and take the other path. 

All roads may lead to Rome but very few lead to Jerusalem.  Set yourself on the right path in life and spiritual success will follow! 

Life Yomi dedications don’t cost a penny!  To dedicate a day of learning in honour of a birthday, anniversary or yortzeit, all you need to do is commit to sending the Life Yomi of the day (or another Life Yomi teaching of your choice) to 18 (chai) people!  You needn’t provide us with the names of recipients; all we need is the honouree’s name and occasion.  For more details, please email rabbi@familyshul.org