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Thursday, 28 August 2014

The Talmud's Formula for Successful Sinning


Daf Yomi Moed Katan 17

Today's Life Yomi has been dedicated by Ram Romanovsky in memory of his brother, Raphael Pinchas ben Mendel z"l.  May the neshama have an aliya and may you be blessed with long life.

One of our wonderful daughters, who shall remain nameless, was an incessant thumb-sucker.  We tried everything – cajoling, bribing, using foul-tasting ointments – to no avail.  Then she entered grade one in school.  She was so excited and proud of being a big girl and wearing her school uniform.
“Do big girls suck their thumbs?” we asked her.  She thought about it for a while and eventually decided that it was indeed inappropriate for a big girl to suck her thumb and that was the last we saw of it (more or less!).

Rabbi Eli teaches: If a person sees that his evil inclination is overpowering him, he should go to a place where no one knows him.   He should wear black clothes and wrap himself in a black shawl.  He will do what his heart desires and he shall not desecrate the name of Heaven publicly. 

Rabbi Hai Gaon explains, “Certainly once he is wearing black, I guarantee that he will no longer desire to sin.”

Judaism’s traditional parenting technique is often coined the ‘es passt nisht’ method.  Es passt nisht means that it is unbefitting you to behave like that.  Instead of negative reinforcement – screaming at your child, getting upset at them – we ask them whether they feel that they are acting appropriately for their age and we strive to impress upon them that es passt nisht – it’s unbefitting you to behave the way you are acting, you can do much better!  And that was how we cured the thumb-sucking. 

But es passt nisht is not limited to parenting methodology.  As adults, we too have moments of weakness when our hearts get the better of us and we’re tempted to do something or even look at something we shouldn’t.  Rabbi Eli teaches you how to overcome your yetzer hara (evil inclination) employing the es passt nisht technique.

You’ve worked hard to build your reputation.  You are a respectable individual who is highly regarded.  Now picture yourself as a complete unknown.  “The clothes doth oft proclaim the man” – imagine you are donned in all black.   That is what could become of you if you sin.  You will lose every last bit of your dignity and the societal standing you have worked hard to achieve.  Is that what you want? 

Essentially you are telling yourself that es passt nisht for someone of your stature to behave in such a manner.  And that is why Rabbi Hai explains that this is a guaranteed formula for success in combatting the yetzer hara.  With this attitude, you will indeed do what your heart desires, which will be to run far away from sin, because es passt nisht – it’s unbecoming of someone like you to act that way!

You have worked hard to become who you are today.  Don’t let your yetzer hara convince you that it’s no big deal.  You are way better than that!  Imagine yourself as a nobody and your decision to do the right thing will be easy!

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