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Friday, 16 January 2015

Just say no

Daf Yomi Yevamos 103

After selling Joseph into slavery, Judah fell into a slump.  He realized he had sinned.  Sinned against his brother.  Sinned against his father.  Sinned against G-d.  He retreated from his family and found a Canaanite wife.  He began to keep the wrong crowd and his children found themselves brought up in a sinful environment, ultimately paying the price of the Canaanite influence. 

Eventually, he himself fell prey to the mores of Canaanite society, engaging in an inappropriate relationship.  It was only at the eleventh hour that he finally managed to extricate his soul from its tragic downward spiral; and as a consequence of his inner strength, he merited to have King David and Moshiach come from his offspring. 

Rabbi Yochanan taught: When the snake seduced Eve, he placed his poison in her.  When the nation of Israel stood at Mt. Sinai, the poison left them.

Sin is like a drug.  Once Eve gave in to temptation the first time, she had ingested the poison from the snake.  At that point, just like an addictive drug, once one has tasted sin, one finds oneself needing more and more of it just to stay satisfied.  Eve tasted sin and swallowed the drug and later Judah too began his downward spiral into a sinful life.

At Mt. Sinai, G-d removed the poison from within us.  It was the mass conversion of our people to “Judaism.”  All of a sudden, we were able to breathe fresh air and start anew.  The addiction was completely removed from us. 

But we are human and it didn’t take long for us to start sinning again.  We built a Golden Calf.  Only after Moses beseeched the Almighty, did He finally completely forgive our sin on Yom Kippur.  As a result, each year, we merit having the slate once again wiped clean.  In other words, the poison is removed from your body and you can breathe again, completely free of your addiction.

The trick, of course, is to avoiding the addiction in the first place.  When the snake comes to seduce you, it’s much easier to say no immediately, rather than swallow his venom.  Once the poison enters, it becomes addictive.  As hard as it feels, it’s time to wean yourself off the poison, because as long as you keep feeding it, it will get ever stronger.  Instead of retreating from his family, Judah should have immediately confessed his sin and repented.  Letting it fester only made things worse.

Maybe you have certain friends you’ve been keeping that you know are leading you astray.  Your inner snake tells you that if you leave their company, you will be all alone.  Maybe it’s certain inappropriate websites you’ve been clicking on.  Your inner snake is making it harder and harder to escape from the poison.  It’s become a drug that you just need more and more of.   Maybe it’s a gambling problem you’re dealing with.  Your inner snake tells you that next time will be the big win.

Sin is addictive.  The best way to avoid sin is to banish Satan’s seductive charm immediately.  May you merit the strength to ‘just say no’ and wean yourself off any poisonous influences in your life!  

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