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Sunday, September 20, 2015
Scaling the mountain: thoughts on Yom Kippur
This is something I posted a few years ago.
I though of the Gemara about the difference in perspective on one's evil inclination, and by extensions, one's deeds. I mentioned it to me my son, and he said it was the subject of ashmooze [talk] at his yeshiva (in Queens), and his menahel [principal] actually interpreted it the same way I did while thinking about it. Consider, who has a bigger inclination for evil -- a good person or a bad person? One would think it is obvious that a bad person has a greater inclination for bad. But here the Gemara surprises us with the revelation of the future.
The source is Sukkah 52a. It says: "In the future, G-d will slaughter the yetzer hara [desire for evil] bring it before the righteous and the wicked. To the righteous, the yetzer hara will appear as a mountain and they will say, 'How did we conquer that great mountain?' To the wicked, the yetzer hara will appear as a hair and they will say, 'How did we fail to conquer that hair?'"
My son's menahel explained that the wicked consider the bad deeds to be no big deal. They see violating ethics, morality, and trust as no more consequential than a hair. The righteous, on the other hand, view bad deeds as monstrously huge -- more than a big deal. That attitude is what keeps them from sin. This attitude is one we see in people. There are people who view breaking their word or trampling on the feelings of another as nothing.
"You're reaction is all out of proportion," they may say to the person they've hurt' "you're making a mountain out of a molehill!" But the people who are truly good and trustworthy know that it is, in fact, a mountain -- a matter not to be overlooked. They appreciate the fact that breaking their word or hurting someone else's feelings or compromising the beliefs they espouse is a major deal. They realize that the hurt caused to another is not something to be brushed away as a matter of no consequence. So their merit is reflected in the moutainous size of their yetzer hara.