Shabbat Parashat Tetzaveh | 5770
Ein Ayah: Nature of Sin or of Goodness
Small Change in Approach: The recent survey of our readership found that more people than we would like found Ein Ayah to be cumbersome to read. We imagine that some element of that difficulty stems from the fact that we employed close to word for word translations. Although we treasure every word and nuance of Rav Kook, we now feel compelled to share with you a smaller percentage of Ein Ayah’s pieces and in a more condensed, reader friendly form. Our apologies to purists out there (including us). Let us note though that Rav Kook’s writings are deep and complex and that his works need to be studied with concentration.
Nature of Sin or of Goodness
(condensed from Berachot 3: 42-45)
Gemara: “Beware your legs when you go to the House of Hashem, and be close to listening rather than to the sacrifices that the foolish bring, for they do not know how to do bad” (Kohelet 4:17). Rava explained the pasuk: Be close to the ways of the wise, who, if they sin, bring a sacrifice and repent, as opposed to the foolish, who bring a sacrifice but do not repent. That which the foolish do not know evil means that since they do not know how to distinguish between good and bad, why are they bringing sacrifices?
Ein Ayah: The proper way to avoid sin is to set one’s natural characteristics in a pure and good path. This is symbolized by the legs of the wise. The legs represent locomotion, one of the most basic human natural attributes. If one’snature is proper, then even if he sins, it is a matter of chance. This temporary slip can be remedied by a sacrifice, as the repentance is a return to one’s nature. The foolish, in contrast, are far from the attributes of the wise, and their sacrifices do not suffice to bring them to a good path.
Also, the wise are able to discern when something is bad, and they feel the need to fix the divergence from their norm. The foolish are apt to be so far from a good nature, that even when they realize that they have “technically” sinned, they do not feel that it was an intrinsically bad act. They may think that the desires that brought them to sin are not bad things, and therefore they do not know about the bad that needs to be repented for.
There is another difference between the wise and the foolish. Some wise have perfected themselves to the point that they can use their negative characteristics, such as anger, pride, and jealousy, for good things. However, one who is steeped in a bad nature, while he may at times do good things because that is what the Torah decrees and he wants to avoid punishment, he will certainly not be able to use the aforementioned characteristics for good. That may be what the gemara means when it says that the foolish are not able to do bad, i.e., make good use of bad characteristics.
Never Forget the Small Things
(condensed from Berachot 3:47)
Gemara: Be careful about one’s organs of excrement when you stand before Me in prayer.
Ein Ayah: This simple gemara conveys a deep idea. A person should not think that when he is involved in the highest levels of completeness and involves himself in Torah, wisdom, and pure thought and actions, he need not concern himself with simple matters that are reflected in technical halachot. This would be wrong because even the smallest, apparently least significant deficiency, can cause missing out on major portions in one’s service of Hashem. Every small rule in the Torah is to be followed carefully. Whoever sanctifies himself through careful adherence to halachic detail below will be sanctified from Above and will have his intellect illuminated and his spirit raised.
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