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Shabbat Parashat Chayei Sara 5778

Ein Ayah: Representative and External Sins

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Shabbat 5:64-65)

Gemara: Rav said: When you look deeply into David, you will not find a sin except for that of Uriya (arranging his death), as the pasuk says: “… only in the matter of Uriya the Chittite” (Melachim I, 15:5). Abayei Keshisha brought an apparent contradiction within Rav: didn’t Rav say that David accepted lashon hara (negative talk about others)? This is a question.


Ein Ayah: There are two ways in which we evaluate a person based on those of his actions that we see. Usually, an action, even an individual one, will not be mentioned to teach about itself but to serve as an indication of the nature and value of the person who performed the action.

On the other hand, there are times when we will be made aware of an action that is not at all related to the character and moral fiber of the person who performs it but is based on external factors. In those cases, there are some reasons that caused the action to occur other than the person’s spirit and level. This can apply both to positive and negative actions.

To make a determination that a person’s action does not relate to his character requires a deep perspective of his character from several perspectives. Only then can we say that the action was an isolated, non-representative matter. This is what Rav was able to do in regard to David. He looked into all of David’s life’s activities and his characteristics, and he did not find another sin that was representative of a personality flaw, but only things that were external to him. Only the matter of Uriya was something that one needs to consider in viewing David’s value as a person.

Someone whose spirit is healthy and strong may still be capable of perpetrating a sin that will chance upon him in an exceptional manner. However, that only occurs when the action is something that is inspired from itself, when a foreign characteristic or some difficult-to-define thought comes about that causes him to sin without realizing what was happening. However, it is not possible for a morally healthy person to be influenced by others on a matter of moral weakness. That is because he should be able to find the moral fortitude to follow his own line of actions even when someone else is trying to pull him in a different direction.

It must be, rather, that the sinner had a weakness in his spirit which made him soft and vulnerable to the influence of an outside force pulling him away from his usual good behavior. If he were strong, he would have had the inner power to repel and protest that which comes from the outside.

Thus, it could not be that David would accept lashon hara which someone else told him if he was not morally susceptible to allowing such a sin. [That is why it is an apparent contradiction regarding whether Rav posited that David’s character was stained only in regard to the matter of Uriya or also regarding lashon hara.]
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