Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Did You do the Aveira You Heard about?

It is known that the Baal Shem Tov taught, based on the fact of hashgacha pratis over every detail of creation, that when ones witnesses another person committing an aveira, he must not view it as an unfortunate coincidence that he just "happened" to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and that's why he witnessed the sin. Rather, Hashem caused him to see the aveira in order to do him a favor by communicating to him that he has also done that aveira, or some lesser form of the aveira. He must therefore examine his deeds and heart in order to determine what his sin was so that he may do teshuva for it.

A couple of years ago, on the Shabbos when we read this week's parsha, Tazria-Metzora, Rav Weinberger took this concept to another level. He quoted, also in the name of the Baal Shem Tov, an amazing extension of the aforementioned concept. He taught based on one of the psukim in that parsha (something along the lines of "v'shav hakohein el beiso") that after the kohein examines the Metzora or helps him with his purification process, the kohein must then look within himself for his spiritual faults. Why? Tzara'as, we know, is the result of various sins. When the kohein meets someone with Tzara'as, he either hears about or sees the effects of sin (even though he did not witness the sin itself). He therefore must examine himself to see how he has commited a sin simmilar to the one committed by the Metzora.

As I was thinking about this extension of the more well known principle of the Baal Shem Tov to situations where one did not see an aveira, but "merely" hears about it or sees its effects, I thought that I can understand this as applied to someone like me, whose job (bankruptcy attorney) does not inherently involve hearing about aveiros. But some people have jobs that inherently involve listening to people reveal their and others' aveiros all day, every day! Do people like my Rebbe or therapists have to sit down at the end of the day, every day, and ask themselves how they have committed something like the sixteen aveiros they heard about that day at work?

Can it be that the Baal Shem Tov's principle is mechayev such a vast introspection so frequently for such people? Or was this only meant for people who irregularly see or hear about aveiros, like me, such that each one is more of a chidush? This is my question on this issue, so I decided to ask three people who study chassidus/penimius haTorah, who are also mental health professionals, this question (a psychologist, a social worker, and a psychiatrist). They all work with adults and very frequently hear about and see the effects of very serious aveiros.

I asked them whether they think the Baal Shem Tov's teaching was meant to apply to people like them who work in fields which inherently come across many more aveiros than other types of baalabatim. I thought that the general response I would get would be that it was unimaginable that the principle applied equally to people in their situation because if it did, how could such an approach be sustainable? "Derache'ha darchei noam." But I was surprised by the reactions.

The heilige Yidden who work as a psychiatrist and a social worker, respectively, both responded that they thought it did apply to them, and that they needed to work more on self-introspection to see how their clients' sins applied to them as well so that they could repair more of their internal faults.

The third person I spoke to. Rabbi Dr. Binyomin Tepfer, a psychologist, took issue with the assumption my question was based on.

He shared a teaching from Rav Yaakov Moshe Charlap, from Mei Marom, the talmid muvhak of Rav Kook, on the fact that Rivka was able to see Eisav's evil, but Yitzchak was not able to. He said that even though Rivka was a tzadekes, because she grew up in the house of a rasha, she had more of a shaychus to what evil was, and was therefore able to identify it in Eisav. Yitzchak, on the other hand, grew up in the house of a tzadik, Avraham Avinu, and in Eretz Hakodesh, the holy land, so he had no shaychus to evil. He may have heard about or witnessed evil acts, but he did not have the keilim, the tools, to process them, and probably attributed them to some factors external to Eisav, but not as a reflection of his true nature.

R. Dr. Tepfer said that he understood the Baal Shem Tov's teaching in a similar way. The issue is not whether light waves carrying an image of a person sinning reach a person's optic nerves, or whether sound waves carrying the sound of a person admitting a sin reach his ears. The issue is whether he really *sees* or really *hears* the aveira. If a kohein is a tzadik, he will not truly see the nega, the blemish, in the person who comes to him. He will just see a tzadik in front of him who, nebach, has some flaws covering his true self, which are completely external to his true nature.

Similarly, even for someone who regularly sees or hears about aveiros, the question is whether he sees the people in front of him as being truly deficient, as having nega'i'm, blemishes, as part of their identities. If a therapist or Rav has done teshuva for everything which is even similar to his client's sin, however, he looks at the clients or the people who come to him as really good, but who, unfortunately, have been damaged, and just need some (or a lot) of help to shed that external shell from themselves in order to reveal their true nature as holy Jews.

I have not yet been able to ask Rav Weinberger this question yet, but I did want to share my friends' insights into this very practical question.

IY"H, may we all be zoche to do teshuva so that no matter what happens outside of ourselves, we will only see the good in others.


chaim dovid said...

it could work well with the teaching of REBBE NACHMAN 282 find the good points in evry one.

DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...


Also, another important lesson from the Baal Shem Tov's teaching is that because one is only shown faults in others that he himself possesses, if he judges others negatively, then he is actually judging himself negatively.

So like you said, best to see the nekudos tovos in one's self and in others! It's a matter of personal safety!

Anonymous said...

OMG, it actually happened to me! I heard a sickening story about someone else, passed it to a friend with a righteous indignation, then accidentally fell and broke my hand right after that conversation, only to realize that in a way the story was about me.

Anonymous said...

Fascinating. And please post what RMW says.


Boruch Leff