Thursday, October 27, 2011

A sound rebuke from the Chafetz Chaim

I remember one of my rebbeim, Rav Yitzchak Cohen, noting the hypocrisy of saying about the words of Torah "כי הם חיינו ואורך ימינו ובהם נהגה יומם ולילה (These are our life and the length of our days, and we will speak them day and night)" in the daily Maariv prayer, and then not living them and committing serious time to learn Torah. How can we call these "our life", and not treat them that way?

Rav Cohen had similar feelings about the line at the end of the amidah, "יהיו לרצון אמרי פי והגיון לבי לפניך (May the declarations of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart be desirable before You)," a declaration that often comes right after 3-4 minutes of meandering thoughts. Am I asking for my thoughts about exams, sports, and who knows what else to be desirable to Gd?

I was reminded of that the other day, when I read the Chafetz Chaim's words in Shem Olam, Volume 2, Chapter 11:

One comes to shul and stands and declares before Gd that he will sanctify His Name in the world as do the celestial hosts of Heaven. In the course of this he departs the Beit Midrash and someone offends his honor, and fire comes from his mouth and he removes his mind entirely from serving Gd, and he dirties his soul with various prohibitions, harmful speech, gossip, strife, mockery, sometimes also theft and taking by force.

Within some hours he returns to the Beit Midrash to daven minchah with the community before Gd, and he returns and cloaks himself in the sanctity of an angel, saying, 'We will sanctify Your Name in the world, as they sanctify it in the Heavens!'

'Nuff said.


  1. Also, don't forget that if you commute in your car to work each day (like me) it's a great opportunity to learn. There are potentially many hours of driving per week you can either be learning (by listening to MP3s) or listening to the same news over and over and over....

  2. You make hypocrisy sound like something bad. But it's not hypocrisy. It's a goal. We are expressing fealty to the ideal.

    If you smile, it makes you happy. If you daven, you eventually internalize the values.

  3. Melech-
    I'd think it's one thing to justify and understand falling short, another thing to accept it...

  4. 31, 2011 at 9:25 PM

    The guilt argument? One's measure of frumkeit is commensurate with the amount of his guilt?

    But what is wrong with expressing an ideal knowing we fall short?

    As long as we feel sufficiently guilty for falling short? But what if we know the ideal, fall short, and accept that reality without the baggage of guilt? What if we are emotionally healthy in accepting our shortcomings?

    Why are the only good Jews the ones who use the correct expressions of guilt?

  5. Melech-
    I don't think I'm opposing expressing an ideal, and I know I'm not defining who is, and is not, a good Jew.

    Express ideals! And then work hard toward fulfilling them.