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Are you thirsty?

By Rabbi Jonathan Tawil

Cognitive dissonance is a kind of armour that we build up to ward off information that we don’t want to hear. According to cognitive dissonance theory, we seek consistency among our beliefs. When there is dissonance between belief and behaviour, we change something to eliminate the dissonance. We could change our behaviour to accord with our beliefs, but usually, we change our attitude to accommodate our behaviour. It’s much less work!

For example: You buy an expensive car and take it for a drive to Manchester. Even though the car looked great in the showroom and handled well in town, you discover that on long drives, it’s about as comfortable as a wooden bench.

Dissonance exists between your beliefs that you have a) bought a good car, and b) that a good car should be comfortable. Dissonance could be eliminated by deciding that it doesn’t matter since the car is mainly used for short trips (reducing the importance of the dissonant belief) or focusing on the cars strengths such as safety, appearance, handling (thereby adding more consonant beliefs). The dissonance could also be eliminated by getting rid of the car — but that’s a lot harder than changing our beliefs.

Changing beliefs, working on ourselves, changing our character for the best all require a great deal of effort. The question is, are we ready to work on ourselves? Do we see this as important, or are we going to continue our robotic path in life.

The story is told of Morris, who goes to the rabbi and says, “I committed a sin and I want to know what I can do to repent.”
“What was the sin?” the rabbi asked.
“It happened just once,” Morris assures him. “I didn’t wash my hands and recite the blessing before eating bread.”
“Nu, if it really only happened once,” the rabbi said, “that’s not so terrible. Nonetheless, why did you neglect to wash your hands and recite the blessing?”
“I felt awkward Rabbi,” said Morris. “You see, I was in an un-kosher restaurant.”
The rabbi’s eyebrows arch. “And why were you eating in an un-kosher restaurant?”
“I had no choice,” Morris said. “All the kosher restaurants were closed.”
“And why were all the kosher restaurants closed?” the rabbi asked.
Morris replied, “It was Yom Kippur.”

Sometimes we are not very truthful with ourselves, we start with one small request, perhaps a small lust to do a sin, and we convince ourselves that such a small sin won’t hurt anyone. Then slowly, slowly one thing leads to another and before we know it we find ourselves performing a major sin.

What happened?

In this weeksParsha the Torah states that anyone who thinks that all the curses mentioned in the Torah will not apply to him, is mistaken. “”And it will be that when he hears the words of this curse, he will bless himself in his heart, saying, ‘Peace will be with me…to compound the moist with the thirsty’ ” (29:18)

Hashem emphatically states that no one is immune from punishment. There are no excuses. If a person knows the rules, he has learnt the Torah and nevertheless thinks that Shalom Yihyeh Li – I will be ok, this doesn’t apply to me, it applies to everyone else – then he is mistaken. We have to stop looking at the bad in others and also realise that there exists some bad in us. The way forward is to inspect ourselves. But there is a more important lesson to be learned from the above mentioned Pasuk. Let us take a deeper look. The Ramban asks what is meant by the words “in order to compound the moist (Rava) with the thirsty (Tseme’ah)”, what is it telling us?

The soul of man is pure. We are created with a content soul, but due to our body being physical our desires are physical. There is a constant battle between our soul which seeks closeness to Hashem and our body which seeks physicality’s. A content soul is called Rava. Its desires are satiated. A lustful person however, is called Tseme’ah –thirsty – they desire more and more. The Ramban explains that in the beginning a sin can seem far away, a persons lust can be controlled, but then a person opens the door – just once. He gives in to temptation. From then on its an upward battle because once he has tasted the lust he desires more, and the urge gets greater. The Torah teaches us that a person shouldn’t think Shalom Yihyeh li – all we be fine, its ok I will only do the sin once and then I will be good, because the Torah understand the psyche of man, and once you start the lust grows until eventually there is a massive thirst.

The smell of Rosh Hashanah is in the air, the cooking has started and the buying new cloths and preparation for the big day is in full swing. That is the physical side. How is our spiritual preparation, are we focusing on ourselves and are we building fences around those sins that we are prone too?

Wishing you all a GemarVeChatima Tova, may we all be written in the book of Life health and happiness with the coming of Mashiach speedily in our days Amen.tawil

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