In this issue

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Sept. 19, 2007 / 7 Tishrei 5768,

Say that man had never been created . . .

By Rabbi Hillel Goldberg

Printer Friendly Version

Email this article

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Sin is unpopular. Strangely, it is left out of the discussions of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The hope is for a happy and healthy new year; the deeper spiritual words are renewal and hope. Even when introspection is included, this is taken to mean an examination of our character, or our relationships. The mood is clear: The High Holidays are "high," while sin is a downer. In an effort to attract Jews to High Holiday services, their meaning is sugarcoated.

If only it were so simple.

The discomfort with sin really amounts to a belief that people are immutable and will never change. A sin is an act, a violation. If people cannot change their actions, however slightly, then the High Holidays become a wasted opportunity.

A relevant discussion in the Talmud is found in tractate Eruvin. It reads:

"The Sages taught: For two-and-a-half years the school of Shammai and the school of Hillel debated the following question: The school of Shammai would say: It would have been better for a person not to have been created [because sin is so difficult to withstand]. The school of Hillel would say: It is better for a person to have been created than not [for now the person can perform G-d's will]."

One can only imagine the points in more than two years of debate on this most profound of existential questions. Finally, a vote was taken. The school of Shammai garnered the most votes. The Talmud continues accordingly:

"It would have been better for a person not to have been created. However, now that he has been created, let him search his deeds. And others have the version, let him examine his deeds."

Life is tough — it would have been better had we not been created. So voted the ancient sages. But we have been created. We are here. What now? We must search our deeds. Or examine our deeds.

What is the difference?

Rashi says that to search one's deeds is to examine one's past for sins and to confess — to repent. To examine one's deeds is to engage in a spiritual cost-benefit analysis. If an opportunity arises to perform a good deed, a mitzvah (the opposite of a sin), consider the reward for doing the right thing over against the penalty for not doing so. Conversely, if an opportunity to sin arises, consider the reward for resisting it as over against the penalty for giving in.

To search one's deeds is to look to the past; to examine one's deeds is to look to the future.

The High Holidays are about both the past and the future. And in either case they are about deeds, not just adjustments in awareness. It is deeds that take us to, and deter us from, a higher level of holiness.

Rabbi Israel Salanter made a counterintuitive point: the best way to improve one's deeds, to reduce one's sin, is to do a good deed. Sounds circular. How can I do a good deed to motivate me to do a good deed?

The rabbi meant this: Small changes in behavior have a far greater impact on one's capacity to follow the Torah than big changes in intention. If one aspires to big behavioral changes, start small — but start with actions.

Mike Comins founded TorahTrek Spiritual Wilderness Adventures. He recently published A Wild Faith: Jewish Ways into Wilderness, Wilderness Ways into Judaism (Jewish Lights).

Much about the book is attractive. One of the highlights of my year is when I pray with a minyan at 13,000 feet, at the base of Mt. Evans. There is a danger, however, to placing skiing, hiking, sightseeing in the mountains (or gazing at other wonders of G-d's creation) at the center of one's spiritual quest.

That danger appears in Comins book. I quote:

"Now I sense that if I can connect myself to G-d's good world, physically as well as spiritually, the grip of my bad habits loosens.

"As I am drawn by the experience of awe in the natural world, I become the kind of person who lives in receptive mode and experiences I-Thou.

"Rather than dwelling in guilt about my bad traits, I am pulled toward new paradigms and possibilities."

The pitfall in all this is the vagueness. "Bad habits," "receptive mode," "bad traits," "new paradigms" — these abstractions work, but only if built on a careful comparison of my actual deeds to the deeds that the Torah asks every Jew to do. The right deeds — mitzvahs— and the wrong ones — sin — are the heart of the matter. I may well be inspired in the mountains, but if, as a consequence, the temptations to which I fall prey — cheating on taxes or violating Sabbath, whatever — do not change, then a "new paradigm" will not help. Abstract spiritual goals are built up from changes in behavior, not the other way around.

This, then, is the gift of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur: to identify our sins and know that they are not immutable; then to change them, even if only in small steps.

The opposite of sin is not salvation — another abstraction — but another dollar given to tzedakah (charity), another verse of the Torah understood, another moment at prayer, another unkind remark held back. Another sin repented or avoided. Another mitzvah (religious duty) done.

The hard part is in the honesty and depth of self-examination — and the strength to maintain the motivation to change after the High Holidays are over.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes inspiring articles. Sign up for our daily update. It's free. Just click here.

Comment by clicking here.

JWR contributor Rabbi Hillel Goldberg is Executive Editor of the Intermountain Jewish News.

© 2007, Rabbi Hillel Goldberg