Saturday, August 21, 2010

238 - Ki Seitzei

The Torah describes Amaleik's encounter with Bnei Yisroel with the words, "they 'cooled you off' on the way." Rashi explains this enigmatic description with a mashal of a man who jumps into a boiling cauldron of water. Even though this senseless person who jumped in first got scalded terribly, nonetheless, he cooled down the water for all those who enter after him. Likewise, although Amaleik lost the war against Bnei Yisroel, they still succeeded in paving the way for others to wage war against Bnei Yisroel.

Rav Wolbe asks that why shouldn't the opposite be true? If someone witnesses a person get burnt horribly and observes him being rushed to the hospital, wouldn't that be the ultimate deterrent to copying the act that brought about such serious consequences?

The answer lies in understanding the instinct people have to mimic the actions of others. The urge is so great that it causes people to perform actions that can be categorized as downright foolish. Amaleik knew they would get burnt, but they also knew that the rest of the nations would follow in their ways and attack Bnei Yisroel.

As we prepare ourselves for Rosh Hashana, we should keep this idea in mind when taking an inventory of our actions. How many of them are performed simply "because that's what everybody else does?" Do we perform or refrain from a specific actions as an outcome of a conscious decision, or merely because we are mimicking the actions of others. If the latter is true, we should determine if any of those actions can be categorized as downright foolish?

Chazal tell us that on Rosh Hashana we stand before Hashem like sheep that pass through the corral door one at a time. We and only we are responsible for our actions, and at the time of judgment we won't be able to blame them on anyone else. A few minutes a week of time with oneself - without a radio, ipod or MP3 - can be very effective in determining where we stand. It's a small investment that can reap great benefits!

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