Friday, November 25, 2011

Uh Oh. Am I a Hypocrite?

Is the desire to be a doctor sufficient qualification to prescribe medication? How 'bout to perform surgery?
Is the desire to be an NFL champion good enough  to challenge top quarterback Joe Montana to a game?
In most areas in life, a desire is necessary to achieve the goal- but it serves no purpose on its own.
There is one area, though, where a simple desire is all you need. A sincere one, no doubt, but just a desire. A will.
Everybody knows that Esav's strongest point (besides his arrow) was his kibud av, honoring his father. When chaza"l choose to describe the essence of the commandment of honoring ones parents, they adopt Esav's performance as the epitome of observance of this mitzvah. They teach us that the honor Esav showed his parents was so superior, that in its merit alone he nearly superceded Yaakov.
If this is the case, I have a question. How could it be that Esav remained so bad? Doesn't a person better themselves through the performance of mitzvos? Why is this specific mitzvah so commonly found among people who otherwise place so little value in the Torah?
Obviously, for all the greatness of Esav's service to his parents, it was flawed. Although he displayed great respect toward them , this was not motivated by an inner source of holiness, but rather from personal selfish concerns. Some commentaries explain that his motivation was that he will receive the same honor from his own children. Others claim that he just wanted to impress his father. Whatever the case, he was obviously an incredible actor. He pulled off something no one in Hollywood would've been able to do.
Only when ones actions emanate from  a Divinely inspired source does this action have a spiritual influence on the rest of ones behavior.
Esav honored his parents for the wrong reasons and therefore remained the wicked person that he was.
Sometimes we see frum people doing things, saying things, or wearing things that seem to contradict their title as 'frum'. Some people like to call that hypocritical. I don't think that's necessarily accurate. It just might be that they simply never used their opportunities to internalize that which they grew up doing. Keeping shabbos, kosher, dressing and behaving modestly, are things that were taken for granted. They do it because it was taught to them in the cradle and they brought it up with them all the way to the chupah and beyond. Were their actions ever thought into? Were they ever analyzed? Possibly not.
So many of us do our mitzvos simply because we would never dream of not doing those things. But they're empty and meaningless. Therefore, they don't make us into better people and they don't lead us to holiness.
On the other hand,  a guy I know well was chozer b'teshuva (became Torah observant) about 6 years ago. He's an awesome guy. Recently he was complaining to me that he feels like a hypocrite. Everyone thinks the world and all the planets of him- but he knows he's not as good as they think he is. He has weaknesses and does aveiros that nobody knows about... and he feels he's making people think he's somebody that he's not.
You think he's alone out there?? He sure aint alone out there, but he sure is part of a minority who's bothered by it!
Lemme tell you what I told him. He is NOT a hypocrite. He just has a dream and a reality that are not yet synchronized. He has a goal, a desire to be a certain person in a certain place, and he's trying hard, but he's just not there yet. And his imperfections are deceiving him and scaring him.
Sometimes that can be debilitating.
The Rabenu Yonah quotes and interprets a possuk in mishlei: Ish l'fi m'halilu, A person is.....NOT what he eats...but WHAT HE PRAISES.
According to what or who he praises is how we can see what his innermost feelings are. If he praises talmidei chachamim- even if he himself isn't one yet, then that's what he's all about. We can assume he'll get there one day.
The opposite is true, too. A person who praises something or someone negative, that allows us a peak at his innermost feelings, too.
So... although we will never visit a doctor who is one just by desire to be one, we definitely can become someone we want to be spiritually simply by having a desire to be there.
So... whether you're a BT (Baal T'shuva) or an FFB (Frum From Birth)... there's one thing we all hafta be. An FFC: Frum From Choice.
"To be or want to be... that is the question"