THE SIGN OF BELIEF
Parashat Acharei Mot – KedoshimÂ In
order for a coach to be a good coach, a Rebbi to be a good Rebbi, a parent to be a good parent, and a boss be a good boss, he needs to look at his client, student, child, employee, as if they are wearing an invisible sign around their neck. The sign reads, in big, red, bold letters, “Please! Believe in me!”
Our Rabbis teach,Â Â Â ×œ×¢×•×œ× ×™××›×œ ××“× ×•×™×©×ª×”, ×¤×—×•×ª ×ž×ž×” ×©×™×© ×œ×•; ×•×™×œ×‘×© ×•×™×ª×›×¡×”, ×‘×ž×” ×©×™×© ×œ×•; ×•×™×›×‘×“ ××©×ª×• ×•×‘× ×™×• ×™×•×ª×¨ ×ž×ž×” ×©×™×© ×œ×•. A person should eat and drink on a lower standard than what is within his means, dress in accordance with what he has, and honor his wife and children with food and clothing even beyond his ability. R’ Chaim Shmuelevitz explains this. When Daddy provides Mom and the kids with their needs on a higher standard than he is technically able to, this is not wasting money, but making a great investment. For, when the family gets a respectable standard of food and clothing from their father, they believe in him – they are confident that he is capable. They say to themselves,Â Papa, we believe in you! And that is one of the greatest resources a person can have. That the people in your life believe in you.
Unfortunately, though, this works two ways. In this week’s Parasha, we learn how badly negative beliefs can affect us.
××™×© ××™×© ××œ ×›×œ ×©××¨ ×‘×©×¨×• ×œ× ×ª×§×¨×‘×• ×œ×’×œ×•×ª ×¢×¨×•×” ×× ×™ ×”’Â No man shall come near to any of his relatives for marital relations; I am G-d. (Vayikra 18 6).
What is the boundary that the Torah made for this statement? A man shall not come near?… From here, we learn that Yichud, remaining together alone in a secluded area, is forbidden. Even with one’s sister , one’s daughter and mother-in-law (under certain circumstances). Why? Because people who see the two in seclusion and do not know that they are related may get the wrong idea. A person shall not “shmooze” with a woman in the marketplace, even if she is his wife. And certainly, not with another woman, for people may interpret this negatively. A man should not walk behind his wife in the marketplace, and surely not behind another woman – for people may misinterpret it.( See Avot dR’ Natan Perek B)
I always thought yichud is forbidden as a boundary, a prevention. I always thought that the problem with shmoozing with the opposite gender is that you might get too close. But R’ Natan taught me that I have the wrong p’shat; I totally misunderstood.Â It’s because of what other people might think.
Isn’t this a little extreme or somewhat fanatic, to care so much what other people think? Whatever they say is not my problem!?! Good question. Even though scientifically, this doesn’t make sense, mathematically, it does not add up, this belief stuff somehow greatly impacts our lives.
R’ Yochanan said, Better to walk behind a lion, than to walk behind a woman. (Rashi – A forbidden woman.) Better to walk behind a woman than to walk behind idolatry. (Rashi – one might stray after the idolatry and become an Apikoros). Better to walk behind idolatry than to walk behind the town’s only synagogue where the townspeople are praying, and not enter. (Rashi – For then, he looks like a kofer, a nonbeliever, for he stands outside the shul and does not enter.) (See Eiruvin 18b)
Why are we to take greater caution not to give a wrong impression than to risk straying after idolatry?
What people believe about you, and what you believe in yourself, are actually predictions of your performance. What you expect is what you get! To take control of your life, you need to believe in yourself, to expect from yourself the best. A famous study proves this point : A teacher informed her successor that two actually mediocre pupils were, in fact, outstanding.Â Instead of getting B- marks, the two finished the year with A+.Â Because humans are “wired” to live up to expectations!
One of the greatest secrets behind self discipline is belief in yourself. How you perceive yourself can change the position you are in towards sin. If you are too haughty, you need some reminders to humble yourself. If your self esteem or self worth is low, you need to build yourself back up.
The Mishna in Avot says, ×”×¡×ª×›×œ ×‘×©×œ×©×” ×“×‘×¨×™× ×•××™ ××ª×” ×‘× ×œ×™×“×™ ×¢×‘×™×¨×”Â – ×“×¢ ×ž××™×Ÿ ×‘××ª ×•×œ××Ÿ ××ª×” ×”×•×œ×š ×•×œ×¤× ×™ ×ž×™ ××ª ×¢×ª×™×“ ×œ×™×ª×Ÿ ×“×™×Ÿ ×•×—×©×‘×•×Ÿ . ×ž×˜×¤×” ×¡×¨×•×—×”… ×œ×ž×§×•× ×¢×¤×¨ ×¨×ž×” ×•×ª×•×œ×¢×”… ×œ×¤× ×™ ×ž×œ×š ×ž×œ×›×™ ×”×ž×œ×›×™× ×”×§×‘”×”. Focus on three things, and you will not come to sin. Know where you came from, from a putrid drop (of seed). Know where you going, to a place of worms (the grave). And know in front of Whom you are going to give accounting, in front of the King of Kings, Blessed be He. (Avot 3; 1)
This is the secret recipe for humility, so that you won’t get anywhere near sin. R’ Chaim Volozhin, gives us the alternate route to stay away from sin. R Chaim points to a ‘mantra’ of R’ Akiva, later in the chapter.( 3 14) ×—×‘×™×‘ ××“× ×©× ×‘×¨× ×‘×¦×œ× , ×—×‘×™×‘×™×Ÿ ×™×©×¨××œ ×©× ×§×¨××• ×‘× ×™× ×œ×ž×§×•× , ×—×‘×™×‘×™×Ÿ ×™×©×¨××œ ×©× ×ª×Ÿ ×œ×”× ×›×œ×™ ×—×ž×“×” Â . Beloved is man, for he is created in G-d’s Image. Beloved are Yisrael, for they are called Sons of G-d. Beloved are Yisrael, that they were given a Kli Hemdah, the Torah, G-d’s precious treasure. This is the secret ingredient to internalize the belief in one’s self, and to rebuild one’s self perspective, so that he won’t find himself in the position of sin.
Look at yourself as part of G-d’s Image. You are irreversibly good; just take yourself seriously. You were given the Torah, G-d’s treasure. You are a Ben Torah. You learn, or learnt, in Yeshiva. And G-d loves you with a special, fatherly love. Even if no one else believes in you, He does. ×-×œ ××ž×•× ×”. (Devarim 32 4) For if G-d did not believe in you, he would not keep you around.(See Yalkut ShimoniÂ 942)