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Hypocrisy

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by Mendel Adelman

MyLife Essay Contest 2015

Hypocrisy is considered by some to be the eighth cardinal sin of man. Being consistently evil is in some ways better than being inconsistently nice. Inconsistency is thought to be the hallmark of a man of weak character, of one who cannot decisively control his own actions. Hypocrisy is to be avoided like rush hour traffic.

This ingrained fear of hypocrisy in all its forms inhibits us from doing what we know should be done. There are times that an opportunity to do something good arises, and although we know what is right, we tell ourselves that our past misdeeds have already defined us to the extent that doing otherwise at this point would be contrary to our personalities. There are times when we feel like doing something positive, like putting on tefillin or lighting Shabbat candles, but we tell ourselves that it would be unforgivably hypocritical for a person such as ourselves, who is not religious, and will most likely transgress a myriad of laws in the immediate future to do something religious now. How can I, in good conscience, blithely put on tefillin while on my way to a non-kosher restaurant? How can I, with a feeling of complete personal integrity, light Shabbos candles right before I sit down to watch TV? We feel that we are incontrovertibly tethered to the past and future and fettered by previous and forthcoming misdeeds. This prevents us from taking full advantage of the precious moments of inspiration that chance upon us.

Chassidic thought starkly belays this immobilizing notion. Creation, it is explained in Chassidus (Tanya, Shaar Hayichud ViHaEmunah, Chapters 1-4), was not a one-time occurrence. Rather it is a process that is constantly in motion. Chassidus outlines the differences between G-d’s creations and ours. In our world, matter cannot be created, only its form changed. This is a basic tenet of modern physics. In such a world, all of our creations and actions have permanent results. A jug does not need the hands of the potter to retain its shape. However, when creating from nothingness, a constant power is needed to ensure that all existence does not revert to oblivion. Conversely, when G-d creates ex nihilo, it is not permanent, and needs constant upkeep to retain its shape and form.

The reason for this difference between our creation and G-d’s is that G-d’s force to create must overcome a natural resistance. Nothing prevents clay from taking the shape of a jug. However, an existence that seems independent of G-d is contrary to the natural order, in which there exists nothing outside of Him. In order for the world to remain in its state of independent existence, G-d must perpetually renew its energy; much like a ball, which naturally is pulled downward by gravity, constantly needs kinetic energy to keep it flying through the air.

This idea is expressed daily in our prayers, when we say ” המחדש בטובו בכל יום תמיד מעשה בראשית ”,
“He who renews daily and constantly the works of creation with His kindness”. Creation must be
renewed every instant in order for it to continue existing. In other words, G-d chose and continues to choose, to create the world at every point in time. If G-d wanted to destroy the world, He would need no rain of fireballs or floods, He would just cease to create, and all would revert to nothing.

The greatest affirmation and re-affirmation of the enduring value of existence in G-d’s eyes, is that it exists. This value is not dependent on what will occur or has already occurred. An omnipotent G-d who is not bound by time does not need one instant of time just as an inherently useless stepping stone to lead to another. This moment exists solely for its potential alone, and the energy giving us our current existence is unique to this moment. The life given to us now is not for what we might do in the future, but for what we can do right now. The past and future are not just inconsequential; they are as of yet non-existent.

If so, how could you hold back from doing the correct thing now because of a future that currently does not even have the potential to exist? As of now, it is presently the first and last moment of creation. Doing what is right in spite of what you have done or plan to do is not hypocritical at all; it is expected.

So, the next time we are staring at a stranger offering us the opportunity to put on tefillin, or at a pair of candles on a Friday night, we must know that what happened ten minutes ago and what might happen in ten minutes from now is irrelevant. Life is not made of series of ten minutes; it is made of singular moments to be capitalized on. Imagine if your entire life consisted of only this moment. How would you utilize it? So live in the moment, for truly, the moment is all there is.

Does Judaism have the answers to my personal dilemmas?

MyLife: Chassidus Applied

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