Beit Midrash

  • Jewish Laws and Thoughts
  • Pathways in Personality Development
To dedicate this lesson

The Torah study is dedicated in the memory of

R. Avraham Ben David

3. "Zehirut"- Inhibiting and Contributing Factors

Part Three of "Pathways in Personality Development" Through the Torah one can comprehend the positive value of each good act and the severity of each bad act.


Rabbi Zalman Baruch Melamed

tamuz 5761
It is important to realize that an individual is not always capable of identifying his weaknesses unaided. There are some things which one can be made aware of only through the assistance of others. What's more, even after one has become familiar with his character traits, and understands which things need improvement, it's not always possible for a person, on his own, to find the proper way to mend that which needs mending; in this regard, too, he is in need of the advice of a professional. Professional advice is necessary not only in order to locate the problems, but for guidance in how to solve them as well.

And just who are these specialists through whom one can be helped? They are people with experience who have, themselves, dealt with these problems and have overcome them; have conquered their impulses, and know how to control themselves. The experienced can give advice concerning how to overcome difficulties and to attain self control; how to promote and to maintain those faculties which are healthy. The sages explain the words of the Torah (Numbers 21:27): "'Therefore the rulers say...' - Those who rule over their base inclinations say: 'Let us enter into an accounting.' - Come, let us calculate..." Those who rule over their base inclinations can assist others by virtue of their own experience.

The decision to devote attention to the mending of character traits is, in itself, an important step, yet this alone won't bring about a revolution. What is it that stimulates man to diligently continue in the task of mending his traits? The main stimulation is awareness of the importance of mending character traits and improving one's personal nature. This awareness expands and deepens as a result of Torah study. Through the Torah one can comprehend the positive value of each good act and the severity of each bad act. The better a person understands the significance of each and every act, each and every utterance, and each and every thought, right down to the most trivial notion; the more a person is aware of the value of his actions and their significance - the more he will strive to direct his actions towards kindness, and to distance himself from every unfavorable deed.

So - it is the study of Torah which brings man to"zehirut ," i.e. the contemplation of his actions, and this is what Rabbi Pinhas Ben Yair said: "Torah leads to zehirut ."
Conversely, there are three things which prevent man from attaining the attribute of zehirut . The first factor is preoccupation. One who is continuously preoccupied and busy, finds no time to sit down and think about himself. Therefore, one who wishes to work on improving his character traits must set aside time from his business and devote attention to this task.
The second factor is sarcasm and mockery. One who has accustomed himself to laugh off everything does not examine things as they actually are. Sarcasm and mockery are sometimes employed because of a desire to escape reality, it being too difficult to deal with. Yet, clearly, by running away from reality nothing is solved. Sarcasm and mockery are traits from which one must distance himself, for they, like drunkenness, make it difficult for a person to judge things in an accurate manner.

The third inhibiting factor is society. In a negative or superficial environment it is very difficult to go against the flow. Therefore, one who wants to improve himself, should withdraw from a poor environment, and affix himself to the Torah, for it leads to zehirut .
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