Tuesday, September 4, 2012

HILKHOT TESHUBA Teshuba and blame displacement

In Maimonides' opinion Teshuba consists of three steps:

1. hakarat hachet, or admission of our personal responsibility .

2. viduy, or confession with sincere remorse for the wrong we have done

3. 'azibat hachet ,or the resolve to abandon our bad habits.

hakarat hachet is probably the most difficult challenge in Teshuba. Because we naturally tend to justify and rationalize whatever wrong we have done. Or, we might be tempted to play the oldest human game: "blame displacement".

Everyone knows that God punished Adam and Eve expelling them from Paradise. But why did He punish them? Was it because they ate from the forbidden tree?

Try this. Put on a table all kind of candies, sweets, and cakes in front of a six years old child. In the middle of the table place a simple cherry-tomato. Now, tell the child: 'You can eat whatever you want except for the tomato'. It will be only a matter of time until the child disobeys, leaves all the carb-loaded foods and grabs the tomato. The forbidden fruit syndrome triggers an irresistible curiosity and desire for what we cannot have, just because we cannot have it. According to Rabbi Yosef Albo (Spain, 1380-1444), Adam and Eve's sin was not eating from the fruit. God, he reasons, knew they will succumb. God wanted to train the first couple to take charge, confess and repent for their wrong actions. Knowing that making mistakes is part of the human nature, HaShem was teaching them the way to repair and reset: Teshuba!

Adam's original sin happened when God approached him and asked him: 'What did you do?' and instead of admitting his responsibility and asking for God's forgiveness Adam 'transferred' the blame to Eve saying: 'the woman that You gave to me (You=God. Adam was now blaming God!) she offered me the fruit'. Then God approached Eve and she said: 'It wasn't me! The serpent made me do it'.

'Blame displacement,' i.e., holding others responsible for our own misdeeds, is probably the main obstacle for repentance, or at least the oldest one.

Intellectuals solve problems; geniuses prevent them.

                                                                Albert Einstein