Prior to entering Eretz Cana’an, Moshe Rabbeinu warns the Bnei Yisroel about the challenges ahead. The pasuk recounts that when they left Mitzrayim ‘you saw their abominations and their nauseating idols [of] wood and stone, etc. Perhaps there is among you a man, woman, family, or tribe, whose heart strays this day from Hashem, our God, to go and worship the divinity of those nations. Perhaps there is among you a root that produces gall and horehound. And it will be, when he [such a person] hears the words of this oath, that he will bless himself in his heart, saying, “I will have peace, even if I follow my heart’s desires,” in order to add the [punishment for the] unintentional sins [of this man] to that of [his] intentional sins (29; 16-18).’ This person will say to himself that there were no lasting influences on him and that these unfortunate occurrences only happen to other people. The whole shvua and the klalos ‘do not pertain to me.’
The question that is troubling is how can you have someone who was exposed to the ways of avodah zara, yet assumes that these klalos aren’t relevant to him and assumes he’ll be saved? Why would this person think that he won’t be affected?
Harav Elyashav, shlit”a, offers an explanation-with a beautiful idea.
The gemarah in avoda zara (14b) says that Avraham avinu’s mesechta avodah zara consisted of 400 perakim. What did it say in Avraham’s version that we don’t currently have in ours? It said that there are many forms of avodah zara. For example, one who acts haughty; one who turns his heart away from tzedaka; one who personifies selfish character traits – the list goes on. Such was inside Avraham avinu’s edition. Meaning to say, you can have a person that actually served avodah zara or who possesses these specific traits that are deep within his heart. If he doesn’t get rid of them it can drag him down and lead him to avodah zara mamash. The reason being, that the roots have already been planted. The Ramban says that the words ‘shoresh poreh rosh vla’ana’ is p’shat that these are the roots that were transmitted from generation to generation. Someone who had a tendency or natural inclination in their genes has to worry-because it can rear its ugly head into their descendants, generations later.
The gemarah in berachos (31) asks, what is avodah zara compared to? Shmuel says it’s compared to a kernel of wheat. Just like you plant a small seed in the ground-it dissolves and in a small amount of time it begins to flourish and blossom. Similarly, regarding avodah zara-the yetzer hara is quiet at the beginning and you might think it has been dissolved and it had no affect on you. Over a small period of time though, he blossoms and pops up bigger and better with more life to him now than when he planted himself in you to begin with.
In the aformentioned pasuk, you have a person walking around thinking he’s a good yid. He learns and davens, all while not realizing that he has within him the seed that produces avodah zara. The pasuk is talking about this type of person; not that he actually served avoda zara, yet he possesses all the defining character traits that prove he has the seeds in him that can lead him to actually serve avodah zara. Such a person will say ‘it’s not nogeah me’ because he doesn’t even know he has that seed within the walls of his heart. A person has to realize that it’s only through Torah, which is the tavlin for the yetzer hara, that a person can recognize what these destructive traits are and learn to avoid them.
One has to be conscious and work on those midos that can implant the seeds of avodah zara within the walls of his heart. A person who doesn’t treat people properly or doesn’t respect other people’s money are a tell tale sign that warn us-if you don’t rip out the root you may ultimately wind up committing these horrific aveiros.
May we all be zoche to weed out these repulsive character traits and never allow the yetzer hara to win the battle.
HAVE A GREAT SHABBOS.
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