Mattos : A Happy Guilt

My daughter decided to get together with some friends for a small “pizza party.”  They went to a particular park that has a small, artificial pond in it, and newly acquired “ducks.”  I assume they are ducks; they are certainly not the ducks we grew up with.  They’re white and red, and larger.  I guess they’re Israeli ducks.


Anyhow, as they sat down and opened the pizza, the ducks immediately left the pond and surrounded the girls.  Then the ravens, sensing the action, came and joined in their siege against the pizza-eating girls.  Of course, they started to freak out, not knowing where to go or what to do, since they were literally surrounded.  Finally, one of the ravens moved, made an opening, and the girls, with pizza in tow, made a break for it.


What I would have paid to see that!


“Cities of refuge they shall be for you, and the murderer who killed someone unintentionally shall flee there”  (Bamidbar 35:11).


The Chidushai HaRim writes that if a Jewish person accidentally killed a person, he will feel a tremendous amount of guilt.  Then Hashem will say, “Go into exile of the refuge city and you will be saved.”  A person who goes to such a city will feel some relief for the guilt he carried.  However, says the Chidushai HaRim, if a person does not carry these feelings with him, and feels that he’s still part of this world, then the city of refuge is not for him.


We see from here that having guilt over a sin committed, even unintentionally, is a sign of a healthy person.  Of course, one cannot have too much of it, but on the other hand, one cannot be immune to such feelings.


I remember a few years ago, our morning minyan was having issues with people showing up on time, making people wait for them and causing it to go longer than it should have.  Unfortunately, many of the guilty parties are people who really should know better. At one point, after davening, I got up and asked that people start coming on time, and that it’s not fair to those who do come on time.  Right after I finished, somebody, one of those who REALLY should know better, came up to me and asked, “Where do you learn that we have to come on time?”  I thought something got lost in translation, so I asked him to repeat what he said, and when I confirmed the . . . utter stupidity . . . of such a question, I told him that there is a Gemara in Brachos that says that when Hashem comes to a minyan and there is no minyan yet, then He gets angry at such a congregation, and to make things even more fun, I showed him some of the commentaries on this Gemara.  He gave me a "thank you," and I’m “happy” say that not only did he NOT change his ways, but his older sons are even worse than he is.


When a person learns a new halacha, or receives legitimate rebuke, or hears a talk about a particular topic in which he can improve, and he doesn’t feel anything, that’s a sign that things are not 100 percent okay with this person.  Had this person said (or kept quiet and let me assume this was the issue), “You know, you’re right, but it’s really hard for me to get up in the morning, no matter how much I try,” then you know you’re dealing with a normal person who is battling his Yetzer Horah.  However, if a person has no feelings, and has no desire to change whatsoever, than “the city of refuge is not for him.”


So, the next time you learn something new about something you were not doing correctly, and you feel some guilt about it . . . be happy!  Unlike many in this world, you’re actually right on track.  Use that guilt to improve yourself, and then quickly throw it in the garbage.  Then you can use your happiness, knowing that you were able to improve in this particular area, to continue.


Have a great Shabbos!


Michael Winner