Monday, February 01, 2010

No Person is Saved from these Transgressions

brought to you by Kollel Iyun Hadaf of Har Nof

The Gemora states: Rav Amram said in the name of Rav that there are three transgressions from which no person is saved every day. They are: thoughts of sin, examining one’s prayers (Rashbam – feeling overconfident that his tefillah will be answered positively; Tosfos – lack of concentration during tefillah), and lashon hara. The Gemora explains that lashon hara refers to avak lashon hara (close to being lashon hara).

What does the Gemora mean that “no man is saved” from these transgressions? Certainly there are great Tzadikim and Talmidei Chachamim who -- even if not entirely free of sin (see Koheles 7:20) -- do not transgress all of these transgressions every single day! How can the Gemora say that “no person” is saved from these three transgressions every day?

In addition, if no one is saved from these three transgressions, then why are they transgressions? Hashem certainly would not give commandments that are impossible to keep.

The Iyun Yaakov explains that the Gemora means to say that because the temptation for these three transgressions is so great, no person is saved from these three transgressions without putting forth much effort. Someone who puts forth the effort to protect himself from these transgressions, though, will succeed and will not succumb.

The Toras Chaim, however, does not seem to agree with this explanation. He asks why the Gemora says that “no person is saved” from these three transgressions, instead of saying simply that “there are three transgressions which a person transgresses every day.” He answers that the Gemora is teaching that even one who attempts to avoid these transgressions will not be saved from transgressing them inadvertently, since the frequency of the challenge of these transgressions is so great.

How, though, does the Toras Chaim explain that there are Tzadikim who are able to avoid these transgressions?

The Maharsha explains that when the Gemora says that “no person is saved” from these three transgressions, it is referring to an ordinary person, but not to Tzadikim, who indeed are saved from these transgressions. He explains that while only a Jew, and not a gentile, is called “Adam” (Yevamos 61a), there is still a much higher level that a person can reach. The verse in Zecharyah (3:7) says that when a person follows the ways of Hashem, then “I will give you strides among these [Mal’achim] standing here.” Similarly, the Gemora in Chagigah (15b) explains that the verse, “The lips of the Kohen shall safeguard knowledge, and they shall seek Torah from his mount, because he is an agent (Mal'ach) of Hashem...” (Malachi 2:7), is teaching that when a Torah teacher is similar to an angel, then one should seek to learn Torah from him. This teaches that a person should strive to reach a level of absolute submission to Hashem, like the level of the angels.

When the Gemora here says that “no person (Adam) is saved” from these three transgressions, it is referring to a person who has not yet reached this level of perfection in his Avodas Hashem. The Maharsha explains that the word “Adam” is an acronym for the words, “Efer” (ashes, dust), “Dam” (blood), and “Marah” (bile), as the Gemora in Sotah (5a) says. An ordinary person, whose physical composition dominates his actions, is not able to prevent himself from transgressing these three transgressions. The fact that he is comprised of “Efer” negates his ability to activate his spiritual strengths in order to pray properly, and thus he sins with the transgression of iyun tefillah. The heat of the “Dam” within him causes him to lust for immoral pleasure, and thus he is not saved from thoughts of sin. His element of “Marah,” bile, creates in him the bitterness that causes him to have bad Middos and leads him to speaking lashon hara.

A person who conquers the lusts created by his physical composition overcomes the pull of those elements and rises above the status of “Adam” (“Efer, Dam, Marah”) and becomes comparable to an angel. Such a person certainly is able to avoid transgressing these transgressions.