Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Pot of Murky Waters

Question of the Week:

I never used to work on myself. I didn't think I had to. I am a nice guy and always was. Only recently have I gotten involved in Judaism and become more introspective and spiritual. But a weird thing has happened. I don't think I am as nice as I used to be. I have discovered a temper I never knew I had. And I feel more tempted to do immoral things than ever before. This really started since I'm coming to shul more and learning more about my religion. Does this make sense? Shouldn't becoming more observant make me better not worse?


There's good news and bad news. The bad news is, you were never a completely nice guy. No one is. The good news is, now you can do something about it. You can learn how by observing a pot on the fire.

Fill a pot with water from the tap and examine it. Does the water look clean? Of course it does, it is straight from the tap. Then put the pot on a fire, and watch it boil. Observe that as the water gets hotter, impurities start to float to the top. Sediment and dirt and all kinds of contaminants suddenly seem to appear from nowhere.

Of course they were there before, but they were so mixed in with the water that you didn't notice them. The water only looked clean. When put on a fire, the heat separates out the impurities and brings them to the surface. What seemed to be just an innocent pot of water turns out to be a mix of good stuff and not so good stuff.

Your personality is that pot of water. We can all look at ourselves and say, "I am a pretty good guy. I don't hurt anyone, I am not mean or cruel." For most of us, if we are not mass-murderers we think we are fine.

In truth, we all have darker sides to ourselves. We have weaknesses of character, bad attitudes and inappropriate urges that lurk beneath the surface. As long as we don't shake ourselves up, these impurities remain anonymous, blending in with our general identity. We are not so bad, and not so good.

It is only when we start to self-examine, when we probe into our inner workings and try to improve ourselves, only then do all the hidden gremlins start to emerge. When the fire of your soul starts to burn with spiritual passion, the ugliness that hid in the recesses of your heart appears in full force.

This is great. Because only when the impurities float to the surface can they be identified, isolated and removed. While the pot remained a mixture of pure water and sediment, there is no way to get rid of the dregs without losing the water. But once the heat separates out the two, it is easy to skim off the surface residue and the water is clear.

So the choice is yours. Live a life of mediocrity, a lukewarm pot of water that seems all nice but is really just mixed up. Or let the fire of your soul expose your inner weaknesses, so you can face them and boil them away.

Good Shabbos,

Rabbi Moss

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