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No one ever feels good after a sin (there's always an "oy!" that follows the "ahh!"), and no one feels bad after doing a Mitzvah (and it always ends with an "ahh!"). Yet, at times, we are overcome by our temptation, and we slip and sin anyway. That’s the human condition.

Rabbi Allouche

A wise father once took his son to dip in a freezing mikvah, a ritual bath of rainwater. (And no, it wasn’t our Scottsdale’s Congregation Beth Tefillah’s Mikvah – ours is a world-class, state-of-the-art, and warm mikvah!)

The son entered the waters with a loud sigh of “Oy! Oy! these waters are freezing!” He quickly immersed in the waters, jumped out, and went straight into a warm towel that his father was holding for him. “Ahh!” the boy exclaimed, “this feels so good!”

His father then responded: “Son, may this be a lesson for the rest of your life. Whenever you do something, and the ‘Oy!’ comes before the ‘Ahh!,’ you can rest assured that what you’ve done was good. But when the ‘Ahh!’ comes before the ‘Oy!,’ when all you sought to accomplish was a self-gratifying ‘Ahh!’, know that you almost always an “oy” will follow.

In this week’s portion, we read about the Sotah, a wife who was suspected of being unfaithful to her husband (Soteh would be the term used for an unfaithful husband.) The Talmud points out that this word can also be pronounced “Shotah,” which means “foolish.” The lesson that the Talmud draws from this dual-meaning is that sin and foolishness are directly connected. In the words of the Talmud, “a person does not sin unless overcome by a spirit of foolishness.” 

Indeed, sinning is foolish. We all know it. No one ever feels good after a sin (there’s always an “oy!” that follows the “ahh!”), and no one feels bad after doing a Mitzvah (and it always ends with an “ahh!”). Yet, at times, we are overcome by our temptation, and we slip and sin anyway. That’s the human condition.

But maybe, just maybe, if we take the aforementioned story of the wise father to heart, we will pause and think more before we indulge ourselves in that tempting “ah”; or before we are about to blurt out that knee-jerk reaction to a friend; or before we say “no, I’m too busy” to the people around us who need our love, our attention, and our help.

And after all said and done, it is these small victories, that can, and will make a difference and change our world.  In the saintly words of the author of the Tanya (Chap. 27), Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi (1745-1813):

“Every time a person subdues his evil inclination, even if only for a short while, the glory of G-d and His holiness is greatly elevated on high, and a sublime holiness is then issued forth upon the person below, to bless and assist this person in all ways.”