Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Internalization of Values :The bigger the extrinsic sacrifice the smaller the emotional commitment

Allan Katz  [...]  The Telze Rabbi – Rav Elya Meier Bloch has a deeper explanation. He says there are 2 elements involved in bringing the sacrifice and offering – the monetary expense involved in bringing the offering and the emotional and spiritual effort involved in offering and dedicating one's soul to becoming one with God. The wealthy person feels emotionally   uplifted   because he has spent a lot of money on spirituality and that leaves little space for real work of dedicating one's soul. The poor man feels that his meal offering of flour does not count for much so all he has to give is his soul. It seems that the ' external ' elements of the offering  get in the way or make it more difficult for a person to focus on what God really wants – for man to dedicate his soul to Him , and in so doing reconnect with God and atone for his sins.  Rav Elya Meier Bloch is saying that the bigger the extrinsic / monetary sacrifice, the smaller the emotional commitment and investment.  Instead of reinforcing the spiritual and internal part of a person, the external and physical element undermines the internal and spiritual.

S.D.T – Self  Determination theory of human motivation shows how extrinsic motivation can often get in the way of intrinsic motivation, internalization and commitment to values. We know that one should not reprimand a kid using anger in order to show how serious the offence was, as the only message the kid comes away is you are angry - you have an anger problem – and that gets in the way of a kid reflecting on what he did. The focus is on the parent or teacher.  The same goes for punishment – instead of it reinforcing the severity of the offence and encouraging the kid to feel sorry for what he did and empathize with a kid he hurt, he now feels sorry for himself. The focus is no longer on what he did, but on the punishment, how unfair the adult is and his mistake of getting caught. 
Bribes and threats can be very effective at getting ' behaviors ' but not at helping kids internalize and make a commitment to values. An experiment tested this with kindergarten kids. 2 groups were told by their teacher not to play with toys while she was out of the room. One group's compliance was   reinforced   with   a   threat of punishment.  Both groups did not play with the toys when the teacher was not in the room.  However, the kids who did not get the threat of punishment internalized much better the teacher's disapproval of them playing with the toys than the kids who received a threat of punishment. Interventions may be effective, but we need to ask – effective at what ?[...]


  1. Thank you for this insight.

    May I add my 2 cents to explain how this concept does not contradict the well known concept that Adam Nifal Al Pi Peulosov, and as The Ramba"m explains the Mishna of Hakol Lefi Rov Hamaaseh.

    There is a concept knows as cognitive dissonance which basically means that a person is not comfortable to have contradictory beliefs or to have beliefs and actions which contradict each other. This phenomenon would motivate the person to change one of the factors so it does not contradict the other. So if someone has overspent and paid a lot of money for an item, that will often cause them to make themselves believe that it is worth it. The alternative would be to accept the fact they made a blunder, which is not easy to accept. But this is only a conflict if the person out of his own choice took that particular path, but when forced, then the easiest option would be to disqualify the forced path and know that this is done out of lack of another option, and not willingly. Even easier is not to bother to resolve it at all because there really isn't any dissonance in such a case. It is this phenomenon which is being described in Alan Katz's post.

    But when a person does the action willingly, Betoras Nedava, then Adam Nifal Al Pi Peulosov. Because not only does he not have to resolve a conflict, but since his action was based on a desire to have a particular belief, this very dynamic that I described would cause him to strengthen his belief to make it even more at harmony with his chosen course of action.

    So as the above cited Ramba"m says, the more you engange in charitable 'Actions', the more compassionate you will become. This is not at all a Stirah with the insight expressed in Alan Katz's post.

    1. Thanks for sharing your insights on C.D. Reb Isaac Sher (3) quoting R' Yisroel Salanter says that for actions to cause positive thoughts we need some general thinking and observing as how to do the action or mitzvah according to the demands of the laws of the Torah etc . When the 'lo lishmah is done according to the 'gidrei ' of the lishmah, a person will come to do the mitzvoth for the sake of heaven. The lo lishmah should be lishma . I was thinking that this focus on doing the mitzvah in a meticulous way according to the halacha would help him to be more mindful of what he is doing and less focused on the lo lishmah . On the other hand there are kids who suffer from perfectionism and seem to be compelled from the inside and this gets in their way of really enjoying and connecting to Hashem and the mitzvoth.


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