Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Chanifa: Acting differently than what you feel is viewed by Chazal as a serious sin - So why do they require being me'urav im habrios (acting like everyone else) even while your true thoughts and feelings are never revealed?

Ksav Sofer (Bereishis 28:20): If You give me bread to eat and clothes to wear…Medrash Rabba (70:5) explains this verse in various ways. For example “bread” is referring to Torah, while “clothing” is referring to a talis. Meaning that if a person merits Torah he will also merit a talis. See Yafes To'ar which says that the garment referred to here is the rabbinic clothing which had tzitzis in it. In my opinion it is best explained according to Shabbos (114a), “Who is a talmid chachom? One who knows he should always wear his garments right side out. This is in accord with the view of the Chovas HaLevavos (Shaar Prishus 4), “Intelligent people have joy on their face while they mourn in their heart.” That is because those who are intelligent despise the nonsense of this world. Nevertheless it is necessary that they mingle well with others and are not isolated and therefore they have to show a cheerful face to the world and not reveal their inner feelings of mourning. Thus we see a talmid chachom has to appear properly to others but he should not reveal what is truly in his heart. This is actually the intent when Chazal said, “Who is a talmid chachom? One who knows to reverse his clothing i.e., that he should be different and separate from those who are invested in the mundane world and he should keep his heart away from them. Thus his thoughts are not their thoughts and he needs to be able to reverse his garment (exterior) so that it doesn’t reveal what is in his heart before the masses and they should not even be aware that he thinks and feels differently than them – as the Chovas HaLevavos has explained. This is the explanation of the medrash, “When a person merits Torah he merits a talis.” He learns to conceal his true feelings so that others have no idea what is going on in his deepest thoughts – in order that he can participate in human society (me’urav im habrios). G-d in fact helps him that he should not be influenced by them but rather his heart should be completely with G-d and His Torah. This in fact is what Yaakov was asking from G-d, “If You give me bread to eat and clothing to wear.” Bread is referring to Torah. However you must understand that it is impossible to be isolated from other people when you are with them. That is why Yaakov also requested “clothing to wear” as we mentioned before. Perhaps we can use this to explain the words of Hillel (Sukka 53a), “If I am here then everyone is here.” In other words one should not separate himself or act differently in the presence of others. He should not look depressed and bitter so that others avoid him. However when he is by himself he should think “Who am I? What is this worthless life? And when I am by myself what am I truly?” There is much more to discuss on this topic.


  1. תתן אמת ליעקוב
    Means acting in a way that takes into account the imperfections of the world, so in order to make an impact a Rov would not share with others his private inner world and behave in a way that Halacha and musar would demand of him in that situation . To do otherwise would be a distortion of the truth .

    1. I hope you realize the implications of what you are saying? Where is the source for your explanation of the posuk in Michah (20:7)? The commentaries I have seen do not make any such assertion. In fact the Zohar says that Yaakov the ish tam and the ish emes was tested specifically with lies and trickery as Avraham the man of chesed was tested through cruely.

      Bottom line to say that a talmid chachom typically needs to decieve people as to what he really thinks or feels - seems rather problematic.

    2. My comments are based on R' Dessler and R Isaac Sher. RIS is more explicit about the verse תתן אמת ליעקוב being an expression of Ya'akov 's ability to bring his father to recognize the truth and create a situation that manifests the emes. R Dessler in chelek א talks about emes and sheker , not as we understand it as absolutes but rather in the context of the situation and the people involved – so Ya'akov's actions were a manifestation of the emes while Esav's were sheker. So a person's inner thoughts relating to his world maybe the emes , but when he expresses them publicly it could be sheker. As mentioned before on the blog –it is not what we say that counts , but more how people interpret and react, so the people , talmidei chachamim need to consider and weigh up how they speak and respond.

    3. You are stretching the meaning of truth or at least your understanding of Rav Dessler is.

      I once talked with Rav Yaakov Weinberg - rosh yeshiva of Ner Israel - about eliu v'eilu and I mentioned Rav Dessler's explanation that just as two people can view a piece of paper - one sees it from the edge so it is very thin - while the other sees it face on - and it is very big - so he says is eilu v'eilu.

      Rav Weinberg expressed astonishment at anyone accepting such a view. When I said where I come from it is accepted as normative , he replied "then words have no meaning." This is doubly interesting since he was a student of Rav Hutner who has a very interesting pshat on eilu v'eilu that reality doesn't matter either.

      Similarly it you want to claim that whatever Yaakov understood was the truth or became the truth - "then the word truth has no meaning"

      Mussar figures tend to make words what they want them to be - rather than what they have been accepted as meaning. Because of this approach I have problems with Rav Dessler's creative insights - which do violence to the traditional use of language.

      Or to put it another way, it is playing chess with someone who periodically changes the rules so he can make a move that either wins the game or at least looks impressive.

      You can't change the meaning of words to prove a point.

  2. Rabbi Miller z"l explained that a person should have tocho kibaro and not the reverse. This means a person has to act better than he actually feels inside and to a certain degree fake. One should never be baro kitocho so that if a poor man comes to collect and he doesn't like him he would sneer at him. Trying to live up to a higher standard is not chanifa at all.

    Chanifa is supporting someone who is doing aveiros rather than rebuking them.

    1. as noted in a previous post - chanifa is saying or acting different than you feel or actually think. It is also translated as hypocrisy. Calling a talmid chachom a gadol when he is only harav hagaon is also chanifa.

    2. Please provide a link to the previous post.

  3. Perhaps flattery depends on intent.

    1. Actually the Pele Yo'etz says something similar - that a falsehood said for a considered purposed (to'eles) is not considered the sin of saying a lie. However in regards to flattery he states that if Chazal say to flatter or deceive it is not a sin.

    2. Following Chazal's instructions is on the same order as having good intentions.

  4. As I’ve mentioned in my comments to the last post on this subject, there can be no doubt that Chazal considered Chanifa to be a terrible sin – sometimes to the point of obligating one למסור עצמו לסכנה rather than transgress it, as the R”Y writes in שער ג' מאמר קפ"ז:
    קפז. החלק הא' - החנף אשר הכיר או ראה או ידע כי יש עול בכף חברו וכי החזיק בתרמית. או כי חטא איש לאיש בלשון הרע או באונאת דברים. ויחליק לו לשון הרע [לאמר] לא פעלת און. המעט ממנו עון הנמנע מן התוכחה. שנאמר - (ויקרא יט) הוכח תוכיח את עמיתך ולא תשא עליו חטא. ויוסף לחטוא על אמרו לא חטאת. כענין שנאמר (ירמיה כג) וחזקו ידי מרעים. והנה זה ביד החנף האויל עון פלילי. כי לא יקנא לאמת. אבל יעזור אחרי השקר. ויאמר לרע טוב. וישים לחשך אור. גם נתן מכשול לפני החוטא משני פנים. האחד. כי אינו נחם על רעתו. והשני. כי ישנה באולתו ביום מחר. כי הלל רשע החנף אותו על תאות נפשו. מלבד כי ישא עונש על הנזק אשר הזיק לאשר אשם לו החוטא על צדקו מי אשר חטא לו. מלבד כי יענש על דבר שקר. ... כל שכן אם העול אשר בכף רשע חבירו גלוי לרבים. כי באמרו אליו החנף לפני בני אדם זך אתה מבלי פשע. חילל וביזה דת ודין: (קפח.) וחייב האדם למסור עצמו לסכנה ואל ישיא את נפשו עון אשמה כזאת. ואמרו רבותינו על ענין אגריפס שהיה קורא בתורה וכשהגיע לפסוק זה (דברים יז) לא תוכל לתת עליך איש נכרי זלגו עיניו דמעות ואמרו לו אחינו אתה באותה שעה נתחייבו שונאיהם של ישראל כליה שחנפו לו לאגריפס. אך כי היושב על המשפט אין לו לפחד מאנשי מות. שנאמר לא לגור מפני איש. ויש בחלקי כת חנפים. אשר בם החנף נספה ואבד ובעון החניפה לבד. כאשר יתבאר:

    Furthermore, a Jew’s whole תכלית החיים and reason for existence is to honor Hashem with every utterance & action, as the R”Y writes in שער ג' מאמר קמ"ח:

    הדבר ידוע אשר מדרכי קידוש השי"ת. להודיע בכל מבטא שפתים. וכל אשר ירמזון עינים. ובכל הנהגה ופועל ידים. כי יסוד לנפש האדם וצבי עדיו, והטוב והעיקר והתועלת והיקר אשר בו. עבודת הש"י ויראתו ותורתו. (כל שכן) [כמ"ש] כי זה כל האדם. ודבר זה כבוד הש"י.

    What Chazal tell us לא יהא עומד בין היושבים וכו' does not contradict this – it refers to “grey” areas that neither add nor take away from Hashem’s honor. Chazal’s exhortion is simply – Don’t stand out from the crowd IF YOU HAVE NO VALID REASON TO DO SO.

    When “blending in” means deviating ONE iota from Hashem’s will, we are strongly exhorted NOT to blend in – the importance of this edict is obvious from the fact that the Tur STARTS his Sefer with עז כנמר:
    והתחיל בעז כנמר לפי שהוא כלל גדול בעבודת הבורא יתברך לפי שפעמים אדם חפץ לעשות מצוה ונמנע מלעשותה מפני בני אדם שמלעיגים עליו ועל כן הזהיר שתעיז פניך כנגד המלעיגים ואל תמנע מלעשות המצוה וכו'

    I think that what the כתב סופר is referring to is simply restating what the Poskim say in או"ח סימן א', as noted in משנה ברורה סק"ו – that unless doing a Mitzvoh in public will cause other people to be מחזק there own עבודת ה', one should do Mitzvohs that are not obligatory in private so as to avoid גאוה wherever possible.

  5. Another instance where one should try to be unobtrusive when doing Mitzvohs, is where there exists the probability that unethical people will degrade him for doing Hashem's will. In such instances the preference is to do Mitzvohs as unobtrusively as possible, so as not to cause others to sin..

    1. @Ploni the Ksav Sofer is not talking about be modest in the doing of mitzvos. He is talking about a high level talmid chachom deceiving people that this world is pleasant and that events make him happy - all the while feeling bitter and disgusted by them.

      It is comparable to a man married to a woman who totally disgusts him - but he acts as if she is the love of his life so as not to ruin the shidduchim of their children by expressing his true feelings. Do you think that is a good idea?

    2. DT writes: "the Ksav Sofer is not talking about be modest in the doing of mitzvos"

      The K"S is talking about the T"C being מקיים the halacha mentioned in O"C1:3

      ראוי לכל ירא שמים שיהא מיצר ודואג על חורבן בית המקדש.

      Isn't that a Mitzvah?

      Or - he might refer to what Tosfos Gitin נה: ד"ה אשרי אדם מפחד תמיד talks about - fearing that he might forget his learning.

      Or, what the שערי תשובה שער א' מאמר טז refers to as one of the עיקרי התשובה העיקר הה' הדאגה. כי ידאג ויפחד מעונש עונותיו.

      All of these are Mitzvohs - but non of them help someone be מעורב בין הבריות. The T"C makes a calculated judgement that showing his true inner self won't bring a Kiddush Hashem, so he hides it.

      I don't think that your analogy to a man marrying a woman that he despises is on target. In this instance, the T"C LOVES his fellow Jew - he just invalidates the importance of wordly matters, since he's constantly aware of the true purpose of life

      I think that this this direct ties in to the שערי תשובה about the reason for our existence is to honor Hashem with every utterance & action, since the force driving שיהא יר"ש מיצר ודואג על חורבן בית המקדש is specificall the מיעוט כבוד שמים that we constanly witness in Galus

      (BTW - see the New York times article on the POSITIVE power of guilt @ http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/12/opinion/sunday/raising-a-moral-child.html?src=me&ref=general)


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