Monday, August 31, 2009

"Knowledge of one’s sins can result in a transformation"

"There are many levels of repentance.

One person may need to make greater and more intense efforts toward Divine unity.

Another may desire no more than to be able to make an honest living.

There is also a matter of proportion.

The more one has been sunk in sin, the greater the pressure to emerge.

Just as a dam holds back a body of water, the higher the dam, the greater is the power that can afterward be extracted from the release.

All of this means that the sinner has to go through the intervening stages of growth and comprehension.

The more he learns of the magnitude of his past transgressions, the more painful is the knowledge and the more effective is the transformation."

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

Pebbles of Wisdom from Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


Sunday, August 30, 2009

"We study the secret lore but don’t see any angels or heavenly beings"

"As some Chasidim used to say, 'We study the secret lore, learn about the existence of other worlds, angels, seraphs, and heavenly beings. But I don’t see any angels or heavenly beings, and I don’t believe that anyone who studies more is able to see more.'

Nevertheless, the difference between the one who studies and the one who does not study is that, in the future, when these things are made manifest, the one who studies will be able to recognize them better, to relate them to what he has learned."

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

Pebbles of Wisdom from Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


Friday, August 28, 2009

"Too long, too boring, and too frequent"

"When the Sabbath is treated as a weekend, with or without synagogue attendance, it feels like the secular weekend: too long, too boring, and too frequent.

When the Sabbath is not distinguished from the weekdays—set apart as a special time with a special mind-set—it is meaningless.

If we view the Sabbath candles as decorations, they will be superfluous.

If we light the candles in an effort to welcome holiness, however, they will give off a special radiance.

If we call up some friends to arrange the next golf outing, we will have just another weekend.

If we can connect our shared conversation at our Sabbath table with holiness, however, we will experience oneg, the delight that our tradition extols.

If we overload our day with too much food or too much empty chitchat, we will gain nothing.

But if we accept God’s invitation to share His day with Him and allow a bit of the world to come to waft into our world, we will treasure life with a feeling of wholeness and contentment."

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

Pebbles of Wisdom from Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


Thursday, August 27, 2009

"There is a general misunderstanding of the role of Kabbalah, and of the mystical experience altogether, in Judaism."

"Kabbalah is the chief repository of the mystical aspect of the tradition, and in
Europe it was taken firmly in hand.

Only mature students were permitted to study it, and carefully preserved texts were left to gather dust and sink into oblivion.

In later years, mostly in the nineteenth century, there was another, newer element that helped to suppress the mystical lore.

Within the strong rationalistic tendency of the age, many influential people, such as the authors of the most important books of Jewish history, were fiercely antagonistic to any mystical approach and tried to disparage it and even deny its existence in the past.

The apologetic mode of the time demanded hiding these shameful parts of Judaism and trying to forget them entirely.

The result has been a general misunderstanding of the role of Kabbalah, and of the mystical experience altogether, in Judaism."

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

Pebbles of Wisdom from Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

"The essential question is: Am I for God or against Him?"

"It is very difficult, if not impossible, to be certain about the lightness or severity of punishment for a particular transgression.

The essential question is: Am I for God or against Him?

If one is against Him, then one is a rebel, and it doesn’t make any difference whether it be a light charge or a severe charge.

And extenuating circumstances do not count.

In war, men are killed for a trifle.

And in life, too, failure to perform a certain small duty may have very serious consequences.

One simply has to be constantly on the alert and attentive to all the possibilities.

At the moment of decision, one cannot determine to what extent a person merits punishment.

Only after the performance of the action can one distinguish its true nature, whether it belongs to the outer shell or the holiness."

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From Pebbles of Wisdom from Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

"No Jew can expect to keep all of the mitzvot"

“According to tradition there are said to be six hundred and thirteen commandments in the Torah.

This, however, is misleading in a number of respects.

For one thing, many of the positive commandments—that is, mitzvot that obligate one to perform certain actions—along with many of the prohibitions, are not actually concerned with life but refer either to the general structure of the whole of the Torah or to the Jewish nation as a body.

No Jew, therefore, can expect to keep all of the mitzvot.

Actually, only a small number of the mitzvot relate to daily life, though if one adds to the formal list of mitzvot all the minute details that are not specifically included, one arrives at a sum of not hundreds but thousands of things that are to be done at certain times and certain places and in a special way.”

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From The Thirteen Petalled Rose, p. 113, by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


Monday, August 24, 2009

Pebbles of Wisdom from Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

Just published!

From the Introduction
by Arthur Kurzweil

When I speak in public or meet a person who learns that I am a serious student of the teachings of Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz of Jerusalem, I am usually asked to say something about him.

Sometimes I say, “Rabbi Steinsaltz was brought up in a secular home. His parents were secular leftists and he says that he read Marx and Lenin before he read the Bible. His parents were skeptics and raised him to be a skeptic. Rabbi Steinsaltz once said, ‘I’m such a skeptic that I became skeptical of skepticism.’ ”

Or I say, “Rabbi Steinsaltz is an Orthodox rabbi, and in fact is considered by people who know far more than I do that he is one of the most brilliant and is destined to be one of the most important Jewish scholars and teachers in history. In one of his books, Rabbi Steinsaltz writes, ‘If you think you’ve arrived, you’re lost.’ ”

And at other times I say, “Rabbi Steinsaltz has done something that has not been done in one thousand years. It is not since the great biblical and Talmudic commentator Rashi that any one single individual has written and published a comprehensive commentary on the entire Talmud. And it is considered a masterpiece and work of genius by people who are experts. His motto is ‘Let my people know.’ ”

The first time I heard Rabbi Steinsaltz address an audience, in the early 1980s, I recorded it. During that talk, Rabbi Steinsaltz said, among other things:

“Although I am a rabbi, I have avoided official positions like the plague. My only official position for many years was that I was on the board of the local zoo in Jerusalem.”

And he said, “Many people come to me to talk privately and many of these conversations are confessions of sins. So I have heard lots of confessions. I have to tell you that people haven’t invented a new sin in the last three thousand years. Sometimes you wish to hear some new combination, some new idea. But you never find it. ”

He also said, “I grew up in a family where neither my mother nor my father went to synagogue. Not even on Yom Kippur. My father said that he did not go because he has too much respect for the place. He said—and I completely agree with him—that the synagogue is not a theater. Either you are a participant or you don’t go there. Because he could not be a participant, he would not go to watch.”

And then he said, “My father was not particular about eating kosher when he was in Israel. But whenever he was abroad he always ate kosher just for everyone to see. He was proud of being a Jew and of Jewish knowledge. When I was ten years old my father hired a tutor to teach me Talmud. My father said, ‘I don’t mind if you’re an atheist, but I don’t want any member of my family to be an ignoramus. It is a shame for a Jew to be an ignoramus. Perhaps it is the lowest of the low that a Jew can reach. It means he lacks some essential knowledge about himself. Imagine that a person does not know that he has a head until he is sixty-five and that he discovered it accidentally. That is the kind of feeling that results from a Jew being ignorant.”

A number of times over the years I have mentioned to Rabbi Steinsaltz that in his lectures, interviews, and writings, there are always such wonderful “gems,” embedded within the transcripts and essays, and I find myself repeating these “gems” to people.
“Perhaps not ‘gems,’ ” he responded. “Maybe pebbles.”

So, for nearly thirty years, I have been collecting pebbles from Rabbi Steinsaltz.

The metaphor works. A pebble can contain a gem. A pebble might be tiny but can be of great value. A pebble, used properly, can be quite effective. David killed Goliath with a pebble. The Zohar says that David had originally put five pebbles into his bag but that they miraculously became one.

The pebbles in Parts I through VI of this book are all from unpublished sources. In the Notes section, I have collected additional pebbles from published sources that relate to the unpublished ones. I have done this for two reasons: (a) to offer a lot more pebbles to the reader, and (b) to send the reader to Rabbi Steinsaltz’s published works to see how the ideas in the pebbles are expanded—and to then discover even more pebbles, as well as lengthier pieces and more fully developed ideas.

The Notes section draws heavily on Rabbi Steinsaltz’s book The Thirteen Petalled Rose. I predict that in addition to Rabbi Steinsaltz’s Talmud translation and commentary, The Thirteen Petalled Rose will live forever by taking its place among the most important books of Jewish thought and theology ever published. Already a classic, The Thirteen Petalled Rose is one of those books that people report has changed their lives.


Sunday, August 23, 2009

"Everything is good"

"To be sure, everything is good, in the sense that it comes from God.

On the other hand, there can be no denying that suffering exists and that the cause of suffering is something that may be called evil.

In this case, the good is hidden, and several levels have to be excavated in order to get to it.

On the simplest level, one can sometimes see it quite directly.

My cow broke a leg, and I found a treasure at that spot.

Or there is the story of Rabbi Akiva who, traveling, could not get lodging at the inn.

He had, however, a candle to read by, a donkey to take him to the forest where he could sleep, and a rooster to wake him in the morning.

So he was pleased and said, “This, too, is for the best.”

Then a lion came and killed his donkey.

A cat devoured his rooster.

And the wind snuffed out his candle.

'This, too, is for the best,' he said, and he curled up in a tree and slept soundly.

In the morning, he learned that a band of wild robbers had come to the inn, looted it, and taken captive all who were there.

Had his donkey neighed or his cock crowed, or had the robbers seen his candle, he, too, would have even plundered.

So that he was able to say again with conviction, 'This, too, is for the best.'"

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From Pebbles of Wisdom from Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz collected and with note by Arthur Kurzweil


Friday, August 21, 2009

"The duty of humanity is to be partners of God""

"When it comes to technology, Judaism is all for progress.

Most other religions tend to view progress with suspicion, even hatred, as well as a real desire to destroy.

Whereas Judaism, even in earliest times, saw innovation as important and chronicled it.

In the opening chapters of Genesis, the inventors of musical instruments and weapons are mentioned.

While we were aware that some inventions might be dangerous, progress was always considered to be positive.

This attitude, which has helped us remain a young people, is based on Judaism's profound faith in man.

We believe that the duty of humanity is to be partners of God – which means, among other things, being creative.
Creativity, then, is a basic component of our belief, of our desire to improve the world. "

-Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From "The Paganization of Western Culture" by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


Thursday, August 20, 2009

"Which god do we go for?"

"Jewish culture is not just about waving a blue-and-white flag, and it is not even about knowing some Hebrew.

Even this double achievement does not make it very easy to be connected with Jewish culture.

To be connected with Jewish culture is to accept that it is different.

As Elijah the Prophet said on Mt. Carmel (I Kings 18:21):

We cannot 'halt between two opinions.'

We must make a decision once and for all – which god do we go for?

You want the Baal? Fine, enjoy.

But if you do want that, you cannot play with this."

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From "The Paganization of Western Culture" by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

"Contemporary Western culture is a pagan culture""

Contemporary Western culture is a pagan culture.

It is ruled by the gods of olden time, only with new names and different images.

The first is the god of power – formerly known as Baal (literally: 'owner') – who sometimes appears in a slightly different form as Mammon, the god of money.

Another such god is Ashtoreth (Astarte or Ishtar), the goddess of sex and fertility.

In our time, though, it is no longer the goddess of fertility but only of pure sex.

Yet another god, perhaps promoted from a mere muse to a full-fledged deity, is Calliope, who is now the ruler of the craving for fame.

People may want money in order to obtain material goods; they may want sex for amusement, sometimes even for procreation.

But Fame is now a thing in itself; it is a certain addiction.

What does the relatively new term 'Celebrity' mean?

It means that one is a well-known nothing.

And the more one is well-known, the less people care who and what one is; it does not matter.

Indeed, so many young girls and boys want to be film stars – not because they wish to be beautiful or powerful, but because they want to be known all over the world.

One may ask: where are all the temples of these gods?

Well, the temples of Jupiter-Mammon are in almost every other building in the City of London and in Geneva.

Only they are called banks, and their priests and high priests are called managers and executives.

The temples (as well as the images) of Astarte are everywhere.

And Calliope has little shrines in almost every household, in the form of television sets.

Does this mean that in the past, people did not crave for power, did not want money and abstained from sex?

I do not think so.

All these things existed from the beginning of humanity, perhaps even earlier.

But in the past, they were hidden desires; for some they were temptations, while others branded them demons.

Nowadays, however, these cravings are naked and are flaunted openly and unabashedly.

So the Western world is now ruled by this trinity – which is quite different from the Christian one.

This is neither a sermon nor an admonition, but a statement of fact.

There are, however, some changes that come as a result of the times.

The old-new gods now have more modern garments, and they drive better cars.

Today's Jupiter often wears a business suit, Astarte has undergone plastic surgery, and Calliope very often appears on television."

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From "The Paganization of Western Culture" by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

"How does the Elixir of Death Operate?"

“The sages have been well aware of the many sides of Torah.

Whether it is an elixir of life or an elixir of death depends on whether the person who occupies himself with it is pure in heart and is open to receive what it confers...

...How does the elixir of death operate?

It does not occur when someone makes an error in Torah.

It happens when a person tries to fix it up or when he finds all sorts of wonderful things in it and makes them his own.

Gradually the book becomes adjusted to him, becoming his Torah.”

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From "The Elixir of Death," p. 201 and 206 in In the Beginning by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


Monday, August 17, 2009

"God is always present"

"God is always present and one can be as near to Him as one chooses.

If one endeavors to approach Him by one’s own efforts, it is hopelessly impossible.

In relation to the infinite, even oral and spiritual qualities have no meaning.

It does not matter whether one is Moses, the Lawgiver, or an ordinary mortal.

All stand at the same zero point before God.

The great joy of the soul is savored when God comes to me, when the immeasurably great descends and fits Himself to my littleness.

And the miracle is that God remains with one always.

He becomes the one reality exceeding all else."

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From Pebbles of Wisdom from Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz (forthcoming)


Sunday, August 16, 2009

"Revelation is the recognition of a reality that was overlooked"

"God is present and He dwells within one, just as He dwells in the world as a whole.

Except that I do not know of this Divine inner presence.

As soon as I become conscious of it, however, I realize the purpose of Creation—'to be a dwelling place for Him in the world.'

God creates the world in such a manner that God, being invisible, cannot be taken for granted.

He has to be sought out.

There are aspects of Creation, like light, that are self-evident.

Other things, including the Divine Himself, must be looked for consciously.

Like those inside/outside drawings, one can choose to see either the black picture against a white background or the white picture against a black background.

The play of perception depends on one’s own place, one’s angle or point of view.

Revelation is the sudden recognition of a reality that was overlooked, because it was considered background.

It is the emergence of the essential image.

It can occur in a moment, by a slight alteration of one’s perspective or will, for example, by consenting to be a dwelling place for the Divine."

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From Pebbles of Wisdom from Rabbi Adin Steinslatz (forthcoming)


Friday, August 14, 2009

"A sharp consciousness of Divinity"

"It is said that at the revelatory confrontation on Mount Sinai, the Divine presence, the Shekhinah, was too much for the Children of Israel. They could not bear it.

Therefore, God decided to have a sanctuary built, not only to serve Him as a dwelling, but also to protect the Israelites.

Historically, this sanctuary, or the Ark of the Covenant, became the geographical place, or center, from which the Shekhinah could emanate.

But, of course, this is not to be understood in the sense of a physical source of light or energy.

For the Shekhinah is everywhere, and there is no existence, no reality, without the Shekhinah.

The emanation of the Shekhinah should be understood rather as that which happens whenever there is a sharp consciousness of Divinity, whenever the Shekhinah breaks through into life and awareness."

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From Pebbles of Wisdom from Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz (forthcoming)


Thursday, August 13, 2009

"A very clear message is always being transmitted"

"It is written that the voice on Sinai was a mighty voice that did not stop.

This is repeated in much of the Chasidic literature.

The voice giving the Law never stopped.

It is still giving the Law, for ever and ever, for eternity.

Put in another way, there is a very clear message that is always being transmitted.

The thing that has changed is that we are no longer listening."

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From Pebbles of Wisdom from Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz (forthcoming)


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

"In the presence of God"

"The Chasidic rabbi Simcha Bunim explained that every person should visualize evil as though the devil were standing over him with an ax, ready to chop off his head.

Upon hearing this, one of the disciples asked, 'And what if a person cannot see himself that way?'

Rabbi Simcha replied, 'That is a clear sign that the devil has already chopped off his head.'

In other words, the man of God is someone who is constantly struggling.

The one who does not struggle is not a servant of God.

Faith is not of itself a solution to the agony of the soul.

It does not necessarily bring peace and tranquillity.

On the contrary, for the great majority of men, the way of piety and scrupulous keeping of the commandments is a way of perpetual conflict and ever-increasing effort.

What does faith offer in return for the struggle and the effort?

It gives the presence of God, but not always the sense of God’s presence.

A person studying the Talmud portion about the ox that gores a neighbor’s cow will not necessarily achieve religious ecstasy.

That is not what is promised—which is not to say that there is no relation whatever.

What is offered to the one who occupies himself with Torah and the mitzvot is that he will be objectively nearer to God, even if he does not feel that nearness.

One has to decide what one really wants, the actual presence of God or the feeling that one is close to Him.

If one wants to feel as though he is close to God, there are many ways, from drugs to rapture induced by some technique or other.

One can actually be in the presence of God, however, without having any ecstatic experience and without even knowing what is happening, that is, without any sort of great joy or enlightenment.

The bliss either comes or does not come.

But no matter how one is privileged to receive a revelation, it should be viewed as a special gift."

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From Pebbles of Wisdom from Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz (forthcoming)


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

"To what extent am I conscious of God’s presence?"

"The nearness of God is not a matter of any measurable distance, just as approaching Him is not an act that is even approximately physical.

He is always where I am.

The question is whether I am here.

To what extent am I conscious of God’s presence?

For instance, there are a great number of things in us that the mind is not aware of.

We have to learn that they exist.

For example, we begin to notice the heart only if it gives us trouble, and this in spite of the fact that it is quite noisy and physiologically involved with everything we do.

There doesn’t seem to be any relation between the objective reality of anything—its vital necessity or even its nearness—to the fact of our being conscious of it.

On the contrary, there seems to be a curious paradox about it all.

What is close, so intimate as to be inseparable, often requires a greater amount of training and effort in order to get to know it."

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From Pebbles of Wisdom from Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz (forthcoming)


Monday, August 10, 2009

"The adventure of finding God behind the partition"

"Faith is not the belief that God is to be found somewhere or other.

If God is here or there, in the past or in some distant holy place, His oneness becomes rather irrelevant.

It doesn’t really matter so much whether He is one or two or three or more.

The true unity of the Divine lies in the fact that there is nothing else.

There is no other force or reality or significant besides Him.

When a person tries to clarify this for himself, it becomes a victory of the positive reality of the world over the otherwise confusing hiddenness of the world behind the veil.

It is also a victory for God.

God rejoices in one’s success in overcoming the barrier to come to Him.

When one becomes sure that God is, that He exists, here and now, then the terror and the uncertainty are dissipated, and one can join in the adventure, or the play, of finding Him behind the partition.

Even the certainty that He exists is already a triumph of the highest order."

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From Pebbles of Wisdom from Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz (forthcoming)


Sunday, August 9, 2009

"God continuously sustains the world"

"The question is asked: What is the difference between human creativity and Divine creation?

Human creativity, it is explained, is the manufacture of implements that have their own existence.

They can continue to exist independently of the one who made them.

The Divine creation, however, is continuous.

God keeps sustaining and developing what He makes by re-creating every particle of existence in endless succession."

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From Pebbles of Wisdom from Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz (forthcoming)


Friday, August 7, 2009

"Our perception of God is limited by physical existence"

"A story from the Midrash tells that when God wanted to reveal His face to Moses at the burning bush, Moses was not ready and did not want it.

Then when Moses matured and asked for it, God did not want to reveal His face.

So it is for many people.

One is afraid to look and thus hides his face before God.

Then when he is able to see, it turns out that God has turned away.

Therefore, it is written that were the soul liberated from the body and from the senses, the capacity to realize God from the abstract knowledge we have of Him would perhaps be possible.

The very structure of our existence, however, thinking as we do through our physical brains and limited bodies, emphasizes the truth of the statement:

'And no man shall see Me and live.'

The other side of reality is barred."

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From Pebbles of Wisdom from Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz (forthcoming)


Thursday, August 6, 2009

"God hides and we look for Him"

"In order for the world to exist as a coherent entity, one has to have a philosophical awareness of the fact that there is both a Universe and a Creator of the Universe.

In order to function, realistically, one has to assume a world that is not God, for if everything is the One God, there is no human, and no other reality.

God has to descend to us, and to talk in words that are comprehensible to us, in order to avoid being too far away.

It is like the children’s game of hide-and-seek.

God pretends to hide, and we look for Him.

And then we think that He looks for us.

And all the while, it is a game the Divine Omniscience plays with us for our sake.

This may be likened to the caterpillar and the cocoon it spins.

Both the insect and that which wraps him up are the same.

Manifest nature, law, God’s concealment, and God’s essence are one.

Just as the riddle is a mystery only to the one who is questioned; and the one who asks knows both the answer and the riddle.

In other words, concealment can be part of an essential unity in the dynamics of speech.

The speaker knows what is being spoken, and the one on the other side of speech, the listener, tries to penetrate the 'mystery' and to understand."

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From Pebbles of Wisdom from Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz (forthcoming)


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

'To exist beyond the apparent limits of reality"

"The concept of human forgiveness is derived from the basic unconscious supposition of an omniscient presence—one that rules over time itself.

It implies a relationship between man and the absolute, a relation to God, who is beyond space and time and natural law.

Every request for forgiveness of past action on the part of man is a plea to awaken in him the 'spark of holiness,' the 'Divine part from above,' which enables him to exist beyond the apparent limits of reality."

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From Pebbles of Wisdom from Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz (forthcoming)


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

"To God there is no large or small"

"For many clever men the difficulty that is an obstacle to understanding God comes not from His greatness but from a basic misunderstanding of His greatness.

The person who thinks that God is justifiably concerned with the vast affairs of the galaxy and is not concerned so much about my reciting a blessing before eating a chocolate bar does not really see the greatness of God.

To the Divine Omniscience, there is no large or small, significant or insignificant detail in the infinity of the universe.

There is no difference between worlds as far as God is concerned."

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From Pebbles of Wisdom from Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz (forthcoming)


Monday, August 3, 2009

"Relating to the Torah for its own sake"

"God raised us to the level of consciousness in which we can participate in His mitzvot and in the accompanying heavenly delight.

Such is the meaning of being occupied with the Torah for its own sake.

There are those who get involved with Torah in order to imbibe its contents, or to use it for whatever practical or even idealistic purpose they think best.

They are not relating to the Torah for its own sake.

That is for the love of Torah itself and not for the benefits to be had from it.

To be occupied with Torah for its own sake means to relate to Torah, not as a literary work or as moral instruction or even as wisdom, but to let the Torah emanate its splendor and joy, to let it serve as a channel for Divine light."

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From Pebbles of Wisdom from Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz (forthcoming)


Sunday, August 2, 2009

"Real battles of life"

"To conduct oneself properly in matters that are permitted is still fairly straightforward.

To do so with a degree of holiness is another matter.

One can be a scoundrel even within the bounds of the legally permitted in Torah, as the medieval Sage,the Ramban,said.

It is a matter of how one eats and drinks, how one goes about one’s affairs, even in the most intimate of life’s details where, in fact, the temptations are the greatest and the failures most common.

The struggles here, as the Sages have frequently noted, are real battles of life, and the need to be careful and circumspect cannot be overstated.

There are transgressions that are so intrinsically habitual that they are no longer considered sinful.

The repetition makes them commonplace and acceptable.

What is shockingly bad the first time is no longer even perceived the tenth or twentieth time."

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From Pebbles of Wisdom from Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz (forthcoming)