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"Naar Zich Nisht"

Friday, 22 January, 2016 - 12:50 pm

I find it amazing how our Bubbies’ simple Yiddish sayings contained such depth and wisdom, often expressing an entire Weltanschauung.

Take for example the saying “Nar zich nisht” – don’t fool yourself.

These three Yiddish words capture a crucial life lesson: Even worse than doing the wrong thing is fooling yourself that it is right while you are doing it.

Like so many other of their yiddish  sayings,  this is a deep halachic principle culled from Jewish legal texts that our Bubbies managed to condense into a simple sentence.

The original source of this idea is in Maimonides’ book of Mishneh Torah (Shevitat Yom Tov, Chapter 6:10).  The law is that it is forbidden to cook on the first day of Rosh Hashana for the second day.  However if there are leftovers from food that one cooked for the first he may eat the leftovers on the second day.

Now, if one transgresses and deliberately cooks on the first day for the second day, while he has violated the commandment, he may never the less eat from that food on the second day.  However, if one acts with guile (i.e. He cooks on the first day claiming that it is for the first day but his real intention is for the second day) it is forbidden to eat the so-called “leftovers” on the second day.

So if he does the wrong thing intentionally there’s no consequence but if he acts with guile, if he fools himself, then there is a consequence and the food is forbidden. I.e. worse than doing the wrong thing is fooling yourself that it is right while you are doing it.

Why? Because as long as you admit that you are doing the wrong thing there’s a chance you will improve the next time, but if you are fooling yourself and convinced that you are doing the right thing then you will never improve.

Yes, it’s easier to rationalize our behaviors and way of life, but we will never grow that way.

“Nar Zich Nisht”. If you are dieting and you want to eat that cake, go ahead knock yourself out, but at least be honest with yourself, don’t fool yourself and don’t convince yourself that you are not cheating on your diet. 

This especially important when it comes to our moral and Jewish behavior. No one expects you to be perfect, but don’t fool yourself. Don’t rationalize your behavior. Recognize that you are a work in progress.  It’s a little more difficult and uncomfortable initially but well worth it in the long run.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Benjy Silverman

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