The Only Thing Worse than Sin

Can you guess what it is?

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Comments (18)

(11) Anonymous, September 24, 2011 12:21 PM

Look inward, not outward

Your message spoke to me. Last week I was shocked when a “flame” email came to me at work after I had proposed some changes to improve an important process. The person who wrote the email to me had been point on these processes in past was very defensive. “What’s wrong with him/her?” was my first reaction. “Can’t he/she be open to suggestions?” To your message today, isn’t one manifestation of denial the (almost unconscious) tendency to look for fault in the other before looking for fault in ourselves? I reread my process improvement suggestions several times, but nothing jumped out at me that would have caused such an extreme, negative reaction. If I reject the conclusion “I didn’t do anything wrong. This is all on him/her!” and look more deeply at my role I in this working relationship, maybe I can overcome my unconscious denial and find my actual culpability in the situation.

(10) Alan S., September 23, 2011 10:31 AM has a piece on the morality of being overweight. While many of the comments here, as well as comments posted on the article on the site are smart and honest, it is my belief that the issue of being overweight is the canary in the mine, so to speak. It is truely the slipperiest of slopes to start to question various life style choices -- and yes, eating too much and not exercising enough, are lifestyle choices, for better or worse. Again, this is not the forum to debate this issue. Please -- there are plenty of tzaddikim that are clearly overweight; are we to say that they are sinning? (Regardless of whether they are or are in denial about it.) After all is said and done, one would be hard pressed to find a lifetstyle choice that is beyond reproach in some capacity, also probably involving self denial and dare I say, sinning. Yes, during Yom Kippur, one of the sins we ask Hashem for forgiveness does speak to these issues. Besides Hashem, who is to judge?

(9) Shulamis Mallet, September 21, 2011 8:50 AM


Dear Rabbi Saloman, amv"s, your comment reminds me of the phrase that "denial is more than just a river in Egypt". I think we all put our head in the sand from time to time. Although it may be a good way to find seed and to see what's happening under our feet, it could also be dangerous. We should be doing constant checks on ourselves as a whole. When we say, Shmona Esrei we start byt taking 3 steps back, then 3 steps forward before we bow. Before we go forward, we have to step back to remember where we came from. We then recognize G-d's sovereignty, our failures and make requests and bless G-d for fulfilling our requests. We don't always recognize when G-d is fulfilling our requests or that what He does is with our best interests at heart. We forget that what we want isn't always what's best for us. Sometimes a parent has to say no, for the greater good. That doesn't mean that we're not listened to, or that our requests won't be answered shortly. That's where faith comes in. Modim itself is a reminder that we have to be grateful for all that we have, at all times. We get so caught up in our problems, in our own worlds that we forget to be grateful for all that we have. We forget to be responsible for others or that having patience isn't a choice, it's a requirement. We take so much for granted, as if it's coming to us, we forget that the very air that we breathe is a gift. At the end of Shmona Esrei, we again take 3 steps back, but this time we turn to the right, then to the left and then forward, as if taking a moment to take stock of where we were. While doing this, we make a bid for peace. Then we take 3 steps forward, and raise ourselves as in Kiddusha. The difference between the steps in the beginning of S"E and those at the end tell the tale. When we take those steps backward and turn to see where we were, and recognize all around us, we can raise ourselves up higher. We give ourselves momentum, like a jumper that is about to make a major leap.

(8) Rachel, September 21, 2011 2:58 AM

What about despair?

It seems to me that the flip side of denial is despair -- the fear that one's past is too difficult to overcome. I think many people who seem to be "in denial" are putting on that face because they don't want to reveal awareness of the depth of the problem but then admit that they don't think they can solve it.

Nechama, September 25, 2011 11:36 AM


hI Rachel, I was reading your comment about despair, and if I am understanding it correctly, I believe if you do not deal with your past and if you or the other party are in denial or will not acknowlede what they have done wrong in the past, how can one move forward and forgive and progress, surely that all falls under denial and for me it is worse than sin itself. Do you agree? I look forward to your comments

(7) Linda, September 21, 2011 2:04 AM

thinking about:

How the denial of my sin does not fool my children and the extreme effect it can play in their future. That the things I think I am hiding or suppressing are not hidden from them. That children hear more in my tone of voice than my words. Thank you for making me think.

(6) Simcha Mendel, September 21, 2011 12:26 AM

The best example of denial, smoking!!!

The best example of denial is smoking. Residing in Israel where there is a very high percentage of smokers and where there is a big problem of smoking in public places, especially in wedding halls, smokers make all sorts of excuses for smoking. When I explain to a smoker the dangers of smoking, their response is that the fuel from automobiles is even more dangerous or someone can walk across the street and G-d forbid get hit by a car. I was once at a wedding in Israel and requested of someone not to smoke. His answer to me was "Over there they are cooking. That is also smoke." As anti-Torah and as dangerous as smoking is to a persons' health, the smokers are in denial of the dangers of smoking and make all sorts of excuses for it.

Wassim, October 2, 2011 3:04 PM

Everyone is in denial about something

but what about the excuses governments use to continue to allow the manufacture of this product. Isn't that a sin. As far as I'm concerned, synthesizing nicotine and protecting the tax revenue is a far greater sin than the smoker's diseased-minded denial. It really is incredibly how smokers are expected to be able to overcome the physiological and psychological addiction (because so many apparently have done so), and how we readily dismiss that there's still any part to be played by our governments and those filthy individuals who work for tobacco companies and pretend to have honest jobs. I think they and most of the public are in denial about the extent of the underlying problem (which is we live in a world that "cares" only if you "qualify"). Sounds like law of the jungle to me, or are we all in denial.

(5) Anonymous, September 20, 2011 5:34 PM

I agree that the matter of weight is not a good example of sin. It is unfortunate that the rabbi did not mention mistreatment of other people, including one's family members, as a major area of denial. We hear about such things all the time and we meet victims of abuse. If the abusers had not been in denial, perhaps they would have sought help and saved their victims from suffering. The rabbi's point is really important. Thank you.

(4) Neicee, September 20, 2011 4:22 PM

Denial vs. Lie

I need to work on being honest with myself with a number of issues. I am gluten intolerant yet I will search out any crumb I can find. I buy bread "for my husband" yet he doesn't really care for it. I love to read and spend hours on the computer reading whole books if I can find them. This robs me of the delights of enjoying the sun, garden, and my neighbor's company. I try to be charitable, but find many on the receiving end never help themselves. This allows me to form the excuse of what's the use? It's a sin to lie to others. I think it also applies to one's self. Thank you Rabbi Salomon for the reminder.

(3) Joseph, September 20, 2011 3:30 PM

Very interesting and it makes you think.

(2) Nancy K, September 20, 2011 2:30 PM

denial of attitude

Sometimes we say the right things but are we showing the right attitude? Do we do things because we "should" or because we truely want to do ..., Do we say things with a certain tone of voice which makes them mean the opposite of what we really said? Or do we say it and mean it! This too can be a form of sin that we deny and need to "fess up to" as we do our spritual inventory, I know I am at times guilty of these things and over the last year have been working on them , but find I still slip on occation.

(1) Alan S., September 19, 2011 11:32 PM

The Rabbi's message, as always, is a good one. However, I think one of his chosen examples of a "denial" -- denying being overweight -- is a poor one. I know this is not the forum to really go into this issue, but, this is simply not a fair or proper example. I do not know one person who would deny that they were overweight. Is there an inference that a person who is overweight, but does not deny it, is sinning? A person's weight is a complex issue, having nothing to do with morality issues like sinning.

Anonymous, September 20, 2011 1:13 PM

responding to aggression needs to be worked on

As a spiritual seeker people often say how calm and kind I am (I am a teacher). I do good deeds and read spiritual works daily. And yet I know that if I have a drink of wine and someone responds rudely and aggressively to me, I can overreact. Of course I say, I was provoked....and it is true. But surely I could do better. Perhaps there are certain people in whose company I should never have even one glass of wine in order to keep my higher self firmly in control. There are always areas to improve. I found the Rabbi's message very good.

Lisa U., September 20, 2011 1:51 PM

I don't think the Rabbi's insinuating that the denial is in regards to people denying they are overweight, it's the denial that they/we can do something about it and take the necessary actions to get ourselves to a healthy state. Just in the same way that a procrastinator doesn't usually deny that he/she is a procrastinator, rather they /we deny that we have the power to do whatever it takes to rid our lives of the innefective habit or struggles of procrastinating. All of these types of difficult changes involve a denial of our most basic, truest desires (why are we overweight if we truly don't want to be?), a denial of our true strengths (I've tried every diet and I just can't lose the weight. Can't??), and a denial of the root causes and/or beliefs that have us repeatedly living below our G-d given capacity. As a man thinketh, so shall he be.......especially when there's denial blocking him from realizing his true, inner fears and beliefs.

Anonymous, September 20, 2011 2:21 PM

Being Overweight is denial

Actually Alan, the key concept I teach my clients (I am a personal trainer) is that they have to be honest about why they are overweight. Most people are in complete denial of how much food they eat and how little exercise they get. And honest and vigorous inventory of where they are in life and how they got there is the first step to turning their life around. Besides, how can you change your life, lose weight, get fit, if you are not truthful about all the food you eat and why you really allow yourself to ruin your health.

Anonymous, September 20, 2011 2:37 PM

COULDN'T AGREE MORE! Keep those Honey Cakes Coming In!

I am very disappointed that the Rabbi would be so judgemental.Who would DENY that they're overweight if they're overweight? Using this as an example is,for me, completely out of context to the subject matter-Attempting to catagorize this as a character trait which is what the season is about, is, in my opinion not only absurd--but harsh,critical and cruel--Now THOSE are character traits worth looking into...not being overweight,if you ask me! Honoring your Health and taking care of your body is another area that requires an overview---but to consider being overweight itself "sinning" is,for me- mildly bullying! So thats my story and I'm sticking to it! L'Shana Tova!

Zecharya, September 20, 2011 6:38 PM

Overweight is a sin

i myself am overweight and i must argue that it is a sin to be overweight. g-d commands us to gaurd our lives i.e. live healthy. how many diseases and health problems have been linked to overweight and obesity? while this doesnt mean the person is actively sinning to anger g-d it is contrary to the commandment hence a sin. i understand your point and just wanted to clarify that. hope this was helpful


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