Anatomy of a Sin
Evil has fascinated man ever still the primeval sin in the Garden of Eden.
That man is a creature armed with free will means that his life is a
constant struggle of choosing "good" over "evil". But what is the exact
nature of sin? What forces are at work? And what effective strategy can
aid man to withstand the temptation of its sweet waters?
Evil comes from man; not from G-d.
True, the capacity to choose "right" and "wrong" was divinely entrusted to
us. However, it is up to the individual as to whether his life is one of
illusion or whether it is of real growth and development.
It is the human being who gives evil "life". It would not – indeed could
not – exist without him. Its survival is only because man lets it.
How evil finds expression is understood by analysing the internal struggle
waging within man in the battle for supremacy between two rival
components: (a) the Seichel, intellect and (b) the Dimyon, imagination
(See Rabbi Yisrael Salanter, Iggeres HaMussar).
Firmly grounded in "reality", the Seichel urges an intelligent and
realistic awareness of one's station in life. It relates to our true
spiritual selves. Who we are; what life is all about; and the
responsibilities that man takes for his actions – the answer to these
questions are man's guiding light to navigating life.
Sin – as the manifestation of evil – enters the picture fuelled by the
Where not restrained by the Seichel, the Dimyon runs riot. It unleashes an
avalanche of passion that entices the senses. Synonymous to the world
of "fantasy", of "illusion", Dimyon is where one lives in his dreams
rather than in reality. Truth does not feature. Neither does morality. No
consideration is attributed to what will be the ramifications of man's
The fantasy is all too seductive. Its temptation is hard to resist. Its
attraction appeals to our senses. It is all about the freedom to indulge
in passion, emotions, and the yearnings of the heart…but without reason,
without soul, or without mind taken into the equation. Hence, what is
gratifying readily triumphs over what is right!
And yet, it is not real. What Dimyon does is to create "reality" from "non-
An excellent modern analogy of this phenomenon is the art of film-making.
With advanced special effects, computer-generated images, what appears
including complex galaxies and innovative worlds created after actors have
work against blue screens look astoundingly real. But it ain't!
Where man constructs an alternative "reality" courtesy of the Dimyon as he
convinces himself that his dreams are real. His imagination, exclusively
focused on the here and now, are pursued in the unwavering belief that
otherwise he will be "missing out". He considers that his life will be
deemed meaningless were he to forgo the experience of the "pleasure trip"
in question – be it chocolates, a sports car, designer clothing, or a
Sin tears apart the bond between man and his Creator. It allies itself to
the Dimyon unrestrained by the Seichel. Misdemeanors tragically fabricate
an illusory "reality" that sacrilegiously treats G-d as a non-reality.
Thus, a life of sin intensifies the evil and darkness in the world
blocking out G-d: the True "Reality" of existence. Ironically, all else
that is unconnected to Him is, in fact, synonymous with non-existence.
The Torah laws provide a framework where the Seichel features and
successfully partners with the Dimyon so that man successfully establishes
an eternal relationship with G-d. This is the determinant of the spiritual
reality. Observing the positive commandments is how a Jew develops the
connection; the negative commandments are what he must not contravene so
as not to risk damaging that relationship.
It is the spiritual impact of mitzvos and aveiros that determine our true
identities. And which, also, ultimately determine our everlasting reality.
The course material is presented by Osher Chaim Levene, author of "Set in Stone: The Meaning of Mitzvah Observance" (Targum/Feldheim), a writer and educator in London whose website www.mitzva.org explores the wisdom of the commandments.