You're Being Watched  

Posted by inkstainedhands in ,

As my eyes wandered around the classroom at one point today, I noticed a sign hanging on the wall that had been there for weeks (months even). I see it in most of the classrooms I sit in, but this time it made me think a bit more.

"Ayin roeh. You are always being watched. Don't talk during davening."

We know that G-d is watching us at all times and sees all of our actions. When we try to talk someone out of doing the wrong thing, we sometimes use the line, "G-d sees what you're doing, so you don't want this to be on your record."

Does this idea of being watched actually stop people from sinning? I mean, you would think that since we are aware of G-d's presence we would refrain from sinning, but that is not the case. People still talk during davening, cheat, speak lashon hara, act maliciously toward one another, transgress the Torah's commandments on a regular basis, and act in a way that does not follow the Torah's values.

So does the knowledge of Hashem's omniscience and omnipotence deter us when we feel tempted to do something we should not be doing? Or is the thought not strong enough?

I understand that people make mistakes; I do so on a regular basis, too. But what I want to know is why religious, G-d fearing Jews would misbehave intentionally, with the knowledge that what they are doing is wrong.

Is it because they do not think about Hashem watching them often enough? In that case, if they would be reminded regularly of Hashem's presence, would their behavior improve? If they kept this though in their minds constantly, would it make a big difference?

Or, does the thought have no effect on them for whatever reason? Do people just dismiss the fact that they are being watched every minute of every day because they want to continue doing whatever it is they are doing against their better judgment?

I am not trying to be critical of anyone here. I am just making an observation about human behavior and about something that is hard for every single one of us: the battle with the yetzer hara. It assumes a different form for each individual and every person has a different weak spot or problem, but the idea is the same.

I remember once saying to a teacher a few years ago, "If Hashem runs the world and we know we were created to serve Him and to follow the Torah, why do people have such a hard time with mitzvot such as tzniut? Isn't it obvious that you should just do what G-d wants of you?" She was impressed by my conviction, but if only I was able to act upon it more often. I do try, but sometimes it is hard.

I find, however, that it is usually easier for me to make the right decision when I mentally remind myself that Hashem is watching me. Sometimes, of course, it is still too hard and I do what is easier.

So what do you all think? Would there be a drastic change in our actions if we constantly reminded ourselves that we are being watched and judged, or would we ignore that voice of conscience if we really wanted to do something that is not allowed?

I want some opinions.

This entry was posted on Monday, April 27, 2009 at Monday, April 27, 2009 and is filed under , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


Human beings, however sincere in their religious believes, are still human beings. Sometimes the drive for physical pleasure prevails. At other times, people just rationalize their behavior and even when one part of them knows that they are sinning, they suppress it and make themselves believe that they are not. Sometimes people are just spiritually lazy and don't give this idea a lot of thought.

in any case, there's a difference between knowing something and acting upon that knowledge. Everyone who tried to go on a diet knows this: we know perfectly well that eating cake and sugary stuff is unhealthy and will make a difference on a scale, yet we still do it.

I have heard a good lecture from Rabbi Gottlieb, but I don't remember the name of that lecture.

April 28, 2009 at 2:37 AM

Don't forget that even when people saw the presence of G-d, it still didn't deter them.

Some people believe in the law but not in the way of G-d. You can have a person going to shul and learning but lying and stealing in business as long as it doesn't cross any core laws.

People know that G-d is forgiving. If you parents told you not to do something but you want to do it, depending on how bad it is, you'll do it because you know they're your parents and they still love you.

Regarding talking during davening, you're not supposed to talk only at certain places. Also, you can rationalize it using the G-d/Avraham/Angels episode.

April 29, 2009 at 12:47 AM

I wish I had more time to read blogs, cause it looks like you've got some interesting posts here.

It reminds me of going to this children's museum where they had this fake man climbing on a ladder next to a fake tree with fake apples, and he would start to grab for the apple, and then a voice would call out, "you are being watched" or something to that effect, and then the man would get scared and go down the ladder, he would look around, and see no one is there, and would try to grab the apple again, but then again the same thing would happen. I think the story is from Gemara or something, but it stuck with me, from when I saw it as a child.

I think the problem is that people don't really believe in Hashem, I mean they might believe in Hashem, but they don't see Him as watching over them and seeing all their actions, they don't feel Hashem's presence, so its easy to forget He's watching. If they truly believed Hashem was watching them, I think they wouldn't be doing the avairos. Cause I know when I go into a room with pictures of tzadikim on it, then I get this feeling to only do good, that I would feel creeped out to do something bad in their presence.

Now that I think about it, I think I sorta touched up on this topic in my post.

o, and there's 3 things needed for a person to commit fraud, I wonder if it works the same with avairos. 1- incentive 2- opportunity 3- rationalization. That a person will do the avaira because they have a desire to do it, and they have the opportunity, and are able to convince themselves its the right things to do. Without one of those, then the person might not do the avaira.

April 29, 2009 at 1:13 PM

SubWife -- True. The only problem with the diet example is that if you eat unhealthy foods, only you will know about it. (I mean, obviously G-d knows but I don't think He cares if you had an extra cookie or not.) No one can do anything or reprimand you if you cheat on your diet. So we do it because we rationalize, "No one has to know, and it's my diet anyway so it's my business." On the other hand, when a person does something that goes against the Torah, G-d knows AND cares, and there will be consequences. The problem, as Babysitter said, is that some people don't fear G-d enough or don't fully comprehend that He is watching their every move.

Moshe -- When the Jews saw G-d on Har Sinai, there were different groups of people. Some people were not affected by it, but some people did change their ways.

It really is a problem if people only believe in the written basics and don't bother thinking about the spirit of the law. That is a very important aspect of living a life that is according to Torah values. Even if something isn't explicitly forbidden in the Torah, a person should think, "Would Hashem want me to do this?" But people don't usually do that....

While talking during some parts of davening is not forbidden, if it disturbs another person who is davening, you have a problem there.

Babysitter -- That is why I'm wondering whether thinking about Hashem's presence more often would deter a person. There are some people who know G-d is watching but when it is not in the front of their minds they do whatever they want. In that case, if they would remind themselves or someone would remind them, they might try harder to do the right thing. On the other hand, there are people who can have the words "Hashem is watching me" in front of their eyes the entire day but will still do whatever they please.

As for the 3 things... You need incentive and opportunity to sin, but I think rationalization is optional. Some people have this uncomfortable feeling when they're doing something wrong because they know it's wrong and they can't find an excuse for it... so they just push that feeling aside and ignore it.

April 29, 2009 at 6:54 PM

True, I guess every person is different.

But if they push the feeling aside and ignore the guilt, then it comes back to haunt them and they will do teshuva for it. Cause they did the first step of teshuva already- admitting they made a mistake.

May 3, 2009 at 8:04 PM

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