You're Being Watched, Part II  

Posted by inkstainedhands in ,

Imagine my delight when, a few days after my original 'You're Being Watched' post, one of my teachers discussed this topic in class. Don't you love those times when someone mentions something you were thinking about without you asking?

So here are some of the things my teacher mentioned in class.

We are in the middle of learning the 6 mitzvot tmidiyot, and the class was about Bitachon Bi'Hashem. Once you have basic bitachon, there are certain things you can do in order to translate that faith into the way you live your life.

King David wrote in Tehillim, "Shiviti Hashem l'negdi tamid." I place Hashem before me at all times. What you are supposed to do is concentrate on the fact that Hashem is before you. By focusing on His presence, you change the way you act as a result.

Rambam (Maimonides) said in his Guide for the Perplexed that you cannot compare the way a person sits, moves, and conducts himself when alone at home with the way he does when he is in front of a king. You can read more on this topic from Guide for the Perplexed here.

It is only tempting for us to break the rules when we know we are not being watched. For example, if you are aware of a police car behind you, you will not consciously run a red light.

In the same way, knowing that Hashem is in front of you (once you already believe in Him) should stop you from sinning. The Rambam mentioned mundane things such as sitting and moving, which aren't halachot, in order to show that when you know you are being closely watched, you will be careful even about the smallest, most mundane things.

There is a story about the Chofetz Chaim traveling somewhere in a wagon. I think this might be what Babysitter was referring to in her comment on my original post. The wagon was passing by an apple orchard, and the driver stopped in front of it. The driver hopped off, told the Chofetz Chaim that he wants to get some apples for himself, and asked him to call out if he sees anyone coming, because the man did not want to get into trouble. As he was about to pick some apples, the Chofetz Chaim called out to him, "Someone is watching!" The man ran back to the wagon. After a few minutes passed by and he did not see anyone else near the orchard, the man decided to try again. Once again, the Chofetz Chaim let him know that someone was watching, before he could take an apple. The man, however, did not see anyone, so he confronted the Chofetz Chaim and asked him who was watching. The Chofetz Chaim explained to him that Hashem is always watching.

People are often more afraid of others than of G-d. They hide things from each other or do certain things only when they know that nobody from their community or school is watching them. They don't care that Hashem sees, even though that is more important than whether or not other people see. When it gets to that level that one cares more about public opinion than about G-d, that's sad.

So let's clarify a few of the points that were made in my original post.

  1. One of the questions was whether people actually care that Hashem is watching them. If people reminded themselves of Hashem's presence, would it work in preventing them from sinning? If they already believe in G-d, yes. This idea of placing Hashem before you at all times will work only if you believe in His existence in the first place.
  2. Once you believe in Hashem, if you remind yourself of His presence every so often, it will affect the way you live your life. Of course, nobody is perfect and we will still do many things we shouldn't be doing, but there will at least be some kind of change.
Since focusing on G-d's presence all the time and worrying about our actions is overwhelming, some people don't bother trying. Anything, however, can be done if you do it slowly, gradually, little by little.

In this situation though, what is little by little?

Make a resolution to remind yourself once a day (by setting an alarm on your phone or leaving a note for yourself), then in five years go up to twice a day, after another five years, increase it to three times, until there comes a point in your life when you are always aware that Hashem is before you and is watching everything you do. Make it a habit to think of this at least once a day for now. It's not overwhelming, it's gradual, it's possible, you can do it.

This entry was posted on Sunday, May 3, 2009 at Sunday, May 03, 2009 and is filed under , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


"When it gets to that level that one cares more about public opinion than about G-d, that's sad."

That's also very human. There's a story in Gemara about the time of R'Yohanan's death. He gave his students (pretty spiritual and moral bunch of people) the blessing that they should be afraid of G-d as much as they are afraid of people's opinions. When one of them asked, "Is this it?", R'Yohanan answered that it would be pretty good if they could achieve the level when their fear of Gd is as strong as their fear of people.

I am also trying to find that lecture by R'Gottlieb where he addresses this issue. It's been driving me crazy, but I haven't found it yet.

May 3, 2009 at 9:42 PM

That ideal level IS hard to achieve, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't strive towards it.

May 3, 2009 at 9:58 PM
t !  


i finally decided to comment. oh, the pressure!

but i shan't capitalize, so don't even try.

anyway, i was wondering about your choice of words: you say, "Bitachon Bi'Hashem," when we learned "Emunah," specifically, "Mitzvat HaEmana B'Mitziut Hashem."

it's a fine point, but an important one, i think. depending on who you ask (the "radam," our tehillim teacher, etc) the two terms have distinctly different meanings.

for example, if you define emunah as knowing and bitachon as applying, emunah would be believing in g-d, and bitachon would be understanding that He is watching all the time.

so though you are discussing bitachon here, emunah is the actual mitzvah. the torah is always very precise with words, as you well know. (mrs. s, coughcough)

<3 me

May 5, 2009 at 12:14 AM

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