Positive Vision - Day 15

Our weekly excerpt from the book "Positive Vision"

Day 15 -

For All the Wrong Reasons -

The Power of Ulterior Motives

Having defined kedushah and seen some of the basic sources regarding the obligation and importance of shmiras einayim, let’s proceed to some practical strategies.


One introductory thought:

There is nothing wrong with doing the right thing for the wrong reason.


In fact, one should train himself to do what is right by first doing so for ulterior motives.


Chazal say as much: “A person should always engage in Torah and mitzvos even for ulterior motives, and not for the sake of the mitzvah itself (shelo lishmah), since this will ultimately bring him to perform them altruistically (lishmah).”


We see this concept at work when Hashem instructs Yaakov to leave Lavan after remaining there for twenty years. Yaakov calls a meeting with his wives and gives them an elaborate justification as to why leaving makes sense. Over the course of seven pesukim he explains how their father tried to swindle him and withhold payment but Hashem was kind to him and he thrived all the same. At the end of this presentation he adds - almost as an afterthought - that Hashem has instructed him to leave.

Why did he not tell them straight from the start that Hashem ordered him to leave? The answer is that leaving one’s home is very difficult. Yaakov wished to minimize the nisayon by showing them how leaving is in their best interest in any case.


It goes without saying that this applies to prohibitions even more so. A person should harness whatever shelo lishmah consideration is available in order to prevent himself from doing an aveirah.


It would seem that this tactic was used by no less a personage than Yosef HaTzaddik. When faced with his nisayon, a test that serves for posterity as a model for overcoming desire, he first argues that performing the aveirah is simply not wise.


He refuses Potiphar’s wife’s advances by telling her about how much her husband trusts him and how this trust resulted in his being custodian over the entire estate. He argues that this breach of trust is unjust and may jeopardize his job security. He then adds, almost as an afterthought, “and I will have sinned to Hashem.”


To fight the war for shmiras einayim consider beforehand all the negative emotions you will feel afterward, how you will feel demeaned and how unhappy you will be. Consider what someone will think of you if he suddenly walks in and sees you doing what you are doing.


Physically as well: Harness your bad middos, your laziness, as your friend. Go to a place where doing the aveirah will require effort on your part.


Anything, but anything, to maintain kedushah.