We have caused perversion. We have corrupted good people and good values. (Artscroll Vidui) “He should then assemble a row of men and say, ‘I have sinned, and perverted – He’eveiti – that which was right, and it profited me not.” (Job 33:27)
H’evinu addresses situations in which someone is following a productive path or has changed a negative pattern of behavior and we say or do something to ridicule, minimize or even stop their positive steps.
There are times we are uncomfortable when we watch someone change. This is especially true if he is successful in dealing with something that has proven difficult for us to master. We are then tempted to make a comment, even directly to the person, that detracts from what he has accomplished, causing him to question himself and perhaps slip back into old patterns of behavior.
Another example: It is difficult for family members to change their interactions with a sibling, for example, who has changed. We know each other’s triggers and vulnerabilities and can easily set him off course with a word or by creating a situation that will bring out his worst behavior.
Example: An employer or supervisor can crush the spirits of an employee who is working hard by minimizing the work and effort.
Example: We can over praise someone’s changes and create impossible expectations for him, causing him to fail.
We ridicule people’s efforts to institute new standards of behavior even when we agree with the purpose and we have no better suggestion.
The verse in Job added “and it profited me not.” I had nothing to gain by perverting the just. Job is describing a fight against something good with absolutely no positive purpose in mind. H’evinu is essentially our fight against good. It is a lack of clear and directed vision of what is constructive and good. We are swallowed up by our emotional reaction to someone’s positive efforts, and we forget to measure those efforts by what is good and just.
We should constantly offer positive and realistic feedback to people who are trying to change.
We should catch ourselves when we are uncomfortable with, or even threatened by, someone’s positive changes.
We can focus on our friends’ positive changes as examples for us.
We must have clear and directed vision, a moral and religious compass that will direct us in our responses to others’ actions, choices and changes.
We can use Yom Kippur, when we are Spiritually centered, to define the compass we will use over the coming year: This is what I hope to accomplish.