Confessions II: Bagadnu
We have been deceitful or we have betrayed ourselves, and sins that we have done that have broken us away from our true selves. By the way, this is included in the Al cheit which reads that we have sinned B’Imutz Halev – by hardening our hearts. For example, you have something incredibly juicy to say about someone else, who happens to be someone that you can’t stand. You see your best friend and call him over, you can’t wait to tell him. But you hold off for a second or two, you really don’t want to tell him but you really do, and finally you give in. Every second that you resist the temptation to give in you receive tremendous merit. Even if you eventually gave in. In fact, those minutes which you did not give in, lessen the damage of the moment when you did give in. But the very fact that you struggled meant that your nature was saying – no! You knew it was wrong internally. But the surface feeling overpowered it. That’s Imutz Halev. That is any time that I block off my lev, my heart, or, my natural tendency, to do good.
There is a Halacha that if a man buys a Jewish girl from her father when she’s eight years old, he can marry her when she reaches 12, at the age of puberty, before she goes free. He doesn’t need to give her Kiddushin money, engagement money, because the money he gave to the father is the Kiddushin. If he decides not to marry her, he is called a boged. Because even though he hired her as she was, there was an expectation on her part, even though a theoretical expectation, that she was going to be married to him. That’s called being deceitful with her. He led her on, and then he withdrew. He doesn’t have a mitzvah or obligation to marry her, nevertheless he is still called a boged.
In the same way, anytime I have expectations of growing in a certain way, and I am going to work on this, and then I stop it, it is considered Bagadnu, or being deceitful with myself. That’s because I raised my expectations and let myself down. If I say I am going to learn more this year and then I stop, this is Bagadnu. If I say when I walk into shul I am really going to daven, but then you know what happens, you get distracted…you hear a juicy piece of gossip…or you hear the sports score, and you drop the davening, this is Bagadnu.
We can also understand Bagadnu with regard to our Yetzer Hara. Any time your Yetzer Hara lies to you, or you allow your Yetzer Hara to lie to you, that is considered Bagadnu. (“Yeah, I’ll sleep late and then I will be able to daven, it’s not that I don’t want to go to minyan, but I know that I need to daven well. Now I am so tired. The best thing would be for me to sleep late.”) The Yetzer lies to you. (“This will give you so much pleasure…”) and then you do the avera, this is called Bagadnu. I have lied to my self.
We see an example of this with Saul. He takes an oath as he is leading a war against the Philistines that no one should eat until the enemy is defeated. This is not a smart thing to do, because soldiers need to eat. So why did he do it? Because he felt if they fasted, they would have divine protection which would help them win the war, since he didn’t think they would be able to do it on their own. He pushed the people too hard. And they held on, they kept to his order. Jonathan, King Saul’s son, didn’t know about his father’s oath. He sees everyone starving. So he commands them to eat. They assume he knows about the oath. So they begin to eat everything.
Not only did they eat, but they decided that they first had to give animals as sacrifices, but they were so hungry that they began eating the animals before all the blood had been removed. So look at what happens: Saul says not to eat, Jonathan says to eat, OK we’ll eat but we’ll only give it as a sacrifice. Very holy, wonderful, pious people. Then when they finally eat, they fall all the way down. They eat it with the blood, they eat it before it is offered on the altar. They were pushed too high, too quickly, so when they fell, they fell very far.
Therefore, the verse refers to what Saul did as Boged. He lied to them. He was deceitful. It was as if he said, “You can live at that level. You are so holy you don’t need to eat to fight a war.” So when I set my sights way too high, this is bagadnu. This is one of the worst cases of Yetzeritis in the world, because you can barely diagnose it. (“Ah, I’m being such a tzaddik. I’m going to learn 25 hours a day. That couldn’t possibly be my Yetzer Hara.”) But actually it is. There are times when we push ourselves too far. This is related to the concept of not being true to our selves. To learn more about this, look up the “Gates of Repentance” Shaarei Tshuva, page 37.