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Confessions: Kizavnu

We have been deceitful. (Artscroll Vidui) “And she said, ‘No, my master, man of the Lord, do not deceive – tichazev – your maidservant.’” (Kings II 4:16)

This is the story of the Shunamit woman who, well aware of his sanctity, provided Elisha with a private apartment where he could stay whenever he visited her city. Elisha was so taken by her kindness that he asked her with what he could help or bless her.  The woman politely refused his offer, and Gechazi, Elisha’s assistant, informed his master that the woman did not have any children. Elisha promised her that within a year she would ‘embrace her son”.

After honoring his sanctity and acknowledging that he was truly a man of the Lord, she responded to Elisha’s prophetic blessing by asking him to not deceive her! Did she actually suspect that the great and holy prophet intended to deceive her?

Rashi translates Tichazev as fail or disappoint: “Do not disappoint me.” Other commentaries explain that since he used the expression “embracing a son”, she suspected that she would have the son for a short time only, to embrace him and thereby to experience short-lived happiness. She, therefore, begged the prophet not to fail her. (Metzudat David)

Kizavnu describes situations in which we raise someone’s expectations and do not follow through. This is especially important for parents. Elisha gave this woman a taste of a wonderful experience that she would be unable to maintain.

“I said in my haste, ‘All men are deceivers – kozeiv.’” (Psalms 116:11) Even as I was hastening away, very poor, I said – and firmly believed – that whoever says I will not ascend the throne, lies. (Radak) A Kozeiv denies other’s potential. Kizavnu addresses the times that we interact with people as if they do not have potential. If our response upon hearing someone’s commitments for the new year is to ridicule his resolution because we do not believe he is capable of achieving his goal, we are being a Kozeiv.

We are acting with Kizavnu when we deny our own potential and when we question whether we will achieve our goals.

“Even the prophet Samuel lied!  He anointed me king and I did not become king for a very long time.” (Rashi)

Kizavnu includes raising expectations that cannot be met, or even leading someone to believe that something will happen sooner than it will. Again – this is an important issue for parents with young children.

The Vilna Gaon (Commentary to Proverbs 30:6-8) defines a Kozeiv as someone who is serious when he makes his commitments, but does not follow through. The Kozeiv disappoints himself.  “Don’t add stringencies onto Torah, lest your inability to maintain the extra commitment will cast doubt on the substance of all you do. You will be proven to be a Kozeiv – a person without substance – and you will end u rejecting everything.”

A Kozeiv builds up false expectations of his own religiosity and sincerity only to cause himself to fall short. Anything I do to cause my service of God to be empty is included in Kizavnu. Anything I may do that will make my service of God less meaningful is included in Kizavnu.

Tikkun/Achieving Greatness

We must measure our words so as not to falsely raise others’ expectations.

We must honor and respect everyone’s potential, especially our own.

We must be deliberate in our commitments. We must not leap too far and too fast when trying to grow in our religious observance.

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