"And Joseph recognized his brethren, but they recognized him not." Rabbi Elazar quoted the verse: "Why should I fear in the days of evil, when the iniquity of my persecutors [lit. 'my heels'] encompasses me." (Psalms 49:6) Come and see: As was said by the Sages, there are three classes of those who fear, yet do not know what they fear. But in addition to these three, there is he who fears, yet does not know what he fears because he commits sins unknowingly. He therefore fears the days of evil [instead of seeking to rectify his treating lightly those seemingly minor transgressions he ignores].

What are the days of evil? These are days meant for evil. It is the Evil Inclination called evil, which on certain days is given permission in the world to lead astray those who defile their ways. Whoever wishes to be polluted is defiled. They are called days of evil, reserved for transgressions that a man treads under his heels.

Packs of fiends await to defile those who defile their ways.

Come and see: Packs of fiends await to defile those who defile their ways. A man is led in the very way he chooses to walk. A man who wishes to be purified has many helpers.

We have learned [as an example of a seemingly minor mitzvah that is often treated lightly] that when a man wakes up in the morning, he should wash his hands by someone who has already washed [or by a laver, a pure vessel designated for this purpose], as has been explained. Come and see: We have learned all this for the sake of [understanding that a person needs a specifically designated] laver.

We also learned that a man should wash his right hand with his left hand, in order that the right [chesed] will dominate over the left [gevura]. The right hand should have water poured over it by the left hand.[The right hand should also pass the water vessel to the left hand first, to show the intention that water represents chesed/kindness and it belongs to the right side and the left is now to serve that side.] The washing is expressly intended to ensure that [dominance of the right/chesed over the left/gevura]. Therefore, when washing hands, it behooves one to wash the right with the left, thus causing the right to rule over the left, so as not to give the Evil Inclination [represented by the left side of the sefirotic Tree of Life] an opening to rule at all.

Come and see: When evil judgment reigns, it does not refrain from harming [the righteous with the wicked]. However, when the right rules over the idolatrous nations to break them [in the secret of "'Your right hand, G‑d , smashes an enemy"], G‑d feels pity for them and does not destroy them. [This is the difference between the ruling of the right hand and the left. So too, man should be careful in all matters to have the right rule over the left].

Therefore, when one commits sins that are "trodden under his heels" [i.e. taken as unimportant by him], he is always afraid [and doesn’t realize that the source of his fear is the impending judgement he faces over taking the commandments lightly]. King David always took extra care regarding such sins and, when he went to battle, he searched for them. He therefore was not afraid to wage war.

Come and see: There were four kings, each of whom asked for a different thing. David said: "Let me pursue my enemies, and overtake them: neither let me turn back till they are consumed". (Psalms 18:38) Why did he say that? Because he was careful about those sins [that people take lightly] and this gave no [spiritual] opening to his enemies to defeat him. He therefore pursued them continuously, and they couldn’t pursue him to catch him, and extract punishment for his sins.

Asa [the king] was more fearful. Although he searched for his sins, he was not as King David [who actually killed his enemies]. He [did not want to go down to the level of killing because that involves direct contact with the spiritual forces of wickedness]. He merely wished to pursue his enemies, but not to fight them, and hoped that G‑d would slay them. And so it came to pass, as it is written: "And Asa and the people who were with him pursued them. So G‑d smote the Kushim before Asa, and before Judah, and the Kushites fled". (II Chronicles 14:11-12) Of David, the scripture reads, "And David smote them from the twilight to the evening of the next day". (I Samuel 30:17) But Asa merely pursued them, and G‑d slew them.

Jehoshafat, the King of Judah [was fearful to even arouse the forces of wickedness because of this principle, and he said]: I can neither pursue nor kill them, but I shall sing hymns and you shall kill them. This was because he did not examine himself as thoroughly as Asa did. Yet G‑d did as He was requested, as it is written: "And when they began to sing and to praise, Hashem set an ambush against the children of Amon, Moav and mount Seir who were come against Judah; and they were routed". (II Chronicles 20:22)

Hezekiah was then at home lying in bed, and G‑d killed them.

Hezekiah, the King of Judah, said: I can neither chant, pursue nor wage war, because he was afraid of the [seemingly minor] sins, as we mentioned. It is written: "And it came to pass that night, that the angel of G‑d went out and smote in the camp of Assyria 185,000: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses". (II Kings 19:35) Hezekiah was then at home lying in bed, and G‑d killed them.

How fearful were these righteous men on account of their sins? How much more fearful should the inhabitants of the world be? A man should therefore always be on his guard against these [so-called minor] sins and search to become aware of them, so that the days of evil, which have no mercy on him, will not have control over him.

Come and see [that as opposed to the wicked who have no mercy when they are in control, a merciful person will show mercy even to those who showed no mercy to him as this example shows]: "And Joseph knew his brethren" means that when they fell into his hands, he felt pity for them, because he was whole [since his source was yesod, which includes lovingkindness and mercy]. "...But they knew him not" refers to Simeon and Levi, who came from the side of harsh Judgment and therefore did not have pity on him. For all those from the side of harsh Judgment have no pity on the people who fall into their hands.

David therefore said: "Why should I fear?" He did not say, "I feared", but rather in the future tense - "why should fear". Thus he said: I should always fear the days of evil, as we have said: "...the iniquity of my persecutors ['my heels'] compasses me about." What are "my heels?" They are in the secret of the faith as it is written: "And his hand took hold on Esau's heel". (Gen. 25:26) This heel [in Hebrew, 'akev'], represents the footprints [in Hebrew, 'akevot'] that follow the same transgression that a man constantly treads under his heels.

Come and see the verse: "Woe to them that draw iniquity with cords of vanity, and sin as it were with a cart rope". (Isaiah 5:18) The "cords of vanity" are the sins that he treads under his heels without thinking of it. They are then strengthened into "a cart rope." The sins become stronger and lead him astray in this world and the world to come.

Happy are the righteous, who know how to be guarded against their sins and always examine their deeds, so that no accuser will be found to inform against them in this world nor accuse them in the world to come. The Torah prepares for them ways and paths on which to walk, as it is written: "Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace." (Proverbs 3:17)

BeRahamim LeHayyim:
In a mindful life, a meaningful life, each moment requires the appropriate response. Those of us who are the most connected, listen to their heart, and act in the best manner. They always do the right thing. G‑d knows one's inner thoughts. And if one does G‑d's will, we are told he will make our will His.

David, Asa, Jehoshafat, Hezekiah. Fight your battles, pursue your conflicts but don't directly engage them, sing a song of praise to G‑d, meditate on His omnipotence.

Each strategy has its time, each has its place. The Zohar has given us a valuable blueprint for dealing with conflict. It would be wise to contemplate each method, and save them in your folder entitled "How to deal with my mis-takes". Best wishes.


[Bracketed annotations from Metok Midevash and Sulam commentaries]