Mixed Motives

See the value of a single mitzvah, even if performed for primarily ulterior motives!

From Yerushalmi Qiddushin 22b:

א”ר יוחנן: אם שמעת דבר מר’ ליעזר בנו של ר”י הגלילי, נקב אזנך כאפרכס. הזו ושמע דאמר רבי יוחנן, ר’ ליעזר בנו של רבי יוסי הגלילי אומר: אפי’ תשע ומאות ותשעים ותשעה מלאכים מלמדין עליו חובה, ומלאך אחד מלמד עליו זכות, הקב”ה מכריעו לכף זכות. ולא סוף דבר כל אותו המלאך. אלא אפילו תשע מאות ותשעים ותשעה צדדין מאותו המלאך מלמדין עליו חובה, וצד אחד מאותו המלאך מלמד עליו זכות, הקב”ה מכריעו לכף זכות.

מה טעם? “אִם-יֵשׁ עָלָיו מַלְאָךְ מֵלִיץ אֶחָד מִאָלֶף” אין כתיב, אלא “אֶחָד מִנִּי-אָלֶף” מאלף לצדדין של אותו מלאך.

Rav Yochanan said: If you hear something from Rav Leizer the son of Rav Yosi haGelili, place a hearing tube in your ear. Attend and hear that R’ Yochanan said that R’ Leizer the son of Rav Yosi haGelili would say: Even if 999 angels find fault in him, and one angel finds merit in him, the Holy One allocates him to the side of merit. And it doesn’t end with all of that one angel! Rather, even 999 aspects of that angel [also] find fault in him, and one side of that angel find merit. The Holy One [still] allocates him to the side of merit!

What’s the source? It doesn’t say, “If there is one defending angel from 1,000 [mei’alef]”. Rather it says, “one of a thousandth [mini-alef]” (Iyov 33:23) Of the thousand aspects of that one angel.

So, a person who created 999 prosecuting angels by his sins but did one mitzvah, and even that mitzvah was primarily due to bad ulterior motives — so that only 1/1000th of the resulting angel (one one millionth of the angelic retinue) can defend him, Hashem will still take that tiny spark of good and judge the person as meritorious!

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  1. Neil Harris says:

    So one malach (angel) has 1000 different aspects? Yet is limited to only one ratzion (desire/will/mission)?

    • micha says:

      One mission, yes. But I’m not sure about one desire.

      These are mal’akhim created through our actions. So we’re describing 999 sins and one mitzvah of one person.

      The title and opening of the post are based on the assumption that the thousand tzedadim of the mal’akh embody the thousand motives someone had for doing some mitzvah (or ch”v v.v.). And therefore the retzonos of these mal’akhim are as complex as the decision the person made to perform the original mitzvah. In our case, only one mal’akh spoke out in his defense, meaning even that one-in-a-thousand mitzvah was done for almost entirely the wrong reasons. Almost entirely. That 1/1000 drop of proper intention in one mitzvah was enough to save him despite the 999 aveiros.

      • NEIL says:

        Ah-ha. That puts a lot of pressure on me and my multiple motives for doing things. To quote RYS, “Make sure your l’sham shamayim is l’sham shamayim.”

        My brother in law old me once that there are over 40 different factors one considers prior to swinging a golf club, l’havdeil.

        • micha says:

          The reverse — the Y-mi takes the pressure off!

          Hashem will judge favorably a person with a 999 sins and one mitzvah on his account, even if that mitzvah was 999 parts bad ulterior motives!

          (I updated the post to try to preempt others from having to ask the questions Neil did.)

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