The Snowball Effect

Parashat Re'eh (Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17)

Have you ever heard of the Snowball Effect? As you know, the Snowball Effect is a process that begins with something that is seemingly insignificant but then builds on itself, becoming exponentially larger over time. It comes from the concept of a snowball rolling down a hill. In theory, it picks up both mass and momentum the longer it rolls. After just a little while it would become quite massive and very difficult to stop. This concept has been applied to many things, but it has spiritual applications as well. In Pirkei Avot, Ben Azzai tells us: 

Run to pursue a minor mitzvah [commandment], and flee from a transgression. For a mitzvah brings another mitzvah, and a transgression brings another transgression. For the reward of a mitzvah is a mitzvah, and the reward of transgression is transgression. (m.Avot 4:2)

This is the principle of the Snowball Effect. If we begin traveling in a certain direction—whether toward or away from spiritual matters—we will create a momentum that will be difficult to stop. If we succeed in surrendering one area of our lives and being obedient to one instruction from the Torah, we will naturally be inclined toward the next one. We will find that obedience will have become a little easier. However, the reverse is also true. If we refuse to be obedient to one of the Torah’s instructions, then it will be more difficult to obey other instructions. Soon we will find ourselves in a place of utter rebellion, where even the easiest commandments are forsaken. This is the principle behind the introductory words of this week’s Torah portion: 

See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you today, and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside from the way that I am commanding you today, to go after other gods that you have not known. (Deuteronomy 11:26–28)

Tthe LORD tells us that he gives us two choices: a blessing or a curse. The blessing comes about through obedience and the curse through disobedience. Each and every day we have the choice to enjoy blessings or curses. Each and every day we have the choice to either obey or disobey. Each one of these choices will produce its own fruit. Obedience brings a blessing and disobedience brings a curse. Once we make our choice and embark on the journey of obedience or disobedience, we will find that it is easier to continue down that same path than it is to turn around and head in the opposite direction. The Didache, one of the earliest non-canonical teachings of the Apostles, explains the ramifications of this choice:

There are two ways, one of life and one of death, and the difference between the two ways is great. (Didache 1:1)

Does anyone ever wake up in the morning and say, “I think I’ll do evil today”? Possibly. But by far most of humanity do not. We don’t usually set out on the wrong path with intention. However, we might end up on that path unintentionally if we do not take calculated steps to avoid it. Therefore, if we combine the warning of the Torah with the explanation of Ben Azzai, we will see the ramifications of choosing the proper path:

See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you today, and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the LORD your God. … Run to pursue a minor mitzvah, and flee from a transgression. For a mitzvah brings another mitzvah, and a transgression brings another transgression. For the reward of a mitzvah is a mitzvah, and the reward of transgression is transgression.

Let’s get that snowball rolling. Let’s take intentional steps today to pursue blessings through obedience so that everything we do for the Kingdom will be multiplied exponentially.

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