Netivot Olam I: Starving The Yetzer Hara #5

12 12 2011
Based on a shiur by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller

Netivot Olam  The seven names of the yetzar hara (evil inclination) share a common factor in that they all connote lack. Humans are created imperfect We are drawn towards evil because it resonates with us. The more whole a person is, the less the yetzer hara can dominate him.

The Gemara says that the yetzer hara didn’t rule over the Avot because they reached perfection. No doubt they worked very hard to reach greatness, but they had to be guided by Hashem in this direction because each one of them contained, like a hologram, the total of their future descendants. Because of this, their definition of self had to be complete. They couldn not be defined by chisaron (lack).

The yetzer hara appeals to a talmid chacham (Torah scholar) more than anyone else because his self-definition is his sichliut (intellect). Truth isn’t transient. Therefore, there is a certain sheleimut (perfection) in sichliut . However, the person learning has to apply the truth to a world full of flaws. Sichliut can be reduced to being defined by the imperfections of the world.

The verse states, “The righteous walk with it (the Toarh) while the wicked stumble.” It is compared to a potion that gives a person energy. Where a person goes with it is up to him. It could take him to his death or to higher levels of elevation. Sichliut is enormously powerful. It could lead a person to holiness or to ruin. Great intellectuals veered off the path not just because they were ignorant of Torah but because they used their mind to serve their emotional agendas. Their devoted their intellect to chisaron rather than to elevating it.

The nefesh is divided in two: the animal, instinctive soul and the spiritual soul. The nefesh habahamit of the Jewish people is made from the earth of Eretz Yisrael, while the soul of the non-Jews is made from the earth of other countries. Eretz Yisrael is about elevating the physical. Other countries cannot be uplifted. Our mitzvot force us to interact with the world. In contrast, the non-Jewish perspective views anything physical as an enemy to spirituality. Because Yisrael has to interact with the world, the challenge of being drawn into it is very real. Sin drives away the intellect. The righteous rule their hearts while the wicked are ruled by their hearts. The heart has to draw its energy from chochmah, but ultimately chochmah must control the heart.

Our deveikut (connection) to Hashem is imperfect as we continue to search for Him. Other nations don’t feel the gaping lack as much because they have less potential. Virtually every mistake we have made as a people was ideological. We were aiming towards perfection and somehow veered off. The symbolism of the golden calf and the symbolism of the mishkan both reflected the desire to draw closer to Hashem. However, the difference was that one was an act of self-nullification on Hashem’s terms, while the other was ultimate egotism on human terms.

Although a person may seem more whole and complete if he fulfils his desires, it’s really an illusion. The more a person feeds his evil inclination, the hungrier it gets, because desire is a chisaron. If it is contained and controlled it diminishes. Filling your desires accentuates the part of yourself that is lacking. Starving the yetzer hara eliminates it. A person can sublimate his desires by elevating it, not giving in to it.

The yetzer hara first appears as a guest and then becomes a host. The non-Jews see the yetzer hara as external but in actuality it can easily become a part of our essence. When we make wrong, it becomes habit, which creates desensitization. At the beginning the yetzer hara doesn’t have much force because there is an inner mechanism that is shocked by sin. Once desensitization happens, the drive to sin is so strong it becomes almost inescapable. Because of this, the first step, which may not even be a sin, but just filling our inner void with something that isn’t holy, could be the decisive step that could lead a person off the right path.




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