This week’s Perashah starts off with the Pasuk Ki tesse’ la’milhamha al oy’vecha untano hashem elokecha beyadecha v’shavita shivyo. "If you go out to war against your enemies, and the Lord, your God, will deliver him into your hands, and you take his captives…".
The Zohar Hakadosh interprets this Pasuk as referring to the internal war a person wages on a daily basis with his Yetzer Hara (the evil inclination). In this reading, the Pasuk can be seen as saying that if we are truly sincere in trying to defeat our Yetzer Hara, then Hashem will help us and we will triumph victoriously!
In Perashat Vayishlah, when Yaakov is fighting with the angel, Yaakov asks the angel, in Perek 32 Pasuk 30, "Now tell me your name.” The angel replies, “Why is it that you ask for my name?" Rashi comments that the angel didn't have a set name, because his name keeps changing. The Yetzer Hara, too, comes in many different forms and is called by many names. It can be called "Money" or it can be called "Internet". It can also come in the form of an addiction like "Gambling”, “Drugs” or “Alcohol". But whatever the Yetzer Hara disguises itself as, in the end its goal is to do whatever it can to bring us down.
Our job in this life is to do our utmost to avoid this evil inclination and to run away from sin. But the Yetzer Hara is very cunning and is constantly trying to find different ways to make us fall. It will work on us 24/7, so it’s our job to outsmart the Yetzer Hara and avoid its clutches.
The Yetzer Hara is the Satan and the Mal-ach HaMavet all rolled into one. It first causes us to sin, then it's the prosecutor that wants to throw the book at us and finally it's the Mal-ach Hamavet that wants to kill us. But the biggest enemy of the Yetzer Hara is Torah learning, and it will try in every way possible to stop us from learning Torah. There is good news, though, for as it says in the 5th Perek of Masechet Sukkah: "barati yetzer hara v’barati torattavlin".
Hashem is saying to us "I created the Yetzer Hara and I created the antidote which is the Torah!" So if the Yetzer Hara grabs hold of you, just drag him to the Bet Midrash where we will be protected. These are all lifelong battles that we all have with our Yetzer Hara which we must continue to fight with and strive to overcome!
In Perashat Vayeshev, we learned how Yosef Hatzadik escaped the clutches of Potiphar's wife when she grabbed his garment as she tried to seduce him. Yosef ran from her, as it says in the Pasuk, "va’yazov bigdo b’yadah"..."He left his garment in her hand". This was not easy to do but that's one of the reasons that he's called Yosef Hatzadik, because he was able to conquer his Yetzer Hara!
The question may be asked, why didn't he just go back to get his garment so he wouldn't be accused of anything? The answer is that he was afraid if he went back, he might fall and sin! As it clearly says in the 4th Perek of Pirke Avot: "ezehu gibor ha’kovesh et yitzro". Which means, "Who is a hero, one who conquers his evil inclination!"
The two rulings that follow also involve the Yetzer Hara. The first one discusses the procedures that must be followed if a soldier desires a beautiful woman who has been captured (because the Yetzer Hara got hold of him). The Torah instructs that it is permissible to take her for a wife, but there are several hurdles that she must first pass: shaving her head, letting her nails grow then sitting and weeping for her parents for 30 days. Only then can you finally take her for your wife. We see from this that the Torah understands human nature. By the time you follow through with the Torah's instructions, you may find its no longer worthwhile to marry her.
The Torah then discusses the Ben Sorer Umoreh, or the rebellious son: "If a man has a wayward and rebellious son, who does not obey his father or his mother and they chasten him and still he does not listen to them, his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city.” The Torah then goes on to instruct the parents to tell the elders that their son is wayward, a glutton and guzzler. Such a son must be stoned to death. However, the Talmud explains (Sanhedrin 71a) that there never was and never will be a son who qualifies as a Ben Sorer U’Moreh.
There are so many conditions that would have to be met, that such a situation could never actually arise. It is therefore theoretical. However, the Torah wishes to emphasize how damaging the Yetzer Hara can be and how it can effect our Neshamah for the rest of our lives, thus killing us spiritually if not literally.
The Torah is also teaching us that if we become addicted to these desires at a young age then we may actually lose our freedom of choice and our ability to make Teshuvah. Rabbi Twersky writes in his book that when he worked with addicts, they continually said, "When I needed drugs, I did things that I never thought myself capable of doing."
Rabbi Ephraim Wachsman was in Deal this past Shabbat and in one of his talks to us, the Rabbi said..."When we're eating food that's not healthy for us like sugar products...do we listen to our pancreas or kidneys or our liver or colon that are all disgusted by most of the products that we put into our bodies? The only organ that craves those detrimental products is just our tongue with its few hundred taste buds that yearns for these bad influences to our body! It's the Yetzer Hara that try's to convince us constantly... it's only one cookie or just a piece of candy...just eat it and enjoy!"
Rabbi Eliyahu Lopian comments on this, saying that cravings overwhelm freedom of choice. The addict in his desperation is capable of eliminating anything that stands in the way of gratifying his needs and desires. A student of Rav Lopian once asked the Rabbi if it was ok to go to a function that was not going to be so Tsanua, then the student answered his own question, saying, "I think I'm strong enough to handle that test". The Rabbi replied, "I'm 96 years old, I have one bad eye and my Yetzer is weakened and still I'm worried that I won't be able to control my Yetzer Hara!"
May we all be aware that we all have a Yetzer Hara which we live with every day of our lives. Hashem gave us this Yetzer Hara to test us so that we can earn Olam Haba. May we all recognize that the remedy to control this Yetzer Hara is learning Torah and doing acts of Hesed. May we all follow the Torah's prescription that will enable us to conquer our Yetzer Hara! Amen
Parasha perspective By Jack E. Rahmey from the teachings and guidance of Rabbi Amram Sananes.