Know your enemy. This advice also refers to our most vicious and sinister enemy the yetzer harah. In this week’s parasha we have an example of how to make an inquiry of this enemy of ours. The passuk says (Bereishis 41,45) that Yosef married Asnas the daughter of Potiphar. The Torah relates of two women who had pure intentions to beget a child from a tsaddik yet their results were so different. One was Tamar who conceived a child from Yehudah while she posed as a prostitute. The second was Zelika the wife of Potifar who attempted to seduce Yosef in order to merit a child with him. Chazal say that she saw in astrology that her lineage would bear a child but she was not sure whether who would conceive from him, her or her daughter Asnas. Why then were their fates so polarized? Tamar merited to the lineage of Moshiach with her act of prostitution and yet Zelikah remained cursed for her seduction of Yosef?
The Sefer Aznayim Latorah explains that man can very easily live in delusional thinking that his actions and speech are motivated by the purest of intentions. How can one really know the truth about himself? The true barometer is to measure one’s reactions when he encounters obstacles. If one sees that from shamayim they are obviously hindering from accomplishing his endeavor and therefore he ceases to continue trying, that decision is an indication of righteous and for the sake of shamayim motivation. However, if one is met with obstacles and nevertheless continues to seek to override the hindrances by utilizing unrighteous tactics and practices, this demonstrates that the intentions were tainted and were never completely for the sake of heaven.
Tamar when she was taken out to be burned she could have easily shamed Yehudah by proving that the collateral he gave to her as payment belonged to him and thereby save herself. Instead she was willing to be burned in order not to embarrass him. This proved that from the onset her prostitution was leshaim shamayim. Zelika in contrast when she was unsuccessful in breaking Yosef’s spirit in order to accomplish her goal, she resorted to torture him in order to subdue him to have relations with her. Subsequent all of her schemes of forcing Yosef to surrender to her she slandered him by spreading rumors about his seduction. By doing so she was sentencing Yosef to jail where he could have been easily killed. Compare and see that her reaction was just the opposite of Tamar’s who was willing to sacrifice her life not to embarrass the very person whom she seduced.
The above is just one example of determining the authenticity of one’s intentions even when it falls into the realm of fulfilling a mitzvah. The Baalei Mussar give us three clear indicators through which one can detect that his motivation to perform an action stems from a negative source and energy. One indicator is that right before a person decides to do or not to do the mitzvah he hears two voices one pro and the other con. It has been proven that in most circumstances the first inner voice comes from the yetzer tov while the second voice is usually the yetzer harah.
A second indication to help determine that his action or passivity is rooted in evil is if he finds that everything goes extremely smooth without any glitches or snags. This particular indicator is proven by the sefarim who ask from where did Avraham determine that the sacrificing of the ram at the Akeidah was really an act of goodness? Did we not find the yetzer hara constantly undermining this test with all sorts of wrenches such as turning himself into an illusionary river in order to deter Avraham’s resolve to sacrifice Yitzchak. Maybe the ram was also an illusion and a ploy from the yetzer harah?
The answer given is that what ever the yetzer harah coordinates, it proceeds with a glatt and easy path. In reference with the ram, the Torah describes that its horns were entangled in the bush and it took great effort from Avraham to disengage it from it. Therefore the coordinator of the ram sacrifice could only be the agenda of the yetzer tov which involves acts that demand much toil, effort, and self sacrifice.
The third indicator to realize that the action about to be done stems from evil is its persistency. If it comes from the yetzer tov one will notice that he makes his strong case and suggestion only once and then he disappears never hearing from him again on this matter. Not so with the yetzer harah. He is a class act nudnik, and he harasses you without let up even for a minute and boy does he use lachatz and heavy pressure.
All these three tactics and characteristics of the yetzer hara are hinted in the letters of שקר which means falsehood. The shin of sheker is in the first letter of the word שני which means the second. Let us remember that the yetzer harah is the second inner voice that is heard inside a person in time of indecision. The first voice that he should always listen to is the yetzer tov. The second letter of sheker is kuf which is the first letter of the word קל which means easy. If it is a smooth execution without any snags then one should be weary that it belongs to the Tumah camp. The third measure to identify a future action is through the hock and persistency of the yetzer harah not allowing one to take his time and process the results of such an action. This is symbolized by the third letter of sheker which is a ר which is the first letter of the word רציפות which means uninterrupted and continuous. If one has any doubt whether his action will be emes or sheker then he can test it out by this three tier identity checklist. It really works.
The Rambam (Hilchos Chanukah 4,12) writes thatנר חנוכה מצוה חביבה היא עד מאד that the mitzvah of Ner Chanukah is very beloved (the word מאד meaning very). We could interpret this to mean as follows. The passuk says (Bereishis 1,31)וירא אלקים את כל אשר עשה והנה טוב מאד . On this our Chazal comment that the word tov refers to the yetzer tov and the word מאד refers to the yetzer harah. This seems to indicate that the yetzer harah is superior to the yetzer tov because it is called tov me’od? The answer is when we can elevate and transform the yetzer harah to identify with and to serve the yetzer tov then it is truly superior than the natural drive of the yetzer to do tov. For this reason it merits the title of tov me’od.
But it is even deeper. When the three tactics of the yetzer harah are transferred to the yetzer tov we have the acronym of מאד. The letter mem symbolizes the middah of מתינות which is the opposite of the yetzer harah’s former middah of lachatz and pressure which squashes any form of thinking. The letter aleph which is the first letter of the aleph beis symbolizes the number first inner voice response to clarify the indecision. The letter dalet which means to draw up water with a bucket from a well, symbolizes the challenges with which the yetzer tov confronts a person before fulfilling a mitzvah. He must draw upon his strengths in order to successfully execute the mitzvah thereby receiving greater reward. Therefore the wordמאד represents the transformed yetzer harah who now serves the yetzer tov to help it fulfill its mission. This is the mission of אדם to transform himself into a מאד being (the identical letters).
One of the middos of the yetzer harah is the middah of azus, chutzpah, audacious. For the Navi says that the Greeks symbolize the נמר the leapord which possesses the middah of brazenness as stated in the Mishnah says Rabbe Yehudah Ben Taimah says הוי עז כנמר. However, on Chanukah we took that middah of brazenness from the Greeks and brought it into kedusha. Thirteen Kohanim fought against the entire Greek trained Army. There is no greater chutzpah than that and we still one. Chutzpah without fear when utilized for kedusha is the story of Chanukah. For this reason we light on the outside of one’s house in order to show that we go outside and beyond the expected boundary. The miracle of the oil burning for eight days is also a chutzpah meaning that it goes beyond the normal limits and boundaries of its nature. This concept of conscripting the yetzer tov to serve the yetzer tov during Chanukah is hinted in the words of the Rambam that Ner Chanukah is beloved until מאד. The reason of Ner Chanukah’s special cherishment is because it symbolizes the attainment of the middah מאד where the yetzer harah was transformed into servicing the yetzer tov instead of itself.
The word מאד is gematriah 45. The letters דם (blood) in מאד symbolize the 44 lights that are lit throughout the eight days of Chanukah including the eight shamashim. Now one might ask why include the shamashim in this number? The answer that can be given is because they represent what Chazal say גדולה שמושה של תורה מלימודה greater is the serving of Torah than just learning it. By serving and observing the conduct and behavior of a Talmid Chachim one will advance in Torah more than just merely hearing his insights and halachos from him. The Maharitz Chayos (Berachos 7b) writes that he saw in the name of the Vilna Gaon that by being meshamesh the Rebbi, the Torah penetrates the heart much deeper than just merely hearing a description of such a conduct.
To fully have shimush from a Talmid Chacham one requires the middah of chutzpah. This is learned from the Gemarrah in Berachos 62 where it recounts a few episodes where the talmid followed his rebbi to the bathroom and to the bedroom lying under his bed in order to observe his Torah behavior even in such matters of relieving oneself and conjugal relations. When addressed with the question that this type of observance was totally brazen and not tzenius, their reply was this is also Torah and I must learn how it is done.
On Chanukah we took this middah of chutzpah from the Greeks and utilized it to further Torah learning in the realm of shimush Hatorah. That is the reason the shamaesh is also counted for it represents שמוש of Torah which stems from the ability to use this chutzpah for Torah and kedusha. These 44 candles symbolize the yetzer harah which resides in the blood. The aleph ofמאד symbolizes the neshama which the yetzer harah is now a subject of. The yetzer harah is usually dark and sinister but on Chanukah it is transformed into a light like the yetzer tov – forty four lights all transformed into neshamah. This is the tachlis of אדם to be מאד. We are obligated to serve Hashem with בכל מאדך with all one’s מאד with the yetzer harah. מאדך (including the word) is gematriah 66 the same as יון which is the nation of the a Greeks. Chanukah is a time when Am Yisrael had a Jewish victory over the Greeks and incorporated their middah of azus into their own arsenal. This is what the Rambam hints to when he writes that it is the Ner of Chanukah which is so beloved because it symbolizes the attainment of the madraigah of טוב מאד .
Chazal say that the mitzvah of Ner Chanukah is until the רגל leaves the שוק there is no one else in the market place. With a new perspective we can explain this to mean that the word regel symbolizes habit and regularity in contrast to one stepping out of the norm, the accepted, and the expected. In other words the lighting of Ner Chanukah should accomplish to implant within a person a chutzpah of kedusha to go beyond the natural boundary which one accepted upon himself because of rote performance and to extend himself beyond his comfort zone. In a house one feels more comfortable than outside of one’s house. Yet the lighting of the Chanukah lights is outside of the house out of one’s comfort of habit. The ability to use the brazenness of the Greeks in order to inspire a further ascent to a higher level of spirituality is the essence of the lights of Chanukah.
Guten Shabbos and Litchtegin Chanukah