Once again Eretz Yisrael is riddled with tragedies with the recent wave of knife attacks and vehicle killings from terrorists. In the Yeshiva we hung up a poster sent to us by the Israel Aid Mission which has issued some guidelines for the public. Here are just a few of those points:
Be vigilant. Be alert. Don’t use headphones or a smart phone in public. These can distract you. Be on guard. Be prepared. Keep distance between yourself and strangers. Trust your instincts.
These horrific incidents of terrorism are very frightening for they come from within, inside our borders, walking on our public streets, travelling on our public transportation and driving down our public roads. In a way we feel helpless and unprotected and as much as we are instructed to be aware, prepared, and use our instincts, we need Hashem’s hashgacha to protect us from a sudden attack out of nowhere.
I want to share with you the lesson of awareness that I am learning from the present crisis. Today we are focusing our worry and concern with the terrorists within our midst. Maybe this is to make us more aware of another type of terrorist that is within us – our yetzer harah. I know what you are thinking at this moment; here comes another mussar shcmuz with a big stretch. Not so. I am talking about reality even if we don’t deem it as such. Reb Simcha Bunim from Peshischa said that the yetzer harah is running around with a hatchet with the sole intention to chop off one’s head. If you don’t believe or feel this danger then one should know that he already successfully chopped off your head. Know your enemy. Dovid Hamelech wrote (Tehillim 37,32)צופה רשע לצדיק ומבקש להמיתו The evildoer is planning to murder the tsaddik in both the physical and spiritual sense.
This character analysis of the yetzer harah is also evident from the gemarrah (Sanhedrin 91b). The gemarrah relates of a conversation between Antoneenis and Rebbi on the topic at what exact period does the yetzer hara enter the body of a human. Is it in the womb during the fetus’s development or only after childbirth. Antoneenis was of the opinion that the yetzer hara’s entrance into the human was at birth for if it was any earlier, then the yetzer harah would have kicked the fetus out of the womb before it maturely developed. Rebbe agreed and said that the passuk proves that his opinion is correct as it says לפתח חטאת רובץ.
Rav Wolbe ztl (Ali Shor 2 page 186) gleans from this gemarah a fascinating insight into the evil character of the yetzer hara. Antoneenis remarked that if the yetzer hara would enter the embryo even in the womb, then the fetus would not survive, the mother’ well being would be jeopardized, and the yetzer hara for in the embryo would be terminated. Why would the yetzer harah do something that would destroy itself? The answer is the yetzer harah is a suicide bomber and doesn’t give a hoot about itself as long as other lives are taken with his.
We daven והסר שטן מלפנינו ומאחרינו remove the yetzer harah from in front of us and from in back of us. “In front of us” portrays the yetzer harah as confronting us to transgress a clear cut aveirah. “From in back of us” is the expression describing the yetzer harah that comes from behind in the guise of a mitzvah or with a sudden surprise attack unexpected by us yet was lurking by our side the entire time.
The current danger from terrorist attacks, are real and we must earnestly take on the precautions of the above list. So too, the danger of a fatal attack by the yetzer harah terrorist is no less real. The same precautions must be implemented.
I would like to remark on one of these precautions that is advised and that is listening to one’s instincts. We have an example of this in this week’s parsha. When Lavan and Rivka’s mother called her to see if she was willing to go with Eliezer, she replied with אלך I will go. Rashi comments מעצמי by myself, even if you refuse to give me permission to go. Does sound a little chutzpadik for a three year old to say to her mother?
We can answer this by explaining that מעצמי – by myself means instinctively. Chazal say (Vayikrah Rabbah 35,1) that Dovid Hamelech said on himself חשבתי דרכי ואשיבה רגלי אל עדותיך that every day Dovid scheduled a routine planning to go to this particular place and then to another location. Yet his feet took over and led him to the Beis Medrash. The mefarshim explain that Dovid Hamelech refined his physical body to the point that it was attuned to Hashem’s desire. It automatically and instinctively followed in the path of Hashem even though the mind and intellect might have been indecisive.
Another example is found with Avraham Avinu in last week’s parsha. We find Avraham being visited by Hashem at the same time when three guests appeared at his dwelling. Avraham asks Hashem to wait for him until he returns from attending the needs of his guests (18,3 Rashi). From this action we derive (Shabbos 127) that being hospitable is a greater act than receiving the Shechinah. The question arises from where did Avraham himself know that Halacha? Rav Nossan Adler answers that his body was so sanctified that it would always instinctively do what Hashem wanted. Suddenly Avraham found his feet taking him in the direction of the guests which was for him the sign that this is what Hashem desired him to do at this time. Rav Adler derived this idea from the very words וירא וירץ לקראתם he saw that his feet ran to them.
So too, Rivka sanctified her body that it as well would only do what Hashem desired. The fact that the waters of the spring miraculously rose up to her was a clear indication that she was a true baalas madraigah (24,17 Rashi). This was the intention of her replyאלך מעצמי . Rivka found her body instinctively leaving which by her was an indication of Hashem’s desire. Therefore she must answer to the higher authority and go even though her mother refuses to allow it.
We might not be on this madraigah of instinct where our bodies display a clear indication what Hashem really wants from us. However, there is a voice within us that tells us our proper choice even when in doubt. By listening to this voice we consequently steer ourselves far away from our inner terrorist. For when one is faced with a decision and is unsure which path to take, he hears two voices, the yetzer tov and the yetzer harah each delivering his case to the jury which is you. The yetzer tov is given permission to present his claim first before the yetzer harah. Therefore when in doubt one should always listen to his first thoughts for they possess the moral truth.
The Klausenberg Rebbe ztl told a story of his zaide the Yitav Lev who in the middle of the night called the silversmith and handed him the task to make a crown for the sefer Torah. Of course the silversmith was overjoyed to fulfill the Rebbe’s wishes. When he brought the finished crown to the Rebbe he asked why the Rebbe felt it such an emergency to order the crown made in the middle of the night and could not wait until the morning. The Rebbe answered that he was afraid that by the morning he would have already changed his mind because the yetzer harah would have come to him explaining in lengthy detail why it would be better to spend the money on something else.
In the tefillah of השכבנו we say והסר מעלינו He should remove from us אוייב our enemies,וחרב sword, and death through famine and pestilence. Then once again we repeat the word והסר to remove והסר שטן מלפנינו ומאחרינו remove the yetzer harah from in front of us and from our backs. Both the external and internal enemy are mentioned on the same level and given equal importance with a והסר. This teaches that if we could bring ourselves to treat the yetzer harah terrorism with the same seriousness of the current intifada, then we might merit that Hashem would remove the external problem from us altogether. Maybe all He wants is just for us to trust our inner voice of the yetzer tov more often.
Gut Shabbos Rav Brazil