CHAG PURIM SAMEIACH!!!!!!!
As we all know, one of the major themes of Purim is “V’Nahafoch Hu” – flipping things upside-down, or inside-out. In the Purim story, many aspects were flipped from bad to good: The Jews defeated their enemies, instead of their enemies destroying them. Haman was hanged on a tree instead of Mordechai being hanged on that very same tree.
This week let’s see how we can use the power of V’Nahafoch Hu to defeat the yetzer hara!
I Just Don’t Care
So far, we have discussed how the yetzer hara tries to trick us with lies and illusions. Once we have identified his lies, we can try to fight back by strengthening the voice of truth or bursting the illusion that he is our master, and we are his slave.
But what if it doesn’t work? What if you identify these lies, but you still find yourself saying, “I don’t care”? It might be a voice saying: “I know this cookie is bad for me, but I don’t care, I want to eat it anyway;” or, “I know this outfit isn’t so tznius, but I don’t care, I want to wear it anyway;” or, “I know that watching this movie will ruin my streak of not watching for 3 weeks, but I just don’t care. I want to watch it anyway.”
What should we do when we hear the voice of “But I don’t care”?
Who Is Talking To Me?
In order to understand this, we have to go back to the very first sin of mankind.
Rav Chaim Volozhin1 explains that when Adam and Chava ate from the Tree of Knowledge, it transformed how they experienced their Bechirah (free will).
Before Adam ate from the Tree, he had free will, but his free will was very different from how we experience it today. When Adam was originally created, the yetzer hara existed outside of him. Just as the chair you’re sitting on exists outside of you, the yetzer hara originally existed outside of Adam. It wasn’t like we have it today, where the voice of the yetzer hara lives inside of us and tries to tell us what to do. The yetzer hara originally lived outside of Adam.
But as soon as Adam ate from the Tree of Knowledge, the yetzer hara became ingrained in his heart. Now, the yetzer hara lived within him, and started speaking to him as if it was his own voice.
This is how we experience the yetzer hara today. We have one voice telling us: “Don’t eat the cookie, it’s bad for you!” But we have another voice telling us: “No, I don’t care! I want to eat the cookie anyway!” It appears as if both voices are our own. But in truth, one voice is the voice of your neshama (soul), who only wants to do what’s right, and the other is the voice of the yetzer hara.
This explains why it was called the “Eitz HaDaas Tov Va’Ra – The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.” By eating from this tree, the voices of good and evil became mixed together within man himself, such that man now thinks that both voices are his own.
From this Nefesh HaChaim, we learn a fundamental truth: The voice of evil was originally created to be outside of man, and it’s supposed to stay there – just as your chair exists outside of you. The fact that we hear the voice of evil tempting us from inside, such that it now sounds like our own voice – is only an illusion. It’s only a sad, temporary state that we are living in, due to the sin of eating from the Tree of Knowledge.
Externalizing the Voice of the Yetzer Hara
Understanding this fundamental truth can help us defeat the yetzer hara. Now, when we hear a voice saying, “I don’t care, I want to do it anyway!” – we can put it back in his place, saying: “Hey! That’s not my own voice. It’s the voice of the yetzer hara.”2
When we recognize this truth, we will realize that we don’t have to listen to the voice of the yetzer hara and give in to his temptations and follow what he tells us to do.
This week, let’s practice our own little “V’Nahafoch Hu” by “flipping the voice of the yetzer hara inside-out” – taking the voice of the yetzer hara that SEEMS to be inside of us… and throwing him back outside, where he belongs.
Sources:  Nefesh HaChaim 1:6;  Daas Torah Bamidbar pg. 193-7
Once a day, identify the voice of the yetzer hara when he tries to tempt you to do something wrong, and think to yourself: “That’s not my own voice; it’s the voice of the yetzer hara.”
FOR EXAMPLE, YOU CAN THINK THIS WHEN…
- You are tempted to eat something you shouldn’t.
- You are tempted to lie in bed longer than you should.
- You are tempted to wear something that might be not so tznius.
- You are tempted to say something that might be lashon hara.
- You are tempted to spend a lot of money on something you don’t need.
- You are tempted to check your phone for the 10th time in 60 seconds.
- You are tempted to watch a movie or read a book that is below your standards.
- The Torah describes the Tree of Knowledge as “desirous” for which body part? (Bereishis 3:6)
- Which mitzvah did Hashem give us in order to help us not stray after the desires of our hearts and eyes? (See Bamidbar 15:39)
- According to Koheles 6:7, human beings spend their whole lives working to earn their food, and yet _____? (See Rashi)
- According to Mishlei 21:25, what will be the consequence of a lazy person giving in to his desires?
- According to Yevamos 64a, what does Hashem desire?
- According to Sotah 38b, what does Hashem desire?
- According to Kesubos 104a, when Rebbe was dying, he held up a certain number of fingers toward Heaven, and said that he did not use these fingers for any personal benefits, rather he used these fingers only to help him toil in Torah. How many fingers did he hold up?
Questions to Ponder
- The Talmud Yerushalmi writes that the yetzer hara only desires things that are forbidden to us. Did you ever experience this to be true? When were you tempted by something forbidden?
- In Mishlei, it says that “stolen waters taste sweeter.” But on the other hand, a passuk in Tehillim says that a person experiences tremendous pleasure from enjoying the work of his own hands. Do these two ideas contradict each other?
- The Midrash points out that the Torah usually writes that wicked people speak “in their heart” whereas the righteous people speak “to their heart.” What do you think is the difference between the meanings of these two phrases? And how do you think it relates to the concept of ta’avah (overcoming desires)?