Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Guest Posting By Yitz - Hiding & Blogging

Rebbe Nachman of Breslov teaches that the Yetzer Hara, the evil urge, has many ways of getting to us. One of the most tricky ways is to make us feel bad about the fact that we even have a Yetzer Hara. We often feel guilty for even thinking about or feeling like doing something wrong, even though we hold ourselves back. A potent cure to this particular tool of the Yetzer Hara, Rebbe Nachman confides, is to share with a close friend or a Rebbe what it is that your Yetzer Hara is driving you to do. By sharing these temptations with someone else, we realize how foolish they sound, and how ridiculous it is for us to feel bad about them in the first place. In this way, we are able to undermine the leverage of the Yetzer Hara.

Thinking about this Torah in the context of blogging, and even in discussion with a friend, I noticed that I often hide my Yetzer Hara away because I'm embarrassed of it. When broaching the subject of one desire or another, I will inadvertently replace the actual desire I'm feeling, or thinking of, with another that has less power over me. I know that I do this out of fear of letting on that I struggle with this particular desire (There are many). I fear that someone might see something ugly within me and judge me for it.

My question is: Are we aiding the Yetzer Hara and, in a larger context the Sitra Achra, the other side, by hiding our deepest temptations? Should I (or we as bloggers) perhaps be revealing my (our) desires and bringing them out into the light, rather than hiding them, in order to break the power of the Yetzer Hara, both individually and collectively? How many situations exist in the world where each person's individual fears played a large role in the universal suffering? How many second thoughts got stuffed away, eventually buried, under answers like "I was just following orders"?

In the end, these kind of questions necessitate a Rav or a Rebbe, but the questions themselves are worth pondering in order that we might increase our awareness of this problem, especially as Elul approaches.

Yitz's blog A Waxing Wellspring can be seen here


At August 26, 2008 at 7:02:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Perhaps hisbodedus, rather than blogging, is the best place to reveal and address our deepest secrets and reoccurring temptations. See here for more from Rabbi Ozer Bergman.

At August 26, 2008 at 11:41:00 AM EDT, Blogger yitz said...

I don't think hitbodedut is the right answer, because then Rebbe Nachman (a big proponent of hitbodedut) wouldn't have mentioned talking to anyone external to oneself.

But, based on what he said, the public forum doesn't seem like the right place either.

Either way, I only recently became consciously aware of the fact that I do hide these temptations when I blog, which meant others might not be aware they are doing the same.

Bringing the matter into our awareness is the beginning of the solution, hitbodedut or whatever the appropriate authority might suggest as a means of dealing with it is the end of the solution.

At August 26, 2008 at 12:36:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The last gemara (and Tosafos) of the 5th chapter in Berachos speaks exactly to your question.

At August 26, 2008 at 1:41:00 PM EDT, Blogger Neil Harris said...

This is a great post (that I'll have to reread tonight). Obviously, those who blog anonymous might find it easier to reveal their own y'h.

At August 26, 2008 at 3:40:00 PM EDT, Blogger Irwin said...

I don't think that blogging is the place to reveal one's really deep temptations. You wouldn't go to the town square and and shout it, and in some ways it could even be seen as exhibitionism. It is better to speak it quietly to one's Rav or one's friend.

At August 26, 2008 at 5:18:00 PM EDT, Blogger yitz said...


Actually there are plenty of Hassidic stories where their tikkun specifically involved going around to town squares and acknowledging their sins..

but that is of course quite different than our case here where we are talking about temptations only.


it also might help to point out that sometimes when friends talk and discuss their temptations, it can lead to the reverse of our goal:

sometimes people are revolted by their temptations specifically because they believe them to be extraordinary and repulsive, but when they discover that these temptations are more common, they let their defenses down, chas v'shalom.

At August 26, 2008 at 8:24:00 PM EDT, Blogger chanie said...

Then again, when I say out loud what the temptation is- even to myself- it already sounds foolish.
But I'm too embarrassed to admit these things even to myself.

At August 27, 2008 at 12:01:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for your inspiring post.

I thought of a few questions of introspection to ponder...

Is it my temptations that I want to changeof or my actions?

What's actually going on here? Are they my machshavos? or do they just happen to be hanging around and present themselves to me.

Do I sometimes accept them as my own based on my own internal sufek=Y'H?
If I was exactly clear in my emunah, would they still present to me like the yetzer bus, hey hop on.
Or would I say na man I've seen this bus before, I don't want to get on it.

Would I want to live from a place of consciousness where I could observe the thoughts in my minds eye and chose which ones I want?

Of course!

At August 27, 2008 at 9:45:00 AM EDT, Blogger yitz said...


I looked at Berachot perek 5, the end, and the Tosafot, and I think I didn't make my point clearly enough.

First of all, the Gemara is talking about sins, rather than temptations. I was only talking about temptations, a point i reiterated to Irwin.


I want to clarify a misunderstanding.

I'm not suggesting by any means that we should all announce to the world what our temptations (or sins!) are.

I was bringing a particular phenomenon to light:

When I mention in passing, on a blog post about fighting the yetzer hara; I inevitably call to mind in my head particular temptations I actually deal with, and then dismiss those as the subject I will write about out of fear that someone might read and understand that this is what i'm dealing with. So, without fail, i list an alternative 'temptation', one i don't actual have any difficulty with, and one that is more 'parve,' that other people won't find so appalling if they mistakenly associate it with me.

In such a situation, I'm not fessing up to any temptation or sin at all, rather just discussing a temptation hypothetically that is more removed from the temptation I would normally use as an example.

I choose a different temptation because my embarassment about the actual temptation makes me hide it.

My question was: Am I strengthening my yetzer hara when I do this? and since we probably all do this, shouldn't we be aware that this may be a hold the yetzer hara has over us?

That is what I was asking, and that is what I meant.


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