Tuesday, October 06, 2009

The New Tactics Of My "Holy" Yetzer Hara

My yetzer hara let me enjoy a few days of unbridled enthusiasm and energy as I started my new project before he unleashed his latest campaign against me. Understanding that I usually see him coming a mile away, this time he decided to approach me with an ingenious new guise; instead of attempting to stop me, he tries to shove me forward.

When I am davening, he will lean over and whisper a new citation from a sefer that I should immediately go look up. When I am learning, he will encourage me to put aside all the seforim that make up my daily learning seder and devote myself solely to my new project since working on it can also be considered as "learning". When I am at work, he tells me that I should ignore all the "profane" tasks assigned to me and use the time to work only on my "holy" project.

It has taken me a few days to finally understand that the "whispers" I was hearing did not originate from my yetzer tov. I resolved to push these whispers out of my head with both hands and to focus fully on whatever I was engaged in at the moment.

With Hashem's help, by doing this I will be successful and proceed with my project with the proper perspective.


At October 6, 2009 at 8:30:00 AM EDT, Blogger chanie said...

Sounds like my yetzer hara...he likes to pretend that he's a tzaddik with the best of intentions.

At October 6, 2009 at 9:06:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Bob Miller said...

Distraction from the task at hand, whatever it is, is a problem I know well from experience! Maybe it would help to develop a counter-obsession focusing on doing things in order of true priority.

At October 6, 2009 at 7:55:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Yehonasan said...

It seems to me that the issue of whether a person should devote his attention to focus on a single project for some time in his life, to the exclusion of his other daily learning, depends on the person and the needs of the times.

Clearly many of our great Sages did focus entirely on one goal at a time in learning or in writing. For example, the Komarna Rebbe wrote the magnificent sefer Kesem Ofir in a single month. This would have demanded intense single-minded focus.

Of course there are some basics one should not neglect, like davening, caring for one's family, and looking after one's health. But I wouldn't necessarily attribute to the yetzer hara the wish to focus on a single learning or writing task and set aside other learning for a while.

Then again, it depends on the kind of person you are and what your goals are.

At October 7, 2009 at 10:37:00 AM EDT, Blogger Yosef said...

There is a vort in Chassidus Chabad exactly about this phenomenon.

It is called the "frummer yetzer hara." The vort basically goes that any urge you have that tries to divert you from serving Hashem, even if it is to serve Hashem in another way, is the doings of the yetzer hara.

It is worth looking up the original vort in haYomYom.


At October 8, 2009 at 1:03:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

V'Haser as Hastatn Milfaneinu U'May"Achareinu.

There is the Satan that we see and the satan that we do not (learn an extra mishmar [and come late to davenen - its OK you are a masmid])

At October 8, 2009 at 3:51:00 PM EDT, Blogger Neil Harris said...

I'm glad that Hashem has allowed you to see this new Yetzer. Yashar Koach!

At October 9, 2009 at 7:09:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ra is ra. Your words have been bothering me since I read them. To put kadosh and ra together is such a signal I can't believe its you at all SJ.

At October 9, 2009 at 2:34:00 PM EDT, Blogger redsneakz said...

@anonymous(comment 7)- First, note that the word "holy" is in quotes; ASJ is telling us that our yetzer can get us to do things that appear to be holy, but are in fact distractions from our real service. In lehavdil psychological terms, it's much like ADD; you're working hard on math, but you have a great idea for your literature class, so you put down your problem set and begin to work on that.

At October 11, 2009 at 10:51:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Redsneektz, I have been working on my character for many years, forever grateful to R'Salanter. As a matter of fact before writing this response I filtered a lot of thought.

Would this be embarrassing to you? What was the actual need for response?

Words are life. To see the word Kadosh even near ra, creates a negativity in my soul.

I am just one person with a unique dilemma regarding this use of words.

That it came from A Simple Jew, a person who has worked on his character to the minutest degree, bothered me.

At October 11, 2009 at 7:31:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is the famous story that once by a farbrengen, the 5th Lubavitcher Rebbe, the RaShaB, was leading his chassidim in a niggun and suddenly stopped. He told them "there are people here with machshavos zaros.
Immediately everyone started looking around and thinking "it's not me, I wasn't having any leud thoughts. Who could it be?"
The Rebbe then clarified: "I did not say 'machshavos ra'os', I said 'machshavos zaros'."
He noted that instead of being solely involved in what they were doing at that moment - singing a niggun - there were some who were wondering "what will the Rebbe say in his ma'amer tongiht?", or "I really should focus more on my learning".
One should always focus on the task he is doing at that moment and not be distracted by foreign thoughts and distractions.

Also, many of us experience our best business ideas while putting on tefillin, for example. In this we should rejoice, for it means that the yetzer hara realises we are growing higher spiritually and is throwing everything at us including the kitchen sink!

At October 12, 2009 at 5:40:00 PM EDT, Blogger Neil Harris said...

The following is from the first chapter of Vol 2 of Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh:

The world is called olam, based on the word he'elem (hiddenness), because it hides the truth of Hashem's existence. Before creation, He was one and His name was one, but when the world was created, there was also a creation of the hiddenness, and Hashem became a "hidden God." A person's task throughout life, both in this world and in the next, is to reveal the presence of Hashem.

However, there is another aspect of hiddenness, which is the most difficult of all. A person begins to serve Hashem in various ways - learning Torah, focusing on the tefillah (prayers) and such, and he meets with difficulty. The yetzer hara (Evil Inclination) sees to it that the true way to serve Hashem is hidden from him. After a few times when he meets with difficulties, the yetzer hara plants in his mind this thought: "All of this is correct and true, but it is so difficult! I personally cannot deal with this; maybe one day I will..."

However, when one has the merit to see the truth, he uncovers a completely different perspective. Of course, avodas Hashem (service of God) doesn't happen by itself, with great ease, but it is also not as difficult as the yetzer hara portrays it to be.

The approach the yetzer hara takes in order to distance a person from avodas Hashem is such: He places him in a state of confusion, showing him that there are so many things to do, such as learning Torah, observing the mitzvos, praying, doing acts of chessed (kindness), and so on. From the onset, he portrays the Torah as "broader than the length of the earth" (Iyov 11:9) and if so, it is very difficult to attain. And such, even from the onset, one's lofty desires weaken, because it seems to him that what he must achieve is very far away.

But when a person understands that all these thoughts are untrue, and are actually the fruits of the advice of the yetzer hara, he is already able to begin entering into avodas Hashem.

At October 15, 2009 at 12:03:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

ASJ come back we miss you!

At October 15, 2009 at 9:41:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Yehonasan said...

Anonymous Oct 15: Grow up. ASJ is not your abba. Let him do the work he needs to do.

At February 28, 2010 at 7:49:00 AM EST, Anonymous ichabod@ Israeli Uncensored News said...

i have never though that my curiousity or that being unpatient are another sides of yezer hara...

At August 27, 2010 at 9:48:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Elle said...

this is a fabulous post. I was just wondering about this very thing. I will be praying and thoughts of studying will come to mind. I will study and be very into it and then suddenly thoughts of prayer come into my mind. and surely prayer and study do go together, but it's the times that they interrupt one another so badly I can't focus at all on either that mess with me.

this is a good way to explain it. I will remember this next time!

really, thank you for this post. it has done me a world of good!


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