Parshas Bo

Yerachmiel Bratt

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"Min Hakvasim u'min Ha'izim Tikachu" Exodus 12:5 "From the sheep or goats shall you take it."

The Talmud at Shabbos pg. 77b teaches that goats walk ahead of sheep because this reflects the creation of the world where the creation of darkness preceded the creation of light. Goats are normally dark-skinned and sheep light. The Gaon Chida, z"l, explains in Kisay Dovid at page 78 that the reason that the goats precede the sheep is because the goats, being dark and tough, represent one's evil impulses (the Yetzer Hara) and its forces; the sheep which are light and soft represent one's good impulses (the Yetzer Hatov). The Yetzer Hara comes to a person before the Yetzer Hatov.

The forces of the Yetzer Hara are in a person from the time he is born as indicated by the verse "L'petach Chatas Rovetz" Gen. 4:7 "Sin rests at the door." The Yetzer Hatov, on the other hand, becomes a presence in a male at his age of adulthood, thirteen. In nature, the seed precedes the fruit, so too, the Yetzer Hara precedes the Yetzer Hatov. But, while it is necessary for a person to be guided by his Yetzer Hatov, he should not completely cast off his Yetzer Hara, but instead, learn from it what he can.

The commandment of procreation would not be fulfilled if it were not for the natural impulses that drives a man. The Sages of the Great Assembly knew that if they succeeded in destroying the Yetzer Hara procreation would stop. Certain expressions of the Yetzer Hara such as jealousy and vanity are to be channeled to better serve Hashem. An important lesson can be learned from the following meeting of the Yetzer Hara and the Yetzer HaTov.

Yetzer Hara: How long shall we continue to fight one another and not have peace? King Shlomo called me elder and you youth, shouldn't the youth show respect to the elder? Yetzer Hatov: King Shlomo called you a fool and me a wise man and the wise man does not follow a fool. Yetzer Hara: Please make peace with me for just one night. Yetzer Hatov: Why do you wish to make peace with me for one night?

Yetzer Hara: I wish to invite a pious man to a party known as the "theatre" that my followers are making. You must encourage him to come since he is so righteous he won't come without both your consent and blessing.

Yetzer Hatov: I shall do so. When do you wish this pious man to go to your "theatre." Yetzer Hara: In two days.

Two days later, the Yetzer Hara appeared to this certain pious man and summoned him to his celebration. When he heard this, he trembled until the Yetzer Hatov appeared and told him that good may come of this experience as long as he fears Hashem and does not sin. So the man went to the "theatre" staying until the eighth hour of the night. He observed all that went on and then returned home.

The Yetzer Hara followed the pious man home to discover what wickedness had been planted his heart and what bad would emerge as a result of attending the celebration. The pious man entered his home, went straight to bed and sobbed uncontrollably. His wife, upon hearing him cry, rushed to him and asked what was wrong.

Pious Man: I had a golden vessel which I believed was very pure and fine. But tonight I tested it and discovered that it is actually two-thirds gold and one third impurity. I also realized it is not very pure and fine, but just plain, ordinary gold.

Wife: How could you have tested a gold vessel tonight if you were at the party and moreover, you don't own a gold vessel. Maybe, my husband, you are drunk.

Pious Man: I am not drunk; I speak from wisdom and knowledge. The golden vessel which I possess is my heart. I serve Hashem through my heart's desire to learn His Torah and do His commandments. I used to think that my heart was very pure and that I was completely joyous in learning Torah and keeping its commandments. I was wrong.

However, tonight I witnessed men who played their games with such extreme intensity and excitement; I realized that I do not display nor even possess one tenth of their fervor. I also observed adults who were so overjoyed and ecstatic at sheer foolishness; I have not one tenth of this sheer joy for my Torah. Tonight I saw men and women dancing together with such energy that sweat poured from them. They delighted by their exertion whereas I don't toil a tenth as much as they do, nor delight a tenth as much as they do in my learning and observance. Therefore, I cry. My service to Hashem which I thought was pure is on a low level.

When the Yetzer Hara heard this, his heart failed and he fled the house, defeated and humbled. Not only did his plans to stumble the pious man fail, but he became more devout from the experience. After several days, the Yetzer Hatov met the Yetzer Hara and they spoke.

Yetzer Hatov: Tell me, what became of the encounter with the pious man.

Yetzer Hara: I wish my own legs had been crushed so I would not have been able to invite him to the "theatre." My purpose was to entrap him, but the encounter strengthened him. He increased his fear of Hashem and his wisdom by learning from the passion of my followers.

He remained there till the eighth hour of the night, observing carefully the acts of the participants. He didn't shut his eye to anything; he absorbed and learned about the energy which directed these actions. I stood there behind him, content in my knowledge that he would learn from these wicked acts. Afterwards, I followed him home and saw him crying. I knew then that my plan was ruined. To the contrary, as a result, this encounter made him fear Hashem more than before!! Every tear that this pious man shed melted a quart of my blood. I had to flee immediately.

Then this morning I came to synagogue to cause idle banter during prayers and I saw your devout follower. He stood in prayer with an intensity, fervor and joy far greater than he did previously. I was greatly pained and once again I had to flee. My people later informed me of how he increased his service to Hashem in every respect. See what a loss I sustained and what a benefit you ultimately reaped by advising and allowing him to accompany me!!

Yetzer Hatov: But tell me, why did you delay inviting him for two days?

Yetzer Hara: When I saw this very pious man steeped in learning Torah and observing commandments, I thought, how great it would be to break him down and cause him to become unclean. Therefore, I brought him to the "theatre" to arouse his natural desire. I knew that if this pious man saw an illicit act he would become aroused and excited. I knew though that he would not act upon his desire on the spot with a non-Jewish woman. Instead, he would return home to his wife and live with her to satisfy his desires. That night however, his wife was ritually clean, although close to the start of her next cycle. What point, I reasoned, to arouse him when he will satisfy himself with his wife she is permissible to him. Therefore, I bided my time and waited two days for her cycle to begin. I was foiled though, he became even more devout.

Yetzer Hatov: (laughingly at the Yetzer Hara) Now I understand one thing that King Shlomo taught when he said that, "You (Yetzer Hara) are a foolish old King." I wondered why he called you foolish, after all, you have enticed many thousands of people. But now I realize that you are a fool since you prepared so much thinking that this holy man would have relations with his wife who she was impermissible.

Lesson: Man must not only learn from the Yetzer Hatov to serve Hashem but must also draw lessons from the Yetzer Hara. Feelings such as joy, lust, toil and pleasure must be used to better learn Torah and perform commandments. The pious one sets the example for us that both the "sheep" and the "goats" can be a means to complete one's service to Hashem.

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