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THE YETZER HA-RA WITHIN AND WITHOUTAnd Ya'akov was left alone and a man wrestled with him. (Bereishis 32:25)
The following is from Derech Emunah u'Bitachon, vol. 2, by R. Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg.
In his work Even Sheleimah (4:19), the Vilna Gaon writes that there are two types of yetzer ha-ra: internal and external. Everybody recognizes the internal yetzer ha-ra, which is responsible for the negative character traits of a person - desire, anger, arrogance, etc. However, there is also an external yetzer ha-ra, which a person doesn't even realize is there. What is the insidious nature of this external evil inclination that makes it so hard to recognize?
This yetzer ha-ra does not try to subdue a person directly by causing him to give into his passions and to violate the mitzvos. A person who believes in Hashem and understands the importance of Torah would never abandon mitzvah-observance. Rather, this evil inclination subtly attempts to make him stray from the proper Torah outlook. The external yetzer ha-ra accomplishes its nefarious task by corrupting a person's mental clarity.
In discussing the encounter between Ya'akov and the guardian angel of Eisav, Chazal are divided regarding the angel's appearance. Some say that he appeared as an idolater, and others say that he appeared as a talmid chacham. In light of what we explained above, perhaps we can say that both views are correct. On the one hand, he is described as a shifty, corrupt idolater, meaning that he represented the internal yetzer ha-ra, which everyone recognizes and understands how to combat. Whoever has had any dealings with a dishonest person knows that he must be on guard and keep his distance.
On the other hand, he is also described as a talmid chacham, with a long white beard and pe'os, and whose mouth was full of quotations from Chazal. Who would imagine that this could be the guardian angel of Eisav! This is the external yetzer ha-ra, which is so difficult to oppose. It clouds our minds, and causes us to make decisions which seem sound to us but which are actually the opposite of the Torah's outlook.
He Will Have To Pay in the End
From Moreshet Avos - Devarim, p. 230.
There was a young man studying in the Chofetz Chaim's yeshivah who was both a big lamdan (studious and brilliant) and a yarei Shamayim (God-fearing). However, he was also terribly poor. He often complained to the Chofetz Chaim about his bitter lot, and at one point asked him to pray to Heaven to have mercy on him and redeem him from his plight. He promised that if Hashem would show him mercy, he would give away a tenth of his yearly profits, even if this amounted to thousands of dollars.
"Who am I and what am I," the Chofetz Chaim answered him, "that you ask such a thing from me? You yourself have to turn to the Almighty with all your heart and ask Him to have mercy on you. If He accepts your prayers, your request will be granted and you will be blessed with a turn in your fortune. However, I have to warn you, that whatever you promise you have to fulfill. Woe to a person who makes light of something as serious as this!"
Eventually, this young man tried his hand at business, and Hashem showered him with blessing. Within a few short years, he became fantastically rich. He was even granted permission to live in Moscow, something permitted only to the wealthiest Jewish merchants.
As his wealth increased, however, he appeared to have forgotten the promise he had made to his rebbe.
The Chofetz Chaim knew of all this, but never spoke about it to anyone.
Once, the Chofetz Chaim happened to be in Moscow on matters dealing with his yeshivah. All the important Jews of the city came out to welcome him, his former student among them. When the opportunity came for him to give his personal welcome, he was tremendously happy to meet his rebbe once more, and he waited for everyone to depart. When everyone left and he was alone with his teacher, he broke out crying. "Rebbe, I've come down with a terrible disease in my soul. And what's worse, I know what's wrong, but I can't do anything to help myself!"
"What's the matter?" queried the Chofetz Chaim.
"I've become so tight-fisted, it's as if my hands have a lock on them. I can't open them even to give a single penny to tzedakah. My heart has become like stone. I remember the promise I made, to give a tenth of all my yearly profits to tzedakah, but the Satan is in complete control, and he doesn't let me give any of my money away! Rebbe, please explain what's happened to me. Why have I become like this?"
The Chofetz Chaim smiled. "Let me tell you a story."
There was once a Jew who lived in a small village. One erev Yom Tov, he went to the big city to buy food for the holiday. He entered the shop he always bought from, and asked the storekeeper to give him a ruble's worth of flour.
The man turned to him and said, "Take your sack and fill it with as much flour as you need while I prepare the scales."
When the villager heard this, he took a big sack and filled it to the top.
When it came time to pay, the villager took a ruble out of his pocket and handed it to the shopkeeper. The shopkeeper said to him, "But you've taken 5 rubles' worth. Why are you giving me only one?"
The villager stood perplexed. "I asked you for one ruble's worth of flour, and you told me to fill my sack myself. I did what you told me, and you never said a word. That means that whatever I took costs only one ruble. Why are you now telling me it costs five?"
"I thought," replied the storekeeper, "that you had changed your mind and decided to buy more flour than you had originally intended. You kept on pouring the flour in, and I stood behind the counter and kept on adding weights as it got heavier. Did you really think that you could just keep on pouring flour into your sack and the scale wouldn't move?"
"The same thing has happened to you," the Chofetz Chaim concluded. "You thought that on one side of the scale Heaven would pour down on you its bounty, while the other side of the scale (your yetzer ha-ra) would remain the same. That was a mistake. The more Heaven's bounty grew on this side of the scale, the weight on the other side had to grow with it. A person has to know the price he will have to pay in the end."
Rabbi Eliezer Parkoff
Yeshiva Gedolah Medrash Chaim
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