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Sukah 52

SUKA 36-56 (End of Maseches) have been dedicated by the wife and daughters of the late Dr. Simcha Bekelnitzky (Simcha Gedalya ben Shraga Feibush) of Queens N.Y. Well known in the community for his Chesed and Tzedakah, he will long be remembered.


QUESTION: Rebbi Yehudah said that in the future, Hashem will bring the Yetzer ha'Ra and slaughter it in front of the Tzadikim and in front of the Resha'im. Both the Tzadikim and the Resha'im will cry and mourn the "death" of the Yetzer ha'Ra. The Tzadikim will realize that the Yetzer ha'Ra which they overcame had been like an insurmountable mountain and they will cry, "How were we able to conquer such a great mountain like this?" The Resha'im will realize that the Yetzer ha'Ra which they failed to overcome had been like a tiny thread and they will cry, "How were we not able to conquer such a small thread?"

We understand the immense remorse of the Resha'im when the truth is revealed to them. However, why will the Tzadikim cry? They should rejoice that they were able to conquer the Yetzer ha'Ra in their lifetimes!


(a) Some suggest that the Tzadikim will indeed rejoice, and their tears will be tears of happiness that they were able to overcome such a great challenge. This explanation is difficult, though, because the Gemara is discussing how the Tzadikim will react when the Yetzer ha'Ra is *eulogized* and implies that they will take part in the eulogy and cry out of mourning. If they are not going to be involved in the eulogy, then how did the Gemara know that they will cry at all? Perhaps they will laugh! (MAHARSHA)

(b) RASHI comments that the Tzadikim will cry because they will remember the great pain that they experienced in order to succeed in overcoming the Yetzer ha'Ra.

It is still not so clear, though, why the memory of their past pain should be a cause of distress to them now (as the Maharsha asks). Perhaps it is because they realize that had they been able to overcome the Yetzer ha'Ra with less effort, they would have had much more time to dedicate to positive service of Hashem.

(c) The MAHARSHA and YA'AVETZ suggest that the reason why the Tzadikim will cry is because the Yetzer ha'Ra provides them with the opportunity to gain their Olam ha'Ba by conquering it. Once it has been slaughtered, they will no longer be able to earn their Olam ha'Ba, and thus they will cry. (The Maharsha adds that the fact that the Yetzer ha'Ra will appear to as both a "mountain" and a "hair" is hinted at in the name of Esav's homeland, Har Se'ir. Esav, whose spiritual counterpart is the Yetzer ha'Ra (Midrash Raba at the end of Devarim), was "bequeathed Har Se'ir" (Devarim 2:5).)

(d) The RIF and ETZ YOSEF in the EIN YAKOV explains as follows. The reason the Tzadikim will cry is because they will realize that the power of the Yetzer ha'Ra was so great that they did not have it within their ability to conquer it, and the only way that they succeeded was with Hashem's help. Until now they thought that they were worthy, but now they realize that it was Hashem's help which enabled them to overcome the Yetzer ha'Ra, and they will cry that they are not as righteous and worthy as they thought.

In truth, though, Hashem will still give them reward as if it was through their own efforts that they overcame the Yetzer ha'Ra (this is what the Gemara means when it says that even Hashem, as it were, will also be amazed -- He will be amazed at the supernatural ability of the Tzadikim to overcome the Yetzer ha'Ra, and He will give them reward even though it was actually He Who helped them overcome the Yetzer ha'Ra).

(See also ARUCH LA'NER for yet another original explanation.)


AGADAH: Rebbi Yitzchak states that a person's Yetzer ha'Ra gets stronger and stronger every day, as it says, "[The inclination of the thoughts of his heart] is only evil all of the days" (Bereishis 6:5). Reish Lakish adds that in addition to gaining more power over the person each day, one's Yetzer ha'Ra attempts to kill the person, as it says, "The evil one (the Yetzer ha'Ra) looks towards the Tzadik and seeks to kill him" (Tehilim 37:32). Furthermore, the Gemara adds, if it were not for Hashem's help, a person would not be able to overcome the Yetzer ha'Ra, as it says, "Hashem will not forsake him (the Tzadik) in his hand, and will not let him be condemned" (Tehilim 37:33).

The VILNA GA'ON (cited in TOLDOS ADAM, and in KOL ELIYAHU #207) asks what is the Gemara adding to the idea that is already expressed in this verse? The verse clearly states that Hashem helps a person overcome the Yetzer ha'Ra. What is the Gemara adding by saying that if it were not for Hashem's help, a person would not be able to succeed? Furthermore, what is the point in telling us that we cannot defeat the Yetzer ha'Ra without Hashem's help? What do we gain with this knowledge?

The VILNA GA'ON explains that the Gemara is teaching that if a person does not use all of his might in attempting to defeat the Yetzer ha'Ra, then Hashem will not grant him His assistance. Only when the person has exerted all of his energy in his struggle against the Yetzer ha'Ra will Hashem then step in and help him. That is the point which we would not have known from a simple reading of the verse. Even though a person sees that his own efforts will not be enough to overcome the Yetzer ha'Ra, he will only receive Hashem's help after he first tries to defeat it himself with all his might.

AGADAH: The Gemara says that if one meets the Yetzer ha'Ra, he should drag him to the Beis ha'Midrash. If he (the Yetzer ha'Ra) is stone, says the Gemara, then he will melt; if he is iron, then he will crack.

The VILNA GA'ON (Mishlei 2:16, 21:25, Iyov 2:5 and elsewhere) asks several questions on this statement. He infers from the answers some basic qualities of the Yetzer ha'Ra and the tactics which it uses, as well as how to protect oneself from those tactics.

(a) First, he asks why does the Gemara say that one should drag the Yetzer ha'Ra to the Beis ha'Midrash? One should leave the Yetzer ha'Ra alone and *run away* from it to the Beis ha'Midrash!
(b) Second, what does the Gemara mean when it says, "If he is stone... if he is iron?" Is the Yetzer ha'Ra like stone or is it like iron -- which one is he?
(c) Also, why does it use two different descriptions for the Yetzer's demise, first saying that the Yetzer ha'Ra, if he is like stone, will "melt," and then saying that the Yetzer ha'Ra, if he is like iron, will "shatter?" (If a stone can melt, then certainly iron can!)
ANSWERS: Based on these questions, the VILNA GA'ON explains as follows.
(a) In Mishlei 7 (13-14), the Vilna Ga'on writes that the Yetzer ha'Ra does not try to conquer a person by seducing him to do something that is outright sinful; the victim would never listen to the Yetzer ha'Ra. Rather, the Yetzer ha'Ra tries to convince a person to do a Mitzvah she'Lo Lishmah. For example, it entices a person to eat the meat of a Korban (which is a Mitzvah) in order to enjoy the meat and not in order to do the Mitzvah. Once the Yetzer ha'Ra has succeeded in that small measure, it is able to entice the person to do more severe acts.

The way to fight against this tactic, then, is as follows. When a person feels that the Yetzer ha'Ra is trying to persuade him to do a Mitzvah she'Lo Lishmah, he should go learn Torah. One is encouraged to learn Torah even she'Lo Lishmah, because the she'Lo Lishmah will lead to Lishmah, as the Gemara (Pesachim 50b) says. (Although the Gemara refers there to all Mitzvos as well, the she'Lo Lishmah of learning Torah is a spiritual pleasure and not a physical one, and therefore it is easier to be drawn to do the Mitzvah of learning Torah Lishmah.) That is what is meant by "dragging" the Yetzer ha'Ra himself into the Beis ha'Midrash -- using the Yetzer to learn Torah she'Lo Lishmah.

(b) There are two categories of Yetzer ha'Ra. The first is the Yetzer ha'Ra that persuades a person to fall into the trap of arrogance, which culminates in anger and destruction ("Ka'as"). The other Yetzer ha'Ra is the lust for physical pleasures and the desire for honor and wealth ("Ta'avah").

(It seems that the Vilna Ga'on's source for this statement is the Gemara (Chulin 4a, Horiyos 11a) which describes two types of apostates -- one who rejects the Mitzvos out of arrogance, simply to anger Hashem -- l'Hach'is -- and one who rejects the Mitzvos due to his lusts -- l'Te'avon.)

The Yetzer ha'Ra of arrogance and anger has a male element. That is, it involves taking hold of a person's unbridled creativity and misguiding it. The Yetzer ha'Ra of Ta'avah, in contrast, has a female element, in that it is passive, quietly prodding a person to be *drawn after* temptations. (These two, in turn, correspond to "Lo Sirtzach" and "Lo Sin'af," or Yishma'el and Esav.)

The Yetzer ha'Ra of arrogance and anger is referred to as iron, which represents the sword or knife which cuts and causes damage. The Yetzer ha'Ra of Ta'avah is referred to as a stone, because it is firstly passive, and secondly hard as stone to conquer. Lusts are very difficult to control when one is completely overtaken by them. Furthermore, the Yetzer ha'Ra of Ta'avah makes a person's soul like a stone; it "corks up" one's soul (Metamtem ha'Lev) such that the person becomes unable to absorb Torah or wisdom (see TOSFOS, Kesuvos 104a, DH Lo).

(c) Our Gemara is saying that if the Yetzer ha'Ra is a stone -- that is, it is the Yetzer ha'Ra of Ta'avah -- then in order to conquer it, one must learn the parts of Torah which are compared to water, as the Gemara here says, "All who thirst, go to the water" (Yeshayah 55:1). This refers to Agadah, or the Musar sections of the Torah which draw ones heart like water (Chagigah 14a). Since it takes a long time for a person to conquer that Yetzer ha'Ra, the Gemara refers to the process as "melting," which is a slow process.

If one is battling the Yetzer ha'Ra of arrogance and anger, he should fight it with the parts of Torah that are compared to fire, as described by the verse which our Gemara cites, "Behold, My word is like fire, the word of Hashem, and like a hammer that shatters rock" (Yirmeyah 23:29). He should direct his creative energy to the fiery exchange of Talmudic discourse between Talmidei Chachamim in the Halachic aspects of Torah. (The Gemara in Ta'anis (4a) relates the creative energy that produces anger to the creative energy that is used in Talmudic discourse, saying "if a Talmid Chacham explodes in anger, it is the power of Torah that is burning within him.")

The Yetzer ha'Ra of arrogance and anger does not convince a person that doing the sin is necessary and uncontrollable, as does the Yetzer ha'Ra of Ta'avah, and thus this Yetzer ha'Ra is easier to overcome. By refocusing one's creative energies on positive things (i.e. Torah learning), the Yetzer ha'Ra "shatters" immediately.

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