Divrei Torah

The Divrei Torah in this section have been translated by Rav Reuven Ungar, Director of Alumni Affairs

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The Evil Inclination

By: Rav Yoel Amital
Ram in Yeshivat Sha’alvim

“’When you wage war against your enemy’- the Torah is referring to the evil inclination (yetzer hara).” The passage dealing with an attractive gentile woman in a time of war ( (aishet yefat to’ar) instructs us how to control the yetzer hara.

This manifestation of the yetzer hara is one that we encounter in war; another type is met in the Beit Medrash. “Tana Debei Yishmael, my son, if you meet this rogue (menuval), drag him to the Beit Medrash”. The Kotzker Rebbe inquires as to the term “this menuval”- are their different types? Apparently yes; if you drag the first one to the Beit Medrash you will reveal another one there. Chazal inform us (in Masechet Sukka 52a) that the yetzer hara possesses 7 names: evil, uncircumcised, unclean, hater, stumbling block, stone and hidden one. The yetzer hara appears differently in various settings. At times it can be identified from afar (such as evil and hater); sometimes he is camouflaged as a stumbling block and stone that one may trip upon exclusively in close proximity. The yetzer hara may conceal itself in the heart of an individual who is oblivious to its presence.

“The higher the station of a person, the more formidable is his yetzer”. The passage of aishet yefat to’ar pertains to a voluntary war. All those who are concerned of previous transgressions that they have committed have returned to their homes. The remaining forces are exemplary individuals who the Spirit of G-d pervades them (Sefer HaChinuch). Nevertheless, the yetzer engages these people, and the Torah instructs us how to deal with it.

Not for naught is the struggle with the yetzer termed the “War of the Yetzer (Melchemet HaYetzer)”. This struggle entails combat and tactics. One must identify the enemy and his modus operandi; his weak points and where to attack.

This is the case in the war against the yetzer. At times the yetzer confronts our physical realms; our cravings and desires. Alternatively, it may attack us in the world of spirit; aiming to prevent fulfillment of mitzvoth, prayer and character refinement. Similar to military combat, it is preferable to take the offensive against the yetzer. “When you go out to war against your enemy” is superior to “When a war comes to your land”.

The passage concerning the aishet yefat to’ar instructs us how to act in a quite difficult conquest of the yetzer. We are instructed how to conquer the yetzer but not to annihilate it. It is comparable to capturing a city and subsequently governing the civilian population.

An individual must recognize the yetzer according to the relevant time and place. The battle varies if it is waged inside or outside of the Beit Midrash. We are required to master the rules of this war and emerge victorious.


Categorized under: 1: Parshat Shavua > Ki Tetze
Uploaded: 9/12/2005 6:02:59 AM