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The Yetzer Hara's Identity Crisis

I think it was Charles Dickens who wrote "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." So which one was it Charlie? [Rare trivia - Charles is my middle name! I would use it more if my first name were Prince.]

The Medrash says [in Breishis Rabba] that the Yetzer Hara is VERY GOOD. But the Gemara in Succah calls the Yetzer Hara "BAD".

I am currently in my twentieth year in Yeshiva and I still have quite an active Yetzer Hara, so please tell me - Is it VERY GOOD or BAD?

I think the thing itself is a negative force, but its purpose is positive because yetzer hara should bring out (or "force" out) the strength, faith, and goodness from its victims (or patients). However, there is another outside force which determines the success of this relationship: free will. Free will is where things get tricky. Of course, I have no idea about any of this.. so, I must be way off... but at least I tried :)

The Yetzer hara is good in the sense that it gives us the potential to overcome it. Without a yetzer hara there would be no reward for overcoming it.

i've always liked this contrsadiction and i like the 2 answers above also. i usually answer to others (who are usually more suprised that the yetzer hara can be good at all in the 1st place) as such.
the YH is smart. if he were to temp somepne to do an aveirah thats an outright temptation. its a force that you can clearly see that hits you head-on, an obstacle. agaisnt such a force you rally your troops (midot) and you attack and you suceed (hopefully). once you're past that obstacle thats it, ur done, on to the next one whenever or whatever it might be. in such a manner the yetzer hara would be a loser. thats a 50-50 chance. not good enough.
so like i sed the YH is SMART he wont confront you head on, he wont show himself as an opposing force in your face to be attacked and overcome -- he uses deception!!! he will be there by your side seeming to be your friend and 'helping you be better' but its all a scheme to sabatoge!
i like the analogy of julius ceaser. againt opposing threats he rallies his troops, takes them out to battle confronts the enemy head on and wins! threat over, come back home, party, etc... his downfall? the mighty ceaser betrayed! his closest friend , his buddy, there by his side to make him better schemed and sabatoged... MURDERED him!
had J.C. ( :-) ) not had his close friends he would never have come to, and maintained, power. they made him great, to him they were good, once they were 'in' he didnt even see they were bad.
back to YH: he will stay at your side through thick and through thin... he doesnt want you to not wake up in the morning, he doesnt want you to not go to shiur, he DOESNT want you NOT to learn torah!!!!!! the YH will wake you up in the morning liek a good friendd should and make you go to shiur like a buddy would. once you're there he's 'in' and he changes appearance... he's the banging noise outside the window, the singing birds, the fly that wont leave you alone... (***** mashal of dovid hamelech sound familiar?? *****) but you dont notice it!!! the YH has TRICKED YOU into learning but has you by the leash and wont let actually learn!
For many the Yetzer haTov isnt so strong. it loses a lot. Hashem is KULO TOV, everythign is good, and all he give is good. the yetzer hara is good. it MUST be, it cant be anythign else BUT good! if our yetzer haTOV isnt the one saying to us 'go learn' then its our yetzer haRA telling us to!!!! our yetzer hara getting us to davening and shiur -- AMZAING!
NOW that we have a deeper understanding of really HOW the YH is GOOD, we start to see bad. (rememeber, we cant be blind to our friends just because theyre good - that leads to our murder CHAS VESHALOM!) (l'havdil). here is where the above comments come into play. its true - the YH has his own agenda - B'china! he's there to test us, and we do hve the yetzer hatov, and we do ave kochot to overcome and we do have bchira chofshit and we CAN recognize the 'good' for what it REALLY is - deceptive!
it's is hard for me to coem out and say that the YH is BAD, bc its not, and i owe a lot of my torah to the YH. it has the potential for bad, but that is up to us! WE make the choices, WE decide what we do, WE focus and learn, or unfortunately, WE doze off and daydream. the Yh didnt do that to us, IT's not bad, IT didnt do anything to us. WE failed that test. its not the teachers fault, we learn our lessons and take the next test. simple. the YH is there to teach us! when WE fail, THAT is BAD, when WE pass THAT is GOOD. WE make the bad or good, but the YH gets us there, and THAT is good.

if ANYthing isnt 100000% clear to anyone, please call me, i ccan expalin things much better in words spoken than typed! it may seem radical or uncomprehesive - whatever the case id love to hear your thoughts on this.
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shabbat shalom!!

רק רע כל היום is from the human perspective. This can be formulated in a couple of ways:

The first is to say that from a human perspective there is no way of understanding the יצר הרע as a good entity. In fact, it is only because we were let in on the Divine perspective, that which is timeless, boundless, and at all times is cognizant of the end goal, that we can understand it to be objectively good. Thus, when viewing it through the Divine lens, that is, with the understanding of the purpose and task to which 'ה assigned it, then we can see it as good.

The second is to say that even with our limited human perspective we understand the יצר הרע to be objectively good. But that is no way to fight a battle. If one does not have an IFF on in a fighter pilot's cockpit, it is very difficult to locate and destroy enemy planes. The Identification Friend or Foe plays an important role in our lives. We subconsciously assess the "threat level" posed by people when we meet them for the first time, and we also do so when we say hi to regular faces and get a response we didn't expect. Facial expressions are very key to understanding human emotions and social dynamics. But I digress. The point is that in order to fight off an urge to do something that has been forbidden, one that can sweep us off of our feet and drown us like a tsunami, one must be able to, hopefully, identify its potential to come at us when we least expect it, be able to see it coming when it does begin to swell and move towards us, or, at the very least, be able to identify it as a foe even after it has set itself upon us.

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About me

  • I'm Rabbi Ally Ehrman
  • From Old City Jerusalem, Israel
  • I am a Rebbe in Yeshivat Netiv Aryeh.
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