Thursday, July 06, 2006

Bechirah II

Bechirah means not only the ability to do the right thing over the wrong thing, but the ability to choose right because it is right.
If we would be able to see the full picture, a cheeseburger would look like some kind of poison which if you eat will cause you excruciating pain, stolen money would look white hot such that if you touch it it will incinerate your hand, and a Mitzvah would look more desirable than a ten million dollar bill.
The choice between doing a mitzvah or an aveirah would be the same as The Lady Or The Tiger, but you would know behind which door lurks the tiger.
Not much of a choice.
So if you would have the real picture, you would then really not have Bechirah, because although you would have the ability to choose, only an idiot would choose scorching fire over eternal pleasure.
In such a case, your choosing the Mitzvah would not show that you are willing to choose right over wrong, but only that you would rather choose pleasure over pain.
Evil people would choose right over wrong in equal measure with righteous people.
You would not get any credit for choosing the Mitzvah that way.
That's not the type of Bechirah Hashem wanted us to have.
Bechirah means the ability to choose right from wrong because it is right. Because you care about choosing right. Because you value what's right.
So what Hashem did was to give you the two options, the lady and the tiger, and you know which is which, but in order to ensure that you choose the lady because of what she is rather than for obvious reasons, Hashem makes the tiger not so scary and the lady not so appealing.
At least not in this world.
It's to balance your Bechirah to make sure you choose right from wrong, not pleasure from pain.
It's like the famous story of a guy, Frank we'll call him, who meets a girl online. After a number of emails and IM's he was impressed with her personality and the finally decided to meet, the next day, in Penn Station. "How will I know who you are?" he asked.
"I'll be wearing a white rose," she said.
Well, Frank arrived, he looked around, and there was an elderly, diminutive lady, with white hair, wearing a white rose. He sighed, he put his chin up, he walked over, smiled and said: "Hi. I'm Frank. May I take you to dinner?"
As he looked at her, she said: "Young man. I don't exactly know what this is all about. But I was told that if you came up and asked me to dinner that I should point you over to that lady over yonder."
And there was the most bedazzling girl-of-his-dreams, who became his blushing bride and the mother of his children.
Similarly Hashem hides the "real picture" because wants to make sure we choose the Mitzvos for the right reasons. So he makes Mitzvos appear in this world not the way they really are.
But whereas Frank believed that his girl was old and undesirable, Hashem, in His benevolence, allows us to know, intellectually, that the Mitzvah is most dazzling piece of beauty that we can imagine.

Hashem always balances the will to do good and the will to do bad evenly, so your bechira is full, you can choose either way. For example, after experiencing the miracles of the Makos, had Paroh decided to let the Jews out, that would not have been considered Teshuva, since he was doing it out of fear of his life. Anyone who sees the Makos, therefore, would really not have Bechirah anymore.
So Hashem "hardened his heart" - not to the point where he was not able to let the Jews out, but rather just enough to make Paroh objective again, to counterbalance the effects of seeing the miracles. The hardening of his heart returned Paroh's bechirah, not took it away, since the Makos took it away already, in the opposite direction. This is an extreme case of "evening out" free will. Similarly, how is it that Hashem held Har Sinai over Bnei Yisrael to force us to accept the Torah or die? It’s because we first said "naaseh vnishma" which means we were willing to accept the Torah. Then, after we saw the fires and thunder, we got scared. A cold feet kind of thing. We wanted to accept it but were frightened to make the move. So Hashem pushed us to do what we wanted to do the whole time but were scared to. The fact that we already said naaseh vnishmah before the mountain was put on top of us means we wanted to accept it.

The nutshell version of how this works is:
There are 3 parts to you.
1) The Neshama - which is always is drawn to good;
2) The Guf and its animating force, the nefesh - is always is drawn to physicality (unless conditioned by years of training to do otherwise, as is the case by Tzadikim);
3) The Ruach - is the "you" that has the decision whether to follow the Guf/Nefesh or the Neshama.
The Ruach is not the "part of Hashem" that the seforim talk about - that is the Neshoma. The Nefesh is a simple, crude, animal-soul, that wants animal things. These two forces are tied together when a Neshoma comes down into a Guf, and their synthesis makes for a terrible and frustrating struggle. The Ruach is tied to each of them, in between, and the Ruach can pull any which way it so desires. The other two parts always pull one way. The Ruach has to decide who it wants to side with.
What enables Bechirah in us is that, whereas animals are drawn only to gashmius and not ruchnius, and angels are drawn only to Ruchnius and not Gashmius, humans are drawn to both gashmius and ruchnius.
So when Hashem created Adam out of the "dirt of the land" he was in essence an animal; when He "blew into his nostrils the soul of life", he became a conflicted man, that is, a man made out of two opposite forces - gashmius and ruchnius.
This internal opposition is needed for Nechirah, but it is not the only thing that is needed.
In order to facilitate Bechirah, the two opposing forces have to be able to exist together in and as one entity. This is normally impossible, since Gasmus and Ruchnius do not mix, like oil and vinegar, or like apples and communism. They don’t blend.
So Hashem created man with something called a Tzelem, which is part way between Gashmius and ruchnius (or a little of each, depends how you look at it), in order to link the neshama to the Guf.
Now the Neshama and the Guf, because they are both spiritually and physically linked to the core "man" - the Ruach that we spoke about before, both contribute something to him. The Neshama provides the man with the ability to be a First Cause, and the Guf provides the Ruach with something to make better, to change, to sanctify.
If the person takes what the neshama gives him and uses it to sanctify the guf, he and the guf both become holy. If he takes what the neshama gives him and uses it to subjugate the neshama to the guf's desires, then the neshama slowly atrophies and he becomes more and more like an animal. Worst case scenario, his neshama leaves him and he is left with only the animal parts of himself, at which point he loses his share in Olam habah.
So both are correct. The Ruach makes the decisions, but that ability is enabled because of the link it has to the neshama.

The Yetzer Tov is your soul, which tells you to do good. It is also your mind, which tells you to do good, since reason and logic always demand making the right decision. If Hashem wanted you to do bad, He would just remove it.

The strengths of the Yetzer Tov and Yetzer Horah are always balanced by Hashem so that you are able to choose good if you so choose.
There are also two Yetzer Horahs:
1) The physical part of you, which includes your body and the "animal" part of your soul - those parts of you desire materialistic things, since they are material. We have to resist their pull.
2) An angel designated by Hashem to create Nisyonos for you. This angel messes with your head, tries to fool you into thinking aveiros and mitzvos, confuses you, and is very precise in the amount of "pressure" he puts on you to do an aveirah. The idea that "the bigger a person is the greater his yetzer" means this yezter - not the first one, since the greater a person is, the less strong the materialistic part of him becomes.

Sometimes the Yetzer Horah makes you do something bad that you know is bad - like when you speak loshon horah - and sometimes the Yetzer Horah makes you think bad is good so that you won’t even feel bad when you do it or regret it afterward.

Like when you’re convinced that getting into a mixed kiruv organization is a big mitzvah because you’re involved in kiruv.

But the reality is you don’t need to hang around with girls to be mekarev people.

Here's news: Your Yetzer Horah itself wants you to beat it.
Look at your Yetzer Horah not as an unbeatable opponent whose purpose is to beat you, but a sparring partner whose purpose is to make you as strong and skilled as possible. It will fight just hard enough to make you put in a good effort, but never too hard for you to win.
And Hashem makes sure that each individual gets the particular sparring partner best suited for his individual needs. In whatever areas you need more training, or have greater potential, that's where your Yetzer Horah will spar with you.
And the stronger you get, the more effort your sparring partner is going to have to exert in order to get you to an even higher level of skill and strength.
That's why Tzadikim have a "greater" Yetzer Horah. It means that if they want to get even stronger, they have to fight a stronger opponent.
And the strength and skill that you get from the spiritual exercise with the Yetzer Horah is what is gives you never-ending, infinite happiness forever in Olam Habah.
The reason we have "so many problems" today (and not only today) is because people have a choice. They can choose to get up, put in the effort and earn their muscles. Or they can sit back and have their Neshoma get beaten up. It's a lot easier, but less rewarding in the long term.
Most of us get trounced a lot. But that doesn't matter. What counts is that we get back up and fight again. And again. And again. And whereas with a physical trainer, you are never guaranteed of reaching your goals, in the fight with the Yetzer, Hashem guarantees that if we keep trying, we'll slam him down so hard that he'll never get up again.


A lot of people don't know this, but the story of Satan rebelling was actually taken from us. They messed up the details - nothing can "rebel" against Hashem unless Hashem allows it, but Hashem did allow the angel S"M to make a mistake in understanding his mission, and he did end up revolting against good, and Hashem did "expel" him because of it. He still functions, but differently, and on a more evil level than had he not acted the way he did. All this of course, Hashem allowed.

Basically, when Hashem created Adam, he wanted all parts of the universe to contribute willingly to the composition of man, so that whatever happens to man would affect every part of the universe. This way, when man would get in trouble, the entire universe would have a reason to pray for him. S"M refused to contribute, and Hashem "lowered" him because of it. So S"M tries to bring man down with him. (Moshe Rabbeinu, however, is an exception. Because of his greatness, the S"M ended up contributing to him). Now all of this is allowed by Hashem of course, which is where the idol-worshipers, such as Christians, messed up the story. They say it was done against the will of Hashem, which cannot happen.

Judaism doesn’t believe in a "devil" the same way Christians do. There is a Satan, but, unlike the Christian concept of a war between the Satan and G-d, we know the Satan is G-d's loyal servant, more like a sparring partner who fights us savagely, but whose goal is for us to be able to knock him out. There is no force in the world that is not subject to G-d's will.




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