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Tammuz 21

I created the yetzer hara, and I created the Torah as its antidote (Kiddushin 30b).

Many commercial products that we use both at home and in industry are toxic. We use them because they serve a particular constructive purpose, but we are also aware that they are dangerous chemicals. Indeed, they usually contain a warning, such as "not for internal use" or "avoid contact with eyes," followed by an antidote with instructions of what to do in case the precautions were not heeded.

Rational people will be very cautious with these chemicals, using them only as directed. If someone accidentally swallowed one of them, he or she will immediately use the specific antidote recommended by the manufacturer. Trying something else instead would be foolish at best and suicidal at worst. The manufacturer obviously knows best what the most effective antidote is.

So it is with the yetzer hara. Our appetites and other physiological drives have their source in the yetzer hara, so they must be used only as directed. Misuse can be dangerous and even lethal. Fortunately, the manufacturer issued precautionary instructions (to be found in books of mussar) and provided an effective antidote: Torah. How foolish would it be to ignore the manufacturer's instructions or to try to find an antidote other than the one prescribed!

Our physical bodies are very dear to us, and we scrupulously follow instructions on products to avoid physical harm. If there are no instructions on the product package, we will immediately call a poison control center for instructions from the experts on how to avoid harm. Our spiritual selves should be treated with equal respect. We should follow instructions and whenever in doubt, promptly ask the experts.

Today I shall...

give my spiritual life serious consideration and protect it as I do my physical self.

With stories and insights, Rabbi Twerski's new book Twerski on Machzor makes Rosh Hashanah prayers more meaningful. Click here to order...

Published: May 21, 2009

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