To Vanquish the Yetzer Hara

Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, M.D., is to be commended for his unequivocal public presentation (in the Opinion section of the December 24 Hamodia) that yiras Shamayim is the only firm basis for fighting the yetzer hara in this generation, as in all generations past. I would like to suggest that, in fact, we have all been given the tools to, every day, appreciate the wonders of Hashem’s creation, thus utilizing the Rambam’s path to yiras Shamayim. In fact, we have the opportunity to do so at least 100 times a day.

We are required to say at least 100 brachos a day (Orach Chaim 46:3) as taught by Rabi Meir in Masechta Menachos (43b). His basis for this is the very passuk quoted by Rabbi Twerski in his article, “Now, O Israel, what does Hashem your G-d ask of you? Only to fear Hashem, your G-d.” Rashi explains that the word “mah” (what) can be read as if there were an aleph in it, which is read “meah,” 100, indicating the saying of 100 brachos daily. But how does that fit in the context of the topic of the passuk, yiras Hashem? The answer is that when a brachah is said properly, one is, of course, thinking of Hashem Himself, and appreciating that which He wondrously created, the thing for which the brachah is being said. By focusing and concentrating on the saying of Hashem’s Name as we say it at least 100 times a day, and truly appreciating not only the wonderful things He created, but also the personal benefit we have from those creations, we surely will come to have greater yiras Shamayim.

Applying Rabbi Twerski’s advice, can you imagine how much greater yiras Shamayim there would be if parents at home set the example for their children by saying brachos at home slowly and loudly and having those present answer “amen” to those brachos? A comparatively simple method of using the Rambam’s advice of acquiring yiras Shamayim, since we all say those brachos anyway. (I am sure that the need of saying brachos properly is already being taught in the yeshivos.)

The other method of acquiring yiras Shamayim mentioned by Rabbi Twerski, the words of the Rama in the first paragraph of the Shulchan Aruch, which, in fact, are a quote of the Rambam’s words in his Moreh Nevuchim, can also be practiced without great difficulty. We should acquire the habit of regularly using phrases like “im yirtzeh Hashem,” and “b’ezras Hashem,” thus emulating Yaakov Avinu and Yosef Hatzaddik, by having “the Name of Heaven fluent in our mouths” (see Rashi on Sefer Bereishis 27:21 and 39:3).

To reinforce Rabbi Twerski’s words, it would be appropriate to quote the Rambam in his Sefer Hamitzvos (Mitzvas Aseh 4) where he defined the mitzvah of yiras Hashem. He says that one should not just go after his heart’s desires, but rather at all times have the fear of Hashem’s punishment, thereby controlling himself from inappropriate behavior.

While this discussion has been about the power of yiras Shamayim to fight the yetzer hara, there is another Rambam regarding vanquishing the yetzer hara, based on a Gemara in Kiddushin (30b). The Gemara says that Hakadosh Baruch Hu told Yisrael, “My son, I have created the yetzer hara and I have created Torah as its antidote.” An antidote does more than just fight against the yetzer hara; it nullifies the yetzer hara completely. And if Hashem said that the Torah is the antidote He created, we can be sure nothing else works. And so says the Rambam (Hilchos Issurei Biah, perek 22, halachah 21): “Greater than all this that has been mentioned earlier, Chazal said, ‘Turn yourself and your heart to the words of Torah and broaden your (mind with its) wisdom, because thoughts of immorality only become strong in a heart that is void of Wisdom.’”

May we all fight the good battle and in that merit may Hashem vanquish and annihilate the yetzer hara and all the enemies of Israel speedily in our days, amen.