Through All Your Ways Know Him: The Evil Impulse is Very Good

by tillerofthesoil

Through all your ways know Him, and He will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:6). Rabba remarked: Even in the matter of a עֲבִירָה (avirah), transgression” (BT Berakhot 63a).

“Now, you might say, ‘How can a person love the blessed Holy One with יֵצֶר הָרָע (yetser ha-ra), the evil impulse? For look, the evil impulse is hostile, preventing a person from serving the blessed Holy One! How can he love Him with it? Well, this is a greater service of the blessed Holy One, when the evil impulse is overturned by the love that one feels for the blessed Holy One. For when the evil impulse is overturned and broken by a person, this is true love of the blessed Holy One, since he knows how to draw that evil impulse to His service. Here is a mystery for masters of qualities: Everything that the blessed Holy One has made, above and below, is all intended to manifest His glory, and all is for His service. Now, who has ever seen a servant denouncing his master, opposing everything that his master wishes?

It is the will of the blessed Holy One that humans should serve Him constantly, walking in the path of truth, thereby becoming worthy of many benefits. Since this is His will, how can an evil servant come and oppose, by his Master’s will—luring people to an evil path, distancing them from the good path, and causing them to disobey the will of their Lord? But actually, he is doing the will of his Master! This may be compared to a king who had an only son, whom he loved exceedingly. He commanded him, in love, not to approach an evil woman, for whoever approached her would be unworthy of entering the king’s palace. The son consented to do his father’s will in love. In the king’s abode, outside, was a harlot, comely in appearance and beautiful in form. Some days later, the king said, ‘I want to see my son’s devotion to me.’ He called for that harlot and said to her, ‘Go and seduce my son,’ to see his son’s devotion to him. That harlot, what did she do? She went after his son and began embracing him, kissing him, seducing him with all kinds of enticements.

If that son is worthy and obeys his father’s command, he rebukes her, pays no heed to her, and thrusts her away from him. Then the father rejoices in his son and brings him into his palace, giving him gifts and presents and great honor. Who caused all this honor for that son? You must admit, that harlot! And that harlot, does she deserve praise for this or not? Surely she does, from every aspect. First, because she carried out the king’s command; and second, because she brought upon the son all this honor, all this goodness, all this love of the king toward him. Therefore, it is written: and look, it was very good (Genesis 1:31). And look, it was good—this is the Angel of Life; very is the Angel of Death, who is surely very good for whoever heeds his Lord’s command.

Come and See: Were it not for this accuser, the righteous would not inherit those supernal treasures reserved for them in the world that is coming. Happy are they who have encountered this accuser, and happy are they who have not encountered him! Happy are they who have encountered him, for through him they inherit all that goodness, all that bliss, all those delights of the world that is coming, of which is written No eye has seen, O God, but You, what You will do for one who awaits You (Isaiah 64:3). Happy are they who have not encountered him, for through him they inherit Hell and are banished from the land of the living—the wicked who do not heed their Lord and are drawn after him. Therefore, the righteous should be grateful to him, for through him they inherit all that goodness, bliss, and delight in the world that is coming. What is the benefit for this accuser when the wicked obey him? Well, even though he has no benefit, he fulfills the command of his Master.

Furthermore, he is strengthened because of this; since he is evil, he becomes stronger when perpetrating evil. A wicked person is strengthened only after he has killed someone. Once he has killed people, he is emboldened, empowered potently, and feels pleasure. Similarly, that accuser grows in power only after he has lured people, accused them, and killed them. Then he is pleased, strengthened, and potently empowered. Just as the side of life is strengthened when people are good and walk on the straight path, so too this accuser is strengthened and empowered when the wicked heed him and are dominated by him—may the Compassionate One save us! Happy are they who are worthy of defeating him and overturning him, earning the world that is coming because of him! One should be strengthened by the blessed Holy One constantly. Of this is said Happy is the human whose strength is in You—highways in their heart (Psalms 84:6). Happy are they in this world, and happy are they in the world that is coming!” (Zohar 2:163a-b).

And you shall remember all the way on which YHWH your God led you these forty years in the wilderness, in order to afflict you, to test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commands or not (Deuteronomy 8:2).

“Our Rabbis taught: וְשַׂמְתֶּם (ve-samtem), And you shall set (Deuteronomy 11:18)—סַם תָם (sam tam), a complete remedy. This may be compared to a man who struck his son a strong blow, and then put a plaster on his wound, saying to him, ‘My son! As long as this plaster is on your wound you can eat and drink at will, and bathe in hot or cold water, without fear. But if you remove it, it will break out into sores.’ Even so did the blessed Holy One speak to Israel: ‘My children! I created the evil impulse but I [also] created Torah, as its תַבלִין (tavlin), antidote [lit., spice]; if you occupy yourselves with Torah, you will not be delivered into his hand, for it is said: For whether you offer well, or whether you do not (Genesis 4:7). But if you do not occupy yourselves with Torah, you will be delivered into his hand, for it is written, at the tent flap sin crouches (ibid.). Moreover, he is altogether preoccupied with you [to make you sin], for it is said, and for you is his longing (ibid.). Yet if you will, you can rule over him, for it is said, and you will rule over him (ibid.)” (BT Qiddushin 30b).

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