035 – Torah Portion of the Week – Vayeitzei – How to Remove Your Dark Side – Man’s Mixture of Darkness and Light – A Powerful Parable about the Kings Palace – A Great Story about the Rav Shach and Peace in Your Home – Tips for Anger Control
The Torah Podcast Transcript
035 How to Remove Your Dark Side – Man’s Mixture of Darkness and Light
Torah Portion of the Week – Vayeitze
In this week’s Parsha the verse says, “And Yaakov kissed Rochel and raised his voice, and he wept.” Rav Chaim Shmulevitz brings Rashi who says, “Yaakov cried because he didn’t have anything in his hands. He didn’t have anything to give Rochel.” What happened? Eliphaz, the son of Esav, ran after Yaakov to kill him and caught up with him. But since Eliphaz grew up in the embrace of Yitzhak his grandfather, he was influenced and he couldn’t kill Yaakov. He asked Yaakov, “What can I do about my father’s command? I still have to do Kibbud Av V’Eim – I still have to listen to the commands of my father who commanded me to kill you. What am I going to do about that?” Yaakov said to him, “Take everything that I own” Why? Because a poor person is considered like a dead person. “And now, since I don’t have anything, it’s like I’m dead – it’s like you killed me.”
Rav Chaim Shmulevitz says, “Let’s take a look at this inner conflict that Eliphaz was having. On the one side, he couldn’t kill him. It’s a commandment not to kill. He was the grandson of Yitzhak. How can I possibly kill Yaakov? On the other side, I have to do the Mitzva, the commandment, of Kibbud Av V’Eim.” Rav Chaim Shmulevitz says, “This is pure krumkeit, it’s crooked. How could he possibly think that it’s a Mitzva to kill Yaakov?” He says, “The light itself, the light of the Mitzva to do Kibbud Av V’Eim has become corrupted. If he just would have thought about it a little bit deeper, he would have realized, ‘I shouldn’t listen to my father at all.’ Why does he have a conflict?” He brings a verse from Hoshea that says, “The ways of Hashem are straight. The righteous traverse them, and the wicked stumble upon them.”
Rashi explains there that the very same path that God makes to elevate the righteous, the wicked people fall in it, to the point where he thought the Mitzva was to kill Yaakov. That’s the Mitzva of honoring his father. He brings the famous Gemara from Shabbos that says the Torah could be a sam hamaves, it could be a deadly poison. Why? The Gemara says, “For those who study it diligently, it becomes a source of life. And for those who are lax, who are lazy, it becomes a deadly poison.” It’s not harmless if you don’t study properly. If you don’t study properly, you’re not going to come to the proper conclusions. You’d come to the opposite conclusions. Not only that, you could actually create a monster. Who came from Eliphaz? We know that Amalek came from Eliphaz – the arch enemy of the Jewish people, Amalek. Why? Because good and bad together comes out worse than just bad. The good that Eliphaz had in him from Yitzhak went to the bad side, and it came out worse.
That’s how evil works, it draws from the good. This is where you get the worst crookedness from. The worst lies are filled with truth. The word sheker which is spelled shin, kuf, reish is just a switch in the letters of the alphabet. It should be kuf, shin, reish. You switch it and you get sheker. It’s a mixture of truth and lies, and that’s where you get all these crazy ideas in the modern world, the liberal world – mixing the good cause of civil rights with all kinds of nonsense; or rights for people who are doing perversions. It’s not clear thinking.
He asked a question, “Don’t we have an idea that a little bit of light should dissipate a lot of darkness?” The answer is – the darkness in a human being is not just a lack of light. It’s actually an entity. It’s a powerful force in its own right. He brings a Possuk in Yeshayahu that says, “Yotzer Ohr u’Vareh Choshech, the One who forms light, and creates darkness.” The Ramban explained that the darkness of Egypt, in Mitzrayim, pushed away all the light. Darkness is a creation. It’s not just a lack of light. Every human being has his darkness inside of himself, to the point where he could deny the truth. If this darkness takes over, he’ll wind up denying the truth. The truth is light, but darkness is also a counter-force.
He brings the story in Melachim of Yeravam who was offering sacrifices to idols, and the Navi, Prophet, came and paralyzed his arm. At that point, Yeravam had no choice but to ask the Navi to heal his arm. But what language did he use? He said, “Pray to your God.” He clearly saw that the Navi had the power, which means the power of his God to heal his arm, or to take his arm away. And still he’s saying, “Pray to your God,” as if he’s not my God. How can a person when he sees a proof right in front of his nose, still deny God? The answer is – this force of darkness in the person.
We know the idol of Micha – the Jews brought it with them across the parting of the Red Sea. The greatest miracle in the history of the world is occurring, the Red Sea is being split, and someone’s bringing an idol with them through the Red Sea. It’s a stera, a contradiction. The Mechilta says that even when the manna fell from heaven – the heavenly food, they brought some of that food to the idol. What are all these contradictions? How could people be so mixed up? The answer is the darkness inside of a person. If it’s not constantly overcome and overpowered, it will feed off the light and keep going. If a person doesn’t get rid of this darkness inside of himself, he will continue to be influenced by both sides at the same time, and have paradoxical behavior. Even creating a new dimension of Amalek, the arch enemy of Israel, a mixture of light and darkness mixed together – the Germans with their perfection and their logic, and their high society, killing off Jews.
Rav Dessler even takes it one step further. He brings the Pirkei Avos that says, “One whose wisdom is greater than his actions resembles a tree whose foliage is greater than its roots. A wind will come and uproot it, and turn it on its face.” He brings a story of Rav Menacham Mendel, it says like this – it’s unbelievable. “The greater a person is in knowledge, the greater his Yetzer Hara, evil inclination. Even if he increases his ethical knowledge and studies ways to avoid some particular desire, with at the same time not increasing his performance of the practical Mitzvos, it will be extremely harmful.” What’s the proof? We know there’s a famous Gemara that says like this. “Why was the Parsha of Sota put next to the Parsha of Nazir?” Sota means, God forbid, a woman cheated on her husband and she has to drink the Mei Sota, waters of the Sota. She has to go to the Beis HaMigdash. They shlep her, force her around, and make her tired. They uncover her hair, and she has to drink the water with God’s name inside of it. If she really cheated on her husband, she’ll die. If not, she’ll become pregnant with a boy, from her husband.
The question is, why was the Parsha of Nazir juxtaposed right after this Parsha of Sota? Nazir means a person that makes a vow not to drink any wine, and to be a holy person. The Gemara explains, “Why are these two put together? Because whoever sees the Sota in her disgrace should make a Nazirite vow to refrain from wine.” He makes an inference from this, he says like this. “It’s ma’ashma, you can infer, that if a person didn’t see a Sota in her disgrace, he didn’t see what happened to that Sota, he doesn’t have to become a Nazir. It should be the opposite. A person who saw what happened to this woman, this adulteress who cheated on her husband, how she was disgraced and her hair was uncovered, that’s the person who shouldn’t have to take the vow of a Nazir. A regular person should surely take the vow of a Nazir, to stay away from women.”
He says, “No.” You’ve got to hear this – this is unbelievable. “The more a person sees and understands the evils of a certain situation, the more he needs to be on guard against falling into the same sin. He has not yet performed the practical actions which prevent him the knowledge from turning it on its face. The knowledge of a Sota will turn the opposite against him. Torah and knowledge take up a different form in a person good or bad, according to his character.”
This is unbelievable. In other words, the more you know about evil, the more chance you have of falling into it. The person who has more knowledge – that’s why Torah could be Sama Maves – the Torah itself could be a drug of death, because the more a person learns and the more he understands the workings of his evil inclination; the more he understands about a Sota, a woman who cheated on her husband, the bigger his chance of falling into something. The question is now, what do we do? Here we are, the more we learn Torah, the worse our Yetzer Hara’s are going to get. The more wisdom we have about the ways of the world, the more evil we’re going to become. What are we supposed to do?
Rav Dessler explains the answer is – actions. We have to act. We have to move, we have to do something physical. That’s exactly what it said in the Pirkei Avos, “The one whose actions are greater than his wisdom, he’s going to be the one who succeeds. And when a person has a good inclination, a good idea, he should act on it immediately, right away. We know that Rav Chaim Luzzatto and the Sefer HaChinuch both say that if a person does outside actions, it’s going to affect his heart. Just by going to the Minyan, prayers, and going to learn, and doing these things, doing the outside movements is going to affect your heart.
He brings a Raya, a proof, from this week’s Parsha. At the very beginning it says like this, “And Yaakov departed from Beer Sheva and went to Haran. He encountered there the place, and spent the night there, because the sun had set.” Which place? The place is talking about where the Beis HaMigdash was. He went back to the place, why? Because as soon as he got to Haran, he realized that his levels started to drop. He was going to Chutz L’Aretz, outside of Israel. He ran back to the Beis HaMigdash. He acted right away. As soon as he realized he was falling, he went back to the Beis HaMigdash. One answer to solving this problem of the darkness that exists within us is, to constantly act, to do Mitzvos, and make sure that our Ma’asim, our actions, are even greater than our wisdom.
Another point I want to bring out is the opening move of the Shulchan Aruch. “Yisgaber k’aryeh laamod baboker,” a person should get up like a lion, l’avod es haBorei, in order to serve God. The Magen David explains, “What does it mean to get up like a lion? Why do Chazal tell us that we should get up like a lion?” The Magen David explains that a lion’s strength is natural within him, and it’s true by every Jew. We have the natural ability to overcome the Yetzer Hara. It’s not something outside of us. It’s something in our genes. It’s something that came from Yitzhak. Yitzhak represents gevurah, might.
The Magen David explains that even though the Yetzer Hara appears stronger than us, we should not be afraid of it. We can overcome it. It’s a fact. God built into every Jew the ability to overcome the darkness within him, but he has to know that he has the power. The problem is we don’t even know that we have the power, so we think we can’t do it. Once you know you have the power, of course you can do it. We have that power, and we do good deeds. Let’s say we’re learning, and we’re tired. Just another three minutes. A person doesn’t want to go to the Minyan. Use your power. Awaken a power inside of yourself. Every Jew has it. The problem with Eliphaz and Yeravam and Micha, they didn’t use that power. They didn’t exercise their strength to overcome the Yetzer Hara. But the fact is, we can do it if we want to. That’s point number two – to know that you have the ability to overcome the Yetzer Hara.
Point number three is what Rav Wolbe says. He says, “As soon as Yaakov decided to leave Haran and go back to Har HaBayis, so Rashi explains that the earth contracted for him. He had Kfitzas HaDerech. God made a miracle for him, because of his decision to go back.” He brings the Gemara in Yoma, “One who comes to purify himself is granted Divine assistance. If a person has a strong desire to improve, he will be helped immediately.” He says, “By observing where a person stands spiritually at the end of his life, we can determine what his true desires were. If someone has the will to grow and accomplish, he will be helped to bring his desires to fruition.” And that’s the third point – siata d’Shemaya, Hashem is going to help you.
Even if it’s true that we are this mixture of good and bad, and God forbid if we don’t uproot the bad, it’s going to come out even worse. Krumkeit, it’s going to come out crooked. The more we grow, the more crooked we’ll become. We have to uproot it. But there are three pieces of advice. Number one, like Rav Dessler says, is to do actions – constantly do Mitzvos, act. Move yourself. Number two, know like the Shulchan Aruch says, “Yisgaber k’aryeh,” strengthen yourself like a lion. Know that you have that strength. Your teva, your nature, it’s in your blood. A person is strong. He can overcome if he wants to. And number three, like Rav Wolbe says, “You’ll have siata d’Shemaya, Hashem will help you. The one who wants to become pure will have help from Heaven.”
A Powerful Parable
The Maggid Mi Dubno brings a moshul, a parable like this. He brings the verse, “Yaakov awoke from his sleep and said, ‘In truth, Hashem is in this place, and I didn’t know.’ He was afraid and said, ‘How awesome is this place. This is none other than the House of Elokim, the gate of Heaven.” We’re talking about where Yaakov slept, which was the Har HaBayis, the Temple Mount. He has a question. He says, “Listen, it sound like he’s saying the same thing twice. The one at the beginning he said, ‘Hashem is in this place,’ and then he says, ‘How awesome is this place.’ What’s the difference?”
He brings a moshul like this. One time there was a villager who came to the capital city. Somebody’s got to show him around. He wants to show him around the city. He says, “This is the castle.” “Whose castle is that?” “That’s the king’s castle.” As they got closer, he starts to see all the different parts of the castle and he said, “Whose houses are these?” “Oh, this is where the servants stay. This is where the King’s doctor stays, over here. The senior advisors stay over here. The chef stays over here.” Then he notices there’s another big house, a big, fancy house, also. “Whose house is that?” he asks. “Oh, that’s the home of the king himself. That’s the royal palace.” The man says, “I don’t get it, you told me this whole place was the king’s castle. What’s this, the king’s palace?” He says, “It’s true. The castle belongs to the king, but other people have permission to be in the castle. You have the cook, the servants, the advisors. But this house is only for the king himself. Only if a person has special permission to come in there can he come in, and he has to be dressed properly – suitable for a king.”
That was the Moshul. The Nimshul, the meaning, is like this. Hashem’s honor fills the whole world, but at the same time, God gave place for man to live in God’s world. However, there is one special place, the Beis HaMigdash, the Temple Mount, where the Shechina, Godly presence, dwells. That’s off limits. It says, “Any stranger who draws near there will die.” The Cohen Gadol only goes one time a year into that area. That’s what the verse meant. “Hashem is in this place,” that’s talking about the whole world. And, “How awesome is this place,” that’s talking about the Temple Mount where God’s presence, He Himself is there.
A Great Story About a Great Rabbi – Rav Shach
Yaakov said to Lavan, “Do not give me anything.” The Seforno says there, “If God decides to grace me with wealth this is not a result in any loss of your property. As the Sages say, ‘No person could take away from that which is destined to belong to his fellow.’” Rav Dovid Cohen told this story about Rav Shach. One time he was still learning in Kollel, an institution for married men, and he was offered a position to be a Mayshev, examiner. Eventually he would become a Rav, a regular teacher. So, he went to Rav Shach to ask him about the offer. He asked me, ‘Are you learning well? Are you growing in Torah knowledge in your Kollel where you are now?’ I said, ‘Yes,’ so he advised me, ‘Stay where you are. Why would you even consider leaving Kollel if you’re learning well and you’re growing?’ He says to him, “I have the special opportunity. This is a unique position. A chance like this probably won’t back again.”
He said, “If someone is sitting and learning well, he should not even think about anything else. And as far as your fabulous opportunity that you claim you’ll never get back, the Gemara says, ‘No person could take away the slightest bit from that which is destined to belong to his fellow.’” He said to him, “If you deserve this position, eventually you’ll get it.” He listened to the Rosh Yeshiva. He went back to the Kollel. He learned for another four years. What happened? The Kollel ran out of money, and it was closing. Just as it closed, the Yeshiva came back to him and offered him the position again – the same position that he turned down four years ago was offered to him again. We see here the awesome advice of the Chachamim, wise men.
Peace in Your Home
Rav Nachum Diament gives some advice for controlling anger – tips for controlling anger. He says, “The first thing you’ve got to do is get rid of all your trouble spots.” What does he mean? He says, “Friday is religious Jews’ international anger day – Erev Shabbos. Why? Because of the pressure.” He says, “Why should there be pressure Erev Shabbos? You could polish your shoes on Thursday. You can buy candles on Wednesday. You can iron your shirts on Thursday. With the better planning, you’d take away the pressure of Shabbos. If you know you’re going to get angry because of the pressure, so take the pressure away.” He says, “Nissan is religious Jews’ international anger month. Why? Because of the Pesach cleaning.” He says, “If you want to clean up all the dust, so start months before. If you want to just do what the halacha, Jewish law says, so you don’t have to start so much before it, but if you’re going to be uptight about how clean your house is, you have to start earlier. Same thing if you’re travelling out of town, Erev Shabbos. Don’t wait till the last minute and shove all the kids in the car. Of course there’s going to be anger problems. Also, going on vacation, don’t wait for the last second to pack. Make a list. And you have to take all your children to every Simcha, special occasion you go to, just so they get photographed? If you know there’s going to be problems, prevent it beforehand.” That’s tip number one – get rid of the trouble spots.
Tip number two, don’t blame anybody else. He says, “The angrier we get, the angrier we become. The more frequently we get angry we’re going to get angry even more. It rolls like a snowball.” He says, “This is why it says, ‘When Yosef was born, Rachel was happy because now Hashem has gathered up my shame.’ Rashi says, until now when a plate broke, everyone said, I broke it. And now they’ll be able to say, ‘My son broke it.’” We asked a question, “What, Rachel is going to lie?” No, Rachel is not going to lie, she doesn’t have to lie. But if her husband gets mad, he’s going to first blame it on somebody else. Who’s he going to blame it on? The kids. Because we have a tendency to be lazy in trying to figure out what happens, then we just get angry. So, don’t blame it on anybody else. The anger’s with us.
Tip number three – self-control requires skill. This is the one I always say which is, “You don’t get angry at your boss. You don’t get angry at your father. When you have to control yourself, you control yourself. You see, you can control yourself.” Like I spoke about before, we have tremendous kochos, strengths, inside of us – gevurah, power. If we want to control ourselves and not be angry, we really have the capability. In the situations where we can’t get angry, we don’t. Don’t come home and unload it on your wife and your kids.
Tip number four – know that anger comes from pride. What do you mean? You feel you deserve everything. You deserve a clean house, and a clean table, and hot food. You deserve everything, and if you don’t get what you deserve, you get angry. That’s just arrogance. Lower your expectations a little bit, and you will get less angry.
Tip number five – if I get angry, you’re right. Make a deal with your wife, that if you get angry, she doesn’t have to listen to you. Or make a deal with your husband, that if you get angry he doesn’t have to listen to you. Whoever gets angry is wrong. Anyway, it comes out like that, Le’maaser, in the end. You know when there’s a fight, whenever there’s a fight, the person who’s angry is always going to lose. So, don’t get angry because you’re going to be wrong.
Tip number six – learn books about anger. Learn Mussar, character development. When you read them slowly and seriously, you will soon start to feel repelled by anger. It’s true, when you educate yourself about something, you will start to see the disgrace in it, and you won’t want to become angry.
Tip number seven – don’t make too many resolutions. Don’t make the resolution too big. In other words, don’t say you’re not going to get angry the entire Friday. Say, “I’m not going to get angry from candle lighting until Kiddush.” Then try to extend it to when the fish comes to the meal, but don’t go further than that. Why? Because the kids at that point start jumping off the table, and knocking over the glasses. Things start spilling. Of course you’re going to get angry. Try to take care of your anger problem with baby steps.
He brings the Ibn Ezra who says, “Return Yisroel to Hashem, your God.” The Ibn Ezra explains what does that mean? “Little by little, until eventually you come to Hashem.” If you try to jump too far, you won’t succeed.
Okay, that’s it for this week’s Podcast. I hope you enjoyed it. Please share it with your friends, and please leave me some comments on the website.