by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths
It’s not for no reason the Yetzer Hara, the evil inclination, is called wily. While we normally expect the Yetzer is going to go after us by temptation, taking advantage of our natural and negative inclinations, the evil inclination knows we know it’s approach and sometimes comes via the opposite route.
Those following the intra-Jewish-religious conflict in Beit Shemesh, Israel can see this clearly. (Giving them the benefit of the doubt) a group of (seemingly) ultra-orthodox Jews has taken a desire for religious and societal modesty and had it drive them to violence and intra-Jewish hatred, actions clearly prohibited by the Torah and Jewish law.
In my personal case I encountered such a fall for a mitzvah last week. My synagogue needed to move to a new location and the arrangements weren’t completed until the last minute, Thursday afternoon. As part of my synagogue’s administration, I took it upon myself to make the move happen and make sure the synagogue was ready in it’s new location for Shabbos services (starting Friday afternoon).
I arranged for some teenagers to move everything and threw myself into the job. I expected it to be about 2 hours of work, it turned into about a 5 hour job running late into the night. They moved, I arranged, setting everything up as it came in. Even when the move was completed the job wasn’t done, a few synagogue items needed some minor adjustments and repairs (for example our Aharon Kodesh – the Torah ark, was on wheels, which were damaged during the move and had to either be replaced or removed and replaced with a wooden platform).
I worked hard happy with the mitzvah to help my synagogue and community. But I ended up exhausted. I only got a few hours of sleep that night before I was back to finish organizing and repairing the next morning.
By the time Shabbos arrived, the synagogue was beautiful and ready in it’s new location. I, however, was exhausted and grumpy. I yelled at my family Friday afternoon, snapping at minor problems. I was grumpy at the Shabbos table, not filled with joy in the holy Shabbos but simply wanting to get through it and pass out.
The Yetzer Hara had won. It took my desire for a mitzvah and drove it and me into an averya (a sin). I could have stopped and taken my time through Friday. I could have (and should have) called in other community members for help.
Instead, my family suffered for my mitzvah.
Of course, it doesn’t work that way. If someone else is suffering for my mitzvah, then it’s not a mitzvah. The Yetzer Hara turned the strength of my mitzvah into the negative.
There’s no win there, there’s no holiness there. There’s dedication and piety being turned to the negative. And that’s a danger every religious person should watch out for.