Wednesday, January 14, 2015

455 - Vayeishev

Yosef was sold into slavery as a teenager and had to fend for himself in the most depraved country of the time. Moreover, his master's wife was extremely determined to seduce him, and day in and day out he had to deal with her advances. Rav Wolbe (Shiurei Chumash, Parshas Vayeishev 39:11) notes that Yosef, who personified the middah of kedusha, was tested specifically in that area. In a similar vein, we find that Avraham, the quintessential baal chessed, was tested with a test that was the antithesis of chessed: sacrificing his own son.

Rav Wolbe informs us (Alei Shur vol. I pg. 35) that this is a phenomenon which occurs even in the twenty-first century. When the yetzer hara attacks fiercely, there is no reason to become dejected or depressed. It is quite possible that from the very attacks of the yetzer hara we can deduce the aspects of avodas Hashem that need improvement. Moreover, his attacks reveal to us the specific area in which, if properly addressed, we have the capacity to achieve perfection. Simple logic dictates that the yetzer hara strikes precisely in the area that a person has the greatest ability to perfect himself. 

This idea is highlighted by Rav Tzadok Hakohein (Tzidkas HaTzaddik 49, 181). He asserts that every person has his own distinct temptations. If one notices that he has an intense desire in a particular area he should know that it is in this very area that he is spiritually equipped to receive Hashem's blessings; if he directs his heart to Him. Moreover, one should be aware that the sin that he has transgressed most often is the exact area ofavodas Hashem in which he can achieve complete integrity! Therefore, Chazal tell us that when one sins with a particular limb, he should rectify that transgression by using that specific limb to perform mitzvos. Such behavior does not merely rectify that specific sin, it also improves the transgressor himself. Each person was created with the purpose of rectifying a different aspect of avodas Hashem which cannot be accomplished by anyone else. Rectifying the sin aids one in fulfilling their purpose in this world. 

Rav Tzadok bequeathed to us the keys to properly relating to ourselves. When the yetzer hara strikes we get embarrassed; our honor was slighted with his attack. We held ourselves in high regard, and the yetzer hara showed us exactly how lowly we really are. Therefore, most people want to simply sweep their failures under the carpet and forget them as fast as possible. However, this is not the correct response for we are in effect unplugging the red warning light so that we shouldn't see it blinking. Rather, we must perceive it as a wakeup call to address the area in which we are destined to achieve greatness.

It is common for people to compare themselves to those around them. "Why can't I get up for Shachris like my friends who jump out of bed like a cannonball?" "How come everyone is progressing in their shemiras halashonand I can't seem to keep my mouth shut?" The answer to these questions is that getting up in the morning orshemiras halashon might not be the aspect of avodas Hashem that those people were created to rectify. Each person has a unique set of challenges. If one pays attention to the voice of the yetzer hara and works on rectifying the deficient areas, then his faults will become the impetus for attaining perfection, and consequently the catalyst for receiving Hashem's great blessings.

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