Over the past few weeks, we have discussed the various middos and tendencies that can be found inside of us. This week we will discuss the force which causes our middos to spur us to act. This most powerful force is our imagination. In fact, our negative middos materialize in our conscious solely with the help of the imagination. It affords us an exact depiction of what we hope to gain by employing our middos.
The imagination is powerful. We can conjure up pictures of an unlimited amount of pleasures and forms of recreation, and conversely, it allows us to depict all types of frightening situations. The amazing thing is that while everything we fantasize about is a mere figment of our imagination, we nevertheless feel as if those thoughts are a reality. Additionally, people waste a considerable amount of time reveling in situations that never occurred and never will occur! Indeed, the imagination is the polar opposite to the intellect which thrives on truth and strives to decipher the true reality in life.
What is the secret behind the imagination? What's its purpose and what makes it so powerful? The Seforno (Bereishis 3:1) answers our questions with his enlightening explanation of the snake which enticed Chava to sin and eat from the eitz hadaas. The snake parallels - and thusly symbolizes - the yetzer hara. Like the yetzer hara, there is very little benefit from the snake, and it is extremely destructive despite the fact that it is rarely seen. Through the imagination which depicts the most enticing pleasures, the yetzer hara arouses ones desires, which in turn cause him to stray from the path that Hashem intended for him to follow. The ammunition given to us to enable us to combat this dangerous duo of fantasy and desire is the intellect which has the ability to quash thoughts which have no basis in reality.
Another most interesting aspect of the imagination is that many of our depictions are rooted in our childhood. Children have the greatest ability to fantasize, and with wild imaginations they can depict even the most outlandish scenarios. Unfortunately, often the way that we perceive certain people and specific situations is exactly how we depicted them when we were very young. The result is that it is common for people to be extremely occupied with an imagination which is busy with childish portrayals!
The bottom line regarding imagination is that every time we encounter a person, there are really two people standing before us. There is the person as he is perceived by those around him, and there is the person how he perceives himself. Generally, the two stand diametrically opposite one another. Subconsciously, a person may depict himself free of any flaws and packed with qualities and virtues which are magnified many times over. Not only that, it is quite possible that he pictures himself with certain positive qualities that he does not have, while totally oblivious to the numerous qualities with which he was endowed.
The biggest problem is that this faultless clone that he has created does not stand quietly in the recesses of his mind. Because one thinks that this figment of his imagination is truly himself, he speaks, thinks, acts, and reacts accordingly. One who wishes to discover who he really is must take notice of his impersonator and pay attention to the discrepancies between it and his true self.
Our generation takes the cake when it comes to being caught up in the imagination. Movies, video clips, newscasts and internet take over the mind and set it off on a whirlwind of desires and fears. So what should we do? Open a siddur, Tehillim or Gemara. Set your focus on true reality and fine tune your intellect thereby arming it to combat the constant barrage of fantasies brought on by our overactive imagination!