Right up front in the second chapter, the Mesilas
Yeshorim gives us an important clue to one of the chief
stratagems of the yetzer hora. " . . . his cunning is
to make everyone work constantly, very hard and to weigh on
people's hearts so that there will be no opportunity to
contemplate and to see the path they are following, because
he knows that if they but pay the slightest heed to their way
they will no doubt immediately begin to regret their deeds,
and their regret will become stronger until they abandon the
In the old days, as the Mesilas Yeshorim notes, the favored
method of the yetzer hora was hard physical labor.
"Let the work be laid heavy on the people," was the approach
of Pharaoh (Shemos 5,9). They will work so hard they will
not be able to think.
Today the yetzer hora, adaptable and quick to adopt
new methods as always, has more sophisticated and even
attractive tools. Today there are intellectual and emotional
tasks that are at least as demanding as the physical labor of
yore, but they are so attractive for one reason or another
that today many of us voluntarily undertake so many
obligations that we can no more contemplate our ways than
could our forefathers who slaved for Pharaoh.
The Torah provided opportunities for contemplation: the Yomim
Noraim. They break the routine sharply, and give us food for
thought and the time in which to digest it. The extra time
spent in tefilla, the unusual prayers themselves,
which treat in the broadest and grandest terms the
relationship of Hashem as King to ourselves as His subjects,
provide an invaluable chance to think about the important
things that we usually have no time for. Over and over, and
in very inspirational terms, the prayers stress that Hashem
is King of all, and there is nothing more important to us
than acknowledging this, and nothing more important to the
world than spreading this awareness. If we take it, it is an
opportunity to remember what is important in the world at
large, and to contemplate what we can accomplish in our own
But perhaps the yetzer hora will object: Of what value
is our contemplation and resolve on a few days of the year,
when we know that we have to (do we have to?) plunge back
into all our demanding and absorbing activities when it is
all over? Is it really worth all the effort?
The answer is a resounding yes! Whatever we achieve is not
lost. HaRav Chaim Vital, the main talmid of the holy
Arizal, says many times that where divrei kedusha are
concerned, everything that ever is leaves a lasting
impression, forever. Whatever good thoughts we think, any
insights we achieve, even after they have long gone, leave a
permanent residue -- on ourselves, on our families and even
on the entire world.
This also explains the common concern expressed about the
fact that we go through the teshuvah process every
year, only to go through it again next year.
From the perspective of HaRav Chaim Vital's insight, it is
clear that what we do this year, whatever we accomplish in
divrei kedusha which should be the focus of our
thoughts during this period, is much more enduring than the
distractions of the rest of the year.
Kesiva vechasima tova to all Beis Yisroel.