Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

4 Sivan 5762 - May 15, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Opinion & Comment
Identified Call

by Yochonon Dovid

The shmuess with the group of new students in the yeshiva came to its conclusion. The boys left the room and went back to the main study hall. Only Yaron seemed to be lingering and it was obvious that he wished to be alone with the Rov. Yaron had progressed slowly as far as integrating into the yeshiva world, but he was a talented boy who was determined to understand everything fundamentally. The Rov turned his attention to him at once and soon they were sitting across from one another, with the Rov urging Yaron to say what was on his mind.

"In the last few talks," he began, "we heard a great deal about the struggle between the yetzer tov and the yetzer ra. It is a battle to the finish between the two, and victory in each clash is of utmost importance. We heard descriptions and examples of discussions between the two drives which, according to you, are most common, but of which I heard here for the first time.

"I examined myself to see if I ever experienced such a struggle between my good and evil inclinations, or if I ever felt this conflict raging within me. The answer is negative; I simply am not familiar with such a thing! Either I don't have a good inclination, or I am lacking an evil one, or they both reside within me in peace and harmony, without any arguments, without any battles. I looked around at my friends, expecting that one of them would get up and declare that he doesn't understand what you were talking about, altogether, since he hasn't experienced such a struggle. But to my great surprise, I remained alone in my sentiments.

"Is there anything wrong with me? I have always thought I was a very normal person, so how is it that I am completely unfamiliar with the internal struggles that accompany a person at all times and present themselves several times a day in his heart and consciousness?"

"Don't worry, Yaron," the Rov comforted him with a smile. "You're altogether normal. I have no doubt that you incorporate a good inclination that propels you to seek the truth and pursue good deeds from the very fact that you have a sublime soul that aspires to return to its source. As far as an evil drive -- that you certainly possess, for without a tendency towards evil with which a person must contend and which he must overcome, there is no meaning to anything he does. It is very much like an exercise machine which is missing springs and coils. There is no tension, no conflict, nothing. There must be a counter-force to the person doing the exercises. Otherwise he is not exerting himself. No muscles can develop from lack of counter- force.

"But your questions are still valid. You deserve some satisfactory answer.

"Man is the only creature on this world composed of two different and contrasting entities: matter and spirit. While angels are purely spiritual and, lehavdil, a dog and a donkey are physical creatures, man, on the other hand, is a composite of these two entities. Since Hashem, Himself, infused a living spirit into a lump of earth, of clay, the product of that fusion seems so perfectly uniform and complete that even a close scrutiny does not reveal a seam joining the two.

"And thus do we have a cerebral-Yaron and a physical, or corporal-Yaron as one cohesive unit without any outward sign of the duality and difference between them.

"Furthermore, in the internal workings of this symbiotic creature, as it were, there is a conglomerate of different powers which freely voice their opinions and suggestions without even identifying who is speaking and to which half of this man he belongs.

"A man from the outside who was to bend an ear to the voices pouring forth from this round table discussion would be totally confused: each of the voices sounds like it is the person himself. Every utterance is prefaced with an egotistic `I think,' `I feel . . . ' etc. And it sounds as if this is the definitive voice of the man himself, brooking no argument or opposing opinion. Pairs of sentences which are by content altogether contradictory sound like the single voice of the person in this round table conference. `I think that I've got to get up now in order to do this and that,' as opposed to `I want to sleep some more and I don't owe anybody anything.' Or, to use a different example, `I really must donate to such a worthy cause,' alongside `It's my money and I have no intention of sharing it with anyone else.' Even the person himself, within whom rage the medley of these voices, hears from the midst of this babble what he wishes to hear, the will that best expresses his desire."

"So how is any final decision ever arrived at?" asked Yaron.

"Very simply. The decision is determined by whoever shouts the loudest. The highest volume, the greatest power behind the shouting, is the deciding factor. That way, there are no arguments or uncertainties. There are no guilt feelings after- the-act. In this internal `parliament' there is no clear-cut division of parties regarding body and soul and there is no definite identification of the leanings of any of the speakers.

"In the end, when a person finally `decides,' he declares that he's `in the mood' to do this or that. That is his will and he will act accordingly."

"I am certain," said Yaron, "that in most cases, the voice of the body is stronger and louder, whereas the voice of the spiritual ideals and values are weaker. But primarily, where do we find expression of man's free choice, which is his ultimate, highest essence?"

"That," said the Rov, "is the question of questions. Here sits the man-of-free-choice as president of his internal `parliament' -- and the determining factor in his decision between all the voices is merely their noise level? This `voter's' problem is one of the mixture of unidentified voices. He hears voices and cries, but he cannot immediately identify the source of each one and what it represents. He doesn't know if one particular call is coming from his body, bearing the characteristics of earthiness and baseness, or if it comes from the refined side of the spirit and its respective aspirations. If he could avail himself of the services of `Caller ID' and know immediately who is saying what, he would be able to classify the voices according to their source. And then his act of free choice would operate from clarity in accordance with the real inner design of those various voices.

"This is the only advice he can avail himself of in dispelling the fog that envelops the voices he hears. If he could identify them, his decision would spring from fundamental rules that he embraced as a `voter' and by which he conducts his life, and not according to the volume produced by the various powers that seek to be heard. Only in this instance can we say that the decision is the person's and expresses his ultimate will, and his conduct in choosing freely."

"If I understood you correctly," said Yaron, "then this is a marvelous and easy guideline for every person to employ: to classify the inclinations and the voices that he hears inside him. For then he will clearly see which originates from the side of his material body and which emanates from his mind and better judgment and those values by which he wishes to live. The `Caller ID' is the solution. This is how he can learn to differentiate between his yetzer tov and his yetzer ra; it will be much easier then for him to decide which to follow."

"Well said," the Rov complimented him. "Identification is the right direction. For without it, a person wanders aimlessly in the dark throughout his life and does not know who, exactly, is pulling the reins as he marches along his way.

"But this is only the beginning. There are many deceptions and camouflages which sometimes make that identification a difficult task. For example, `It is advisable for me to sleep for another half-an-hour because then I will get up fully refreshed and will be able to study with a clear head.' Did a desire to learn with a clear head truly speak to me, or was it simply laziness disguised as love for Torah? Is this not a clear example of `corporal-Yaron' versus `spiritual- Yaron' speaking?

"Only one who truly cares, who is genuinely concerned, and who listens carefully to the voices within him -- and acts accordingly, can be in control of his own actions."

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