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Thought for the Day: Dealing With Ever Changing Challenges

If you liked the movie, "Karate Kid", you'd probably also like "Ip Man" (and "Ip Man 2").  Nice message, great martial arts.  After having shown himself to be the greatest kung fu master in China, then in Japan by taking on 10 attackers at once, and even defending himself and a student against dozens of attackers with knives, Master Ip faces his toughest challenge: the world's heavyweight boxing champion.  We are all thinking this is a drop kick, but Master Ip almost succumbs before finally winning a decisive victory and leaving us with a message of peace and mutual respect.  (Yada, yada... I liked the fight scenes.)  Why did he have some much trouble with the boxing?  I think it is because a martial arts fight is really just sparring to demonstrate to each other who has the great skill.  The one with the greater skill wins.  Boxing, on the other hand, has a single goal: bludgeon your opponent into unconsciousness.  Skill, shmill -- the one left standing wins.  When faced with this new kind of opponent, Master Ip was drawn away from his expertise and calm into a frenzy of trading punches -- a battle he could not win.  It was only after regaining his center that he we able to triumph.

While watching Master Ip's dramatic victory snatched from the jaws of defeat, I began to wonder mussar haskeil I was meant glean.  Certainly, l'chatchila, the director was going for more drama to increase his box office, but b'di'avad, since I am watching this, there must be a lesson intended for me.

Chazal tell us (quoted by Rashi on Bereishis, 4:7) that the yeitzer hara has but one intent, an intent that is both fierce and constant: to cause to you sin and bring you to destuction.  What is your single hope?  Learning Torah (kiddushin 30b).  What kind of learning Torah?  The kind that brings one to action.  Learning without taking it all the way to the "l'ma'aseh" is like sparring.  It certainly sharpens your skills, but until you are really challenged to be able to apply everything you learn to every moment of your life, you are still in danger of falling into sin.  The yeitzer hara is a skilled and experienced opponent.  The yeitzer hara doesn't study you just to know how you think; it studies you to know how you think in order to be able to more efficiently bring you down.  The yeitzer hara is not sparring with you, it's looking for every opening to bring you down.  You must be equally diligent in learning to both deflect its challenges and mount your own attack.

L'chatchila it certainly would have been easier to have never entered into this battle.  B'di'avad, now that we are here, we have no choice but to use the antidote provided by the Creator.  Not just learning, but learning that brings you to action.  To being ever watchful and carefully about issurim.  To being enthusiastic and energetic in looking for positive mitzvos to fulfull.

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