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Thought for the Day: Cheit Adam HaRishon -- Giving the Yeitzer HaRah an Opening

For about a year I worked as a radiation physicist in the radiation therapy department of a hospital in Southern California.  Since I have not been trained for that, I took several opportunities to observe different procedures, some of which took place in the operating room.  The first time I went to observe, I stepped up to the sink to wash my hands; "Don't wash your hands!"  Huh?  It turns out that had I washed my hands, I would have been listed as a participant (not just observer) and therefore would have been liable in case of lawsuit.  I shoved my hands in my pockets and just watched.

The hand washing procedure itself is kind of interesting.  They scrub for a specified amount of time (20 or 30 seconds, as I recall), with a specified disinfectant soap, with a specified brush, in a specified pattern.  Why so much process just to wash hand?  Because, of course (and obviously to our 21st century minds), our skin is teeming with bacteria.  It doesn't cause us problems because our skin is an effective barrier to those dangerous microscopic critters.  In the operating room, though, the patient is going to have that barrier breached and even one tiny bacterium presents a serious threat to the patient's health.  It is much, much more difficult to fight an infection than to prevent one.

Adam haRishon was created with no yeitzer ha'rah; the yeitzer ha'rah had been created, but it was external to him.  External, yes; but teeming all over Adam looking for the smallest breach into which he could inject his poison.  As explained before, Adam made a decision -- a reasoned and reasonable choice -- to eat from the fruit of the tree that had been forbidden to him.  He had very good reasons for doing what he did, but he made a bad decision.  How did that happen?  Because his judgement became ever so slightly clouded.  How did his reason become clouded?  Because he opened a tiny breach in the barrier that kept the yeitzer ha'rah at bay.

The breach, Rav Dessler explains, was his decision to add the fence of "don't touch" to HaShem's commandment not to eat.  Let's take this step by step.  From the fact that Adam created such a fence in the first place, we can infer that he felt a draw to eating from the fruit of the tree.  That draw was the possibility to draw closer to HaShem by being more like Him.  However, deciding -- on his own -- to add a fence increased his own sense of self/identity, thus actually moving him away from HaShem.  That is, Adam felt a draw to the tree and felt he needed additional safety measures -- safety measure that HaShem had not ordained.  In other words, at an extremely fine and delicate level, Adam felt that HaShem had missed something and Adam was helping out.  That's arrogance; that precedes the fall.  It was a sub-microscopic opening; but that's all the yeitzer ha'rah needed.

The fences our Chazal have ordained are at the direct command of HaShem.  Adam made his decree on his own; and that was wrong.  The M'silas Yesharim, in fact, says that any true heter is good.  Not "ok to do if you really want to", but "good; you should do it".  The system is precise to an extreme degree.  Our job is to learn and live that system, not tinker with it.

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