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Thought for the Day: Choosing to Battle the Yeitzer HaRa Is the Most Fun

My two year old granddaughter discovered a really fun (for her) game.  Since it was the last Sunday that all the cousins would be together for a while, we took them to the Shedd Aquarium.  Its a great place for a big age range because there is plenty to look at in each exhibit; each according to his level.  We had four adults and eight children; what could go wrong?  Right; plenty.  My daughter turned from one child to another and then back again.... oh no!  where is she!  In a panic, she started searching the area (we were in the amphibian exhibit), finally turning a corner to see her toddler crouching (to make herself as small as possible) in a corner, squealing with laughter and explaining to her mother, "I HIDING!", followed by more giggling.  Her mom, though not amused, was enjoying being able to breathe again.

I, as grandparent who only learned about the situation after its happy conclusion, contemplated what was so fun for her (my granddaughter, not her mother).  She was actually enjoying seeing all the newts and frogs, so she wasn't bored.  It was also not an act of rebellion, though she was certainly doing something her mother didn't like.  My conclusion is that she was getting a bang out of being in control; that is, exercising her free will in competition with a worthy competitor.

The Mesilas Yesharim begins with a clarification of the reason HaShem created us: to have fun!  The greatest fun, of course, is a close relationship with HaShem Himself, the source of all Good.  For us to have the most fun, we have to be masters of that relationship; that is, we need to choose it.  In order to be a free, honest choice, we need to have attractive alternatives.  Therefore HaShem created this big, beautiful universe as a playground in which we can exercise our free will.  He also gave us Torah and mitzvos so we have something worth achieving and rules by which to achieve those goals.  He also gave us a worthy opponent, who goes by various names: the adversary (satan, in Hebrew), the angel of death (since losing only has one consequence), and -- the all too familiar -- יצר הרע/evil inclination.

What makes the satan so darn evil is that he doesn't play fair.  If he came dressed up in a red suit, pointy tail, sharp trident, and evil looking goatee then I'd recognize him and would easily choose to not follow his advice.  The problem with that scenario, though is that it is deadly, dull boring.  Less fun that tic-tac-toe and almost as bad a accounting.  Therefore, just to keep your life interesting and therefore more fun, the יצר הרע keeps masquerading as someone you would never suspect -- yourself.  My granddaughter was sure it was her own thought to hide from mommy.  Of course, had she felt even a whisper of the danger into which she was putting herself, she would have run to her mommy in tears

Of course none of us would put ourselves into such a danger, right?  Well... כל הגדול מחברו יצרו גדול הימנו/the one who is bigger (ie, more mature and advanced in recognizing danger), will also get a bigger (ie, more worthy as an opponent), custom made adversary -- just to keep things interesting.  Don't worry though, HaShem won't give you more than you can handle. On the other hand, He won't give you one inch less, either.  Even though I know that's true, there are days that I really appreciate the sentiment I saw on a t-shirt once: "Sometimes I wish HaShem didn't have so much faith in me!"

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