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Thought for the Day: Your יֵצֶר הָרָע Wants Every Battle And The War

I worked many years for Motorola; the last couple of which were spent looking at availability and reliability.  (Reliability engineering seeks to decrease the frequency with which a system fails; availability engineering seeks to decrease the time to repair/replace a failed system.)  Motorola then had a culture of "if you can't measure it, you can't improve it".  I therefore began by looking at historical outage data for our systems.  One important piece of data we had in the database was "root cause".  Understanding root cause is perhaps the single most important bit of information one needs to improve any system.  As I analyzed that data, going through the engineering logs of what was done to fix the system, I found that the recorded root cause was essentially unrelated to reality.  Apparently the system required the person taking the call to record a root cause, but the engineer who actually did the repair never went back to update that field.  I published my findings in a internal memo and was promptly rewarded: My access rights to the data were removed.

HaShem give us straight shooting advice on dealing with your selfish/evil inclination (aka, יֵצֶר הָרָע) -- which is only fair since He created it -- in the tragic affair of Kayin's downfall.  Kayin brought an offering to HaShem that was not accepted.  Kayin's response was moody and petulant.  HaShem told him (btw... when was the last time HaShem spoke with you?  Think about that before you think to poorly of Kayin; Kayin was a prophet of the highest level) not to be so upset, he could easily improve.  Then came a warning: but if you don't improve... לַפֶּתַח חַטָּאת רֹבֵץ; וְאֵלֶיךָ, תְּשׁוּקָתוֹ, וְאַתָּה, תִּמְשָׁל-בּוֹ/your sin will crouch at the opening (of your gave), it's only desire only to get you.

Well that's friendly.  Chazal give a משל.  It is like a dog who wants a loaf of bread.  He sits at the door of the bakery, waiting for his chance.  The baker, of course, is guarding his wares.  The clever/devious dog pretends to sleep (ie, not pay attention), so the baker falls asleep (ie, stops worrying about the dog).  Once the dog sees that the baker has drifted off, he runs in and upsets the table of baked goods.  As the baker is running about picking up all the baked goods, the dog makes off with what he carry.

Strange... why didn't the dog just grab his goods and run while the baker was off guard?  What's the point of first upsetting the table?  I heard a pointed and insightful explanation this past Shabbos from R' Nissin Kaplan (of the Mir, Yerushalayim; visiting for a bar mitzvah) that transforms this Chazal from "oh... cool!" to concrete practical and essential advice on dealing with the יֵצֶר הָרָע.  If the dog had simply stolen the goods, he would have gotten away with it... this time.  But the baker will never trust that dog again.  What does the cleverly devious dog do?  He upsets the whole table.  Now the baker is attention is shifted from dealing the dog to dealing with the mess.  The dog got a couple?  The baker now things "Whew!  It could have been much worse.  Good thing I was so quick on my feet to deal with mess and only lose a few loaves!"

The baker is not only missing the real "root cause", he is actually patting himself on the back for his amazing response to the situation.  The יֵצֶר הָרָע is interested in stealing anything he can from you.  More than that, though, he uses those very opportunities -- times when he is stealing the most from you -- to get you thinking that you really beat him this time!  When a person's Shabbos is spent talking about business, he is patting himself on the back for his half our of learning (that was left after four hours of business and sports talk).  When a person spends a few hours saying lashon harah about this one and that one, he is patting himself on the back for calming himself down and being able to keep his temper (this time...).

And the whole time, the יֵצֶר הָרָע collecting and recording, לַפֶּתַח חַטָּאת רֹבֵץ/waiting at the door of the court of your final judgement, ready to take what he really wanted all along, as much of your eternal soul as he can cheat you out of.

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