Monday, 21 May 2012

Day 21: Be Aware of the Enticing Nature of the World

Part 1/3 (to see other parts of the article, click on the pages at the bottom)

by Miller, Rabbi Zvi (See all authors)

I enjoy life and see the world as a beautiful place. What is meant by the "deceptive nature" of the world?

On Day 11, we discussed the importance of developing a deep awareness of Hashem. Another concept related to this is what Rabbi Salanter calls "Wisdom of the World."

"It is important to deepen our understanding of the ways of the world, which are deceptive. The various temptations of the world entrap people in their web, each person according to his own tendencies." [This understanding of the world is called Wisdom of the World.] (Ohr Yisrael, Letter Four)

It's true that G-d created a beautiful world. But it would be naive for us to overlook the fact that seeing the world's enticements are the primary cause of sin and self-destruction.

In fact, the very first episode in the Torah describes how Eve fell into deception and awesome devastation. The serpent urged her to eat the forbidden fruit so that she would gain true wisdom. While the serpent's enticement did awaken a desire to eat the fruit, it was not strong enough to convince her to violate G-d's commandment.

What convinced her to actually eat the fruit? She looked at the tree and it "was a delight to the eyes." (Bereishit 3:6) The sight of the fruit evoked a desire that overwhelmed her. She ate the fruit and then convinced Adam to eat it as well. As a result, death came into the world and they were both expelled from the Garden of Eden.

Throughout the Torah, we find examples of the power of vision to cause calamity. You may not have noticed this wording before. Here are a few examples:

  • When Cain saw that only Abel's sacrifice was accepted by G-d, he was overcome with jealousy. He murdered his brother and suffered unspeakable consequences.
  • When Ham saw his father, Noah, was unclothed, he disgraced him.
  • When Lot saw the fertile plains of Sodom, he left Avraham and went to live there among evil people. He lost his spirituality and was nearly destroyed in the obliteration of Sodom.
  • When Avimelech saw how beautiful Sarah was, he took her to his palace. He and his household were then stricken with a terrible illness.
  • When Yosef's brothers saw that Yaakov gave him a special coat, they were blinded by envy. They sold their brother into slavery, greatly hurting Yaakov and tearing apart the family.

Samson was the strongest man, David the most pious, and Solomon the wisest. Nevertheless, each one of these great and holy men stumbled when caught in the gravitational field of a woman. (Sefer Chasidim)

If this danger existed in biblical times, how much more so is it prevalent in our times?