The Battle of the Generation
Part 1 - The Greatest Opportunity of All Time
Chapter 1 - A Life-Changing Perspective
There is a little secret the yetzer hara doesn’t want you to know. It’s the secret that spells his doom. And it’s the secret that will change your destiny.
Our generation faces challenges never encountered before by mankind. Society teaches that there is nothing wrong with immorality, and it portrays the most despicable acts as glamorous. Promiscuity is made to seem exhilarating. We are taught that chasing desire is cool, and that those who don’t are losers who are missing out on life. Sin is readily available, and there is little to hold us back.
Society also trains us to think we are incapable of controlling ourselves. We see everyone around us giving in to crazy temptations, and we think it is impossible to win. We might even hear people openly express how impossible a fight it is, which discourages us from even trying. With all that’s going on, our generation seems to be at a huge disadvantage. It seems that we were born in perhaps the worst situation in the history of our nation, at least from a spiritual perspective.
But that’s only if you ignore the yetzer hara’s secret.
Before he became king, Dovid Hamelech married Shaul Hamelech’s daughter Michal, a very beautiful woman. Shortly after their marriage, Shaul turned against Dovid, forcing him to flee. The Gemara (Sanhedrin 19b) relates that Shaul ruled that the method by which Dovid had married Michal was halachically invalid, and therefore, they were not married. Shaul then had her married to a man named Palti. Realizing that Shaul was wrong and that Michal was married to Dovid, Palti held himself back from sinning — even though he and Michal lived in the same house for five years. The Gemara states that Palti’s demonstration of self-control was far superior to Yosef’s when he faced the challenge of the wife of Potifar. Clearly, this was an extremely challenging situation for Palti. Nevertheless, Palti employed superhuman self-control and held himself back.
After five years, Dovid became king and sent for Michal to be brought back to him. Palti traveled with her as she returned and was crying. The Gemara explains that Palti was crying over the mitzvah that was leaving him.
This Gemara is perplexing. Why was Palti sad that Michal was going back to Dovid? As a person who valued his service of Hashem, he should have been relieved that his challenge was finally over! Why was he upset about losing his ability to sin?
In Shmuz 145: “Stages of Change: Taking Action” (www.TheShmuz.com), Rabbi Ben Tzion Shafier answers that we learn a powerful lesson from Palti’s attitude in his battle against desire. Rather than growing frustrated about the desires threatening to disturb his spiritual aspirations, Palti was excited to face this challenge. Palti did not view his situation as an annoying obstacle impeding his spiritual growth. He realized that it was an opportunity for him to serve Hashem in an unprecedented manner. He understood that with this test, Hashem was giving him a phenomenal opportunity to accomplish and reach greatness. This perspective led him to win perhaps the most difficult battle against desire in history.
In Pirkei Avos (5:26), Ben Hei Hei teaches us that Heavenly reward is meted out in accordance with how much a person exerts himself. Our Sages teach us that this is a major principle in the calculation of reward and greatness. How hard a person works to accomplish something is one of the primary determining factors in how great the accomplishment is. When a person faces overwhelming challenges and overcomes them, he performs acts that are truly great.