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A Deal with the Yetzer

obormottel Friday, 30 November 2018

I'm a sincere guy who really just wants to do Hashem's well. Like most men, I have a daily battle with my yetzer hora. Mostly it's about fantasies, and letting my mind wander into the wrong places. Sometimes, it creeps into my behavior, like when I've just viewed a perfectly innocent and inspiring nature video on YouTube, and then I start scrolling through the "suggested" videos, just in case there's something "interesting" there. Or if I want to "test" my Internet filter, or 613Tube, to see if they successfully block this innocuous-not-innocuous search string. And on a couple of not so memorable occasions, I've even clicked on things I really shouldn't have, rationalizing whatever nonsense I rationalized.

I hate that I have this daily battle. It distracts me during davening, it prevents me from sleeping, and I feel it diminishes my spiritual level, because I don't always win.

And then, just before Rosh Chodesh Av, wondering what I could do to keep myself clean throughout Elul and the Yomim Noraim, I came up with what could either have been a masterstroke, or a ticking time bomb. I made a deal with my yetzer hora. It goes like this:

"Yetzer, I know what you want. You want to feast your eyes on forbidden things. And on the way to that, you try to get me to sneak little peeks, and dwell on fantasies. I, on the other hand, want to remain squeaky clean, at least until after Sukkos. So here's the deal. You leave me alone, and don't try to make me indulge in these sneaky things, and if you're good, I'll give you 24 hours of guilt-free viewing whatever you want. After that, we'll renegotiate. But if you violate the deal, I will reset the clock, and you'll have to wait another 3 months to get your fix."

Seems a crazy deal, no? Totally crazy. But I said to myself, I'm not bound to it; you can't make a deal that violates the Torah, and come the end of Tishrei, I'll be perfectly happy to double-cross him, considering how many times he's got me into trouble in the past.

Nonetheless, even though my yetzer knows what I'm thinking, he has been on his oh-so-very-best behavior. For nearly six weeks now, I have been totally, squeaky clean. My tefilla has been more focused and I feel much more connected with Hashem. And, perhaps most importantly, I haven't been feeling the urge to view forbidden things nearly as strongly. So maybe, I'm hoping, by the time the deal falls due, my yetzer will be so weak and emaciated that he won't have the strength to claim his dues. But still, I've been worried. Come the due date, and I know there will be a big test waiting for me.

Then, today, I was on a services marketplace website, for perfectly legitimate purposes. But there were some gigs being advertised that were offering services that were could-be-innocent-could-be-not, with some slightly suggestive pictures. I had no real business browsing through these gigs, but I did...just for a few seconds. Then I realized what I was doing, and I immediately closed the browser page. Tsk, I thought, that was a silly thing to do. Won't do that again. But stil, not bad enough to break the deal over...

...and then I lit up. Well, heck, why isn't that good enough to break the deal over? He misbehaved, he broke the deal, and even though normally I'm an easy-going guy, tolerant of other people's mistakes, I see no reason to give this menuval any latitude. And so, the clock has now been reset to three months' time, giving me an extra six weeks of him not pestering me. And I've shown him that I'm serious about enforcing my terms, so this time he knows I mean business, and hopefully, he'll be on even better behavior than before.

What will be in three months' time? I don't know, but so far, I figure I'm ahead of the game. I've gained relief from the constant buzz of my yetzer trying to tempt me into hirhurim and minor infractions, which is giving me the space to strengthen myself spiritually as we approach the Yomim Noraim. And the beauty of this deal is that even if I lose by slipping up in minor infractions, I win by pushing off the major infractions. And hopefully, by the time I win completely, I'll be so disciplined that I won't end up losing.

Feel free to share my story with your readers, though I'll understand if you think it's the wrong message!