Day 9: Listen to Your Soul
Does desire really distort reason? We can't really fool ourselves, can we?
Rabbi Yisrael Salanter commented on the sophisticated mechanism in our minds that rationalizes wrongdoing. We actually convince ourselves that we are blameless. He writes:
Physical desires urge a man to label what is impure as 'Pure!' But when he comes for his final judgment before Hashem, his improper indulgences will be rightfully called 'Impure!' and he will be recompensed accordingly. (Ohr Yisrael, Letter Four)
Desire in our generation is like a fire out of control, a force of great strength and danger. Like a salesman with an "I won't take no for an answer" attitude, it is relentless in its effort to sell us a slick catalogue of tantalizing goodies.
The lofty soul objects, saying, "This is an aveirah!"
Shouldn't the objection of the intelligent and sensitive soul stop the momentum of desire? Logically, yes. Yet we often act in ways that are against our better judgment. Think about the abuse of alcohol, cigarettes, food, and money. Consider the consequences of anger, jealousy, and greed. How can we explain the fact that people often fail to control themselves, even when they know they should?
Rabbi Salanter observed, "The distance between the mind and the heart is as far as the distance from the earth to the heavens." In other words, what we know is not necessarily what we feel, nor does it govern our behavior. Mussar teaches that desire silences the protestations of the soul by intensifying until it extinguishes all objections.
In other words, passion blinds a person from thinking rationally. It is so powerful that it can short-circuit our own value system, to the point that we deem what is clearly "impure as pure." In our right mind, we would have seen something as wrong and degrading. But once desire is inflamed, we might end up doing something that we ourselves will later consider inappropriate and immoral.
The wisdom of Mussar helps us understand what is taking place so we can protect ourselves. Once you comprehend this mechanism, that your desire will try to stifle your soul, you have the means to control your eyes. With this important information, you are empowered to listen to your intellect. Now you have a chance to win!
Today: Remember that desire will intensify in order to drown out the voice of reason. Understand that and listen closely to your soul.