Positive Vision - Day 24
Rabbi Avrohom Neuberger
Our weekly excerpt from the book "Positive Vision"
Day 24 - The Antidote - The Magic of Torah
Yesterday we read the Mesillas Yesharim that emphasizes that Torah is the true antidote to the yetzer hara.
Before examining how this operates, let’s see a small sample of the many sources that expand this concept:
R’ Yishmael teaches: My son! If you are confronted by this foul thing (the yetzer hara) drag him to the beis midrash. If he is like stone he will dissolve; if he is like metal he will burst.
“Much study wears out the flesh.” If you wear yourself out [studying] their words, HaKadosh Baruch Hu will remove the yetzer hara from you.
The Rambam, after mentioning several ideas that help one guard himself from arayos, concludes:
But more than all these is that which [Chazal] say, a person should turn himself and his thoughts to Torah. He should expand his mind with wisdom because thoughts of arayos gain power only over one whose mind is void of wisdom. And it is written regarding wisdom, “... you will always be intoxicated with her love.”
How does this work? What is it about Torah that so powerfully purges the yetzer hara from within a person and provides such protection against it reinfiltrating? The commentators offer several explanations, and these reasons are not at all mutually exclusive. Torah operates as an antidote against the yetzer hara through all the following means. We will present a brief outline of the various explanations:
Distraction is in general the most effective means of avoiding tumah. But since it is very difficult for one to draw oneself away from that to which he is so naturally inclined, he must occupy his mind with something else - by immersing himself completely in Torah study (Karienah D’Igartah).
The kedushah of Torah repels tumah. Arayos is a most powerful force drawing one to the carnal tumos of the material world. Torah study, on the other hand, as the greatest of all mitzvos, is sourced in the highest of all spiritual worlds and thus elevates the person to a place where the attractions of tumah become meaningless - just like a child’s toys hold no attraction to an adult (Birkas Avraham).
The Mishnah in Avos suggests that the age to begin Gemara analysis is fifteen. At this age, one’s physical drives become more intense and they have to be undermined through Torah study, which requires vast stores of mental energy.
Maharal notes that only men, and not women, are obligated to study Torah. Maharal explains: Women have a tendency toward serenity, a mindset that predisposes them to the serenity of Olam Haba. Men, on the other hand, have a natural inclination toward conquest, which is incompatible with the serenity of Olam Haba. They need to toil to achieve Olam Haba, and they achieve this by directing this tendency toward conquest of Torah study. Without Torah study, this same mindset leads them toward arayos.
This gives us some insight into the power of Torah to repel tumah.