The Battle of the Generation - Day 13
Our weekly excerpt from the book "The Battle of the Generation"
However, there is a huge contrast between rationalization in the throes of desire and rationalization after a sin. After a person has given in to his desires, they temporarily let up and he can see clearly again. Recognizing the foolishness of his rationalization, he realizes that he acted illogically. He quickly regrets what he did and is distressed over having fallen so low.
To deal with this pain, the person feels an urgent need to justify his decision. But because of the clarity he has regained, he will not fall for the illogical rationalization he used when he was overcome by desire. He is forced to invent a new rationalization to explain that what he did was not shameful and wrong. In this state, often the person’s only option is to invent new philosophies about life that explain that what he did was fine. These philosophies are almost always ideas that take the person even further away from Hashem.
In fact, a way-too-common justification after giving in to desires is the denial of Hashem’s existence and of the Torah’s authenticity. The yetzer hara makes the person feel the intense pain of feeling like a failure until he can get away with telling the person, “You do not see Hashem. Come on! Do you think He really exists? It’s just a fairy tale!” This is the yetzer hara’s oldest trick, one that he has been using for thousands of years, as our Sages have repeatedly taught us. The yetzer hara loves to persuade people to follow their lusts and then get them to deny Hashem to justify their actions. It’s his deadliest combination.
This is the most dangerous aspect of desire. The pain and shame that come after a person sins drive him to react. He is in danger of straying far beyond where he was willing to go before — to develop perspectives that go against the Torah. Though denying Hashem’s existence was a barrier he would not dare cross even to permit himself to sin, after the sin, when he can no longer handle his guilt, he might be willing to throw everything away just to get the pain to stop.
We cannot let the yetzer hara do this to us, especially when we know what is coming. But recognizing the danger and being careful to avoid it isn’t enough to solve the problem. We cannot just hope we won’t be challenged — because we will be. We have no choice other than to learn how to properly respond to guilt (see Chapter 10) and to develop unshakable confidence that Hashem gave us the Torah. This is vital for desire as well as for all other aspects of our lives.
Most people who have difficulty with belief in the Torah, even those who choose to deny the Torah’s authenticity to rationalize their mistakes, are not entirely confident that the Torah is not true. Rather, they sway back and forth, sometimes feeling that it is true and sometimes doubting it. Although these people might transgress certain sins quite easily, there are usually other prohibitions they are reluctant to transgress or at least feel uneasy when they do. Perhaps the best illustration of this is that most of them would not be willing to sell their portion in the World to Come for a few dollars, whereas someone who absolutely denied Hashem’s existence would have no qualms about it. Noticing the incongruity between their beliefs and actions causes them much inner turmoil. People who have to deal with doubt feel lost and confused.
Everyone deserves to be free from this pain. We must learn how to deal with doubt if it creeps up, instead of feeling helpless.
We must have absolute conviction that Hashem really gave us the Torah. This knowledge is our birthright, and it is unfair if we lack it. Confidence in the Torah’s authenticity will give us the strength we need to achieve astounding success in the battle of the generation.
Note: See Chiddushei Lev Bereshis pages 134-136 for more on the two types of rationalizations.
- Knowing with certainty that Hashem gave us the Torah at Har Sinai saves us from dangerous rationalizations that the yetzer hara can spring upon a person both before and after he sins.