The Duties of the Heart
Gate Five: "Dedicating Our Actions to God"
Chapter 5 (Part 2)
As we've indicated, we "fall" for certain things when we're reticent about
achieving spiritual excellence -- including negative ideas about concepts we've
always believed in ... until the yetzer harah pipes up. But that's one of
its wily ways, we're taught. For as we cited, the yetzer harah tends to "raise
doubts about things you already believe in ... to confuse you about things
already clear to you, and to befuddle you with false ideas and faulty
Doubting your core beliefs is a very, very off-putting experience. Even more
stunning and threatening perhaps than forgetting your address or even your own
name must be for those who succumb to dementia (G-d forbid). And while the
cynical among us would suggest that it's good to question your beliefs, the
wise would challenge them to question that belief itself when it comes to G-d
and His revelations.
Recall, though, that the yetzer harah doesn't present new ideas or offer
broader perspectives on things that could indeed deepen your being and
challenge you to grow -- the way a seasoned and well-intentioned adversary might. What
the yetzer harah does is stick its foot out as you walk by to trip you, the
way a coward would. For it -- that is, your own doubting mind -- wants you to
fall (for spiritual mediocrity), and nothing else.
In any event, the beliefs that the yetzer harah would challenge you on would
be the very most fundamental ones at first. Like your belief in the
immortality of the soul. "After all," it would argue, "all we are is
stone-cold and dust-dry body-dead when we pass away, so why grow spiritually? Just 'eat
and drink -- for tomorrow we will die' (Isaiah 22:13)". But as we know and should
argue, we do have immortal souls and it would be wise to "nourish" it
other ways in this lifetime.
But the yetzer harah goes on from there when that ruse doesn't work. It first
tries to make you doubt G-d's existence, and when that doesn't work it tries
a number of other things in descending order of magnitude. It suggests that
you really needn't serve G-d, that there never were prophets after all or an
Oral Tradition, that G-d doesn't really doesn't reward and punish, and so
The first point is that we've already contended with many of these issues
earlier on in this work. And secondly, know for a certainty that there are
indeed clear and convincing arguments against all the other disparaging suggestions.
But at bottom the task at hand isn't to respond to arguments. What we're to
do is recognize that these ideas aren't a function of truth-seeking so much as
of out-and-out discouragement and of your own spiritual self-doubts.
Don't think, though, that your yetzer harah will stop there on this rather
esoteric level, and won't go any further. For as we'll see, it will touch on
every facet of your being as it tries to coerce you to settle for spiritual
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