Roy Neuberger - Oct. 19, 2018

The High Holidays are a massive spiritual mountain. Wherever we are on that mountain, we have a lot of climbing to do.


“How can man be pure, when even the heavenly legion is not pure in Your eyes? …. The days of his life are desolate, his nights are void and his concerns are vanity. He is likened to a dream that is gone upon awakening; terrors always frighten him. By night he cannot sleep; by day he cannot rest … until he slumbers in the grave.” (Yom Kippur Morning Prayer)


Do I stand a chance against the Yetzer Hara (the Evil Inclination)?


“So remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come … before the sun, the light, the moon and the stars go dark and the clouds return after the rain, in the day when the guards of the house will tremble … So man goes to his eternal home, while the mourners go about the streets…. Thus the dust returns to the ground, as it was, and the spirit returns to G-d Who gave it. Havel havalim …. Futility of futilities, said Koheles, all is futile!”


When I was a child, I had never heard the term “Yetzer Hara,” but I actually saw the Yetzer Hara in front of me! I felt completely powerless, like a slave controlled by an unconquerable force. It is no coincidence that the primal event in Jewish history is the Exodus from Egypt, which freed our nation from slavery, because slavery is the default condition of man ever since we left the Garden of Eden.


You would think that, after I found Hashem, I would have been freed from subjugation to the Yetzer Hara, but it is not true. I find that I am still struggling with a force which pushes me away from the life I want to live. Why do I speak loshon hara (negative speech directed against others)? Why do I get angry? Why do I run from Torah obligations which are so clearly to my benefit? The Yetzer Hara is the most fearsome and ubiquitous enemy in the world! 


And now, we meet our Father Abraham! What strength! How did he do it? He not only subdued his Yetzer Hara, but he disregarded jeers, threats and mockery in order to adhere to what he had discovered. And what did he discover? That there is a Creator and Ruler to Whom we owe total allegiance. But you cannot even see Hashem! You cannot prove to any scoffer that He exists! People will think you are crazy!


The amazing fact is that, in proportion to our Father Abraham’s devotion to Hashem, the results of that devotion became visible to all. He became the Prince of the World.


G-d chose Avraham but did not draw him close. Rather, Avraham drew close of his own accord.” (Bamidbar Rabbah 3:2, quoted in Encyclopedia of Biblical Personalities)


There is a wonderful athletic trainer in Borough Park named Yoel Gottehrer. His motto is “Improve one percent every day!” The Zohar (1:129a) says, “Avraham did not draw close to Hashem in one day or at one time; his deeds drew him one step closer every day….” (ibid)


Our Father Abraham demonstrates that a real person can struggle with his Yetzer Hara and prevail! This may be the most important fact in the entire world. The result of this unending effort was that, just as Avraham had overturned his Yetzer Hara, so Hashem overturned physical “reality” and made him young again at the age of one hundred. “[Avraham] grew old, turned white and abstained from the way of the world. Then his hair turned black, his youth returned and [he] became like a young man.” (Tanna d’Bei Eliyahu Rabbah 6, ibid)


My friends, all this can really happen! Abraham did it and we, his children, can do it!


“When the Holy Temple was destroyed, Hashem found Avraham standing in the Temple. He said to him, ‘What is My friend doing in My house?’ [Avraham] replied, ‘I have come concerning my children.’ Said [Hashem], ‘Your children sinned and were exiled.’ Said [Avraham], ‘Perhaps they transgressed unintentionally.’ Said [Hashem], ‘They acted intentionally.’ [Avraham] laid his hands on his head, wept and wailed. ‘Perhaps there is no remedy for them.’ [Then], a Heavenly Voice rang out, ‘Hashem called your name a leafy olive tree, fair with goodly fruit.’ Just as the olive achieves its purpose in the end [even though it is a very lengthy process from the time the tree is planted until all the fruits are ready], so will Israel achieve its purpose in the end….


“Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said: Why are the [Children of] Israel compared to an olive tree? To tell you [that], just as the leaves of the olive tree do not fall in the summer or the winter, so Israel will never be subject to nullification, neither in this world nor in the World to Come.


“And Rabbi Yochanan said: Why are the [Children of] Israel compared to an olive tree? To tell you [that], just as the olive tree does not release its oil except [when its fruit undergo] crushing, so Israel will not return to the right path except through suffering.” (Menachos 53b, ibid)


In other words, our struggles have meaning! Perhaps we can actually ascend the Holy Mountain! “Why do you … declare, O Israel, ‘My way is hidden from Hashem?’ …. The Eternal G-d … neither wearies nor tires…. Youths may weary and … young men may … falter, but those whose hope is in Hashem will have renewed strength…. Fear not, for I am with you … For I, Hashem, grasp your right hand! (Isaiah 40:27ff; Haftaras Lech Lecha)


Our Father Avraham taught us to struggle, endure and prevail … ad Moshiach!



Olive tree in Tel Dan National Park, Israel


Recent Posts


plague violence Temple Beit Hamikdash Western Wall Chofetz Chaim Balak survival stars Blame Shabbos Sefiras haOmer barley 2020 Vision mikveh, Sabbath Shechina Pharaoh sun India Midrash Raiders of the Lost Ark Tzuk etan king Holiness Noah Holy Temple Rashi Macabees Zechariah Day of Atonement Ishmeal secret miracle Boaz Matriarchs Teshuva forefathers meraglim prayer Samuel the Prophet Master of the Universe Hebrew Golan Solomon shield of Abraham ethics Jew Bais Hamikdosh terrorists Rebbe prophets Mordechai menorah ancestors Creator darkness Bilaam eternal Babylonia media Leah Mount Hermon tabernacle earthquake Rabbi Akiva prophet Rosh Hashana Land of Israel High Holy Days Judah Zohar repentance tears Samuel biblical eternity spiritual liberation Day of Judgement Edom Judgement Day kosher murder minyan messiah Greeks Parsha Dead Sea Benjamin chessed Isaac terrorism yarmulke Children of Israel Garden of Eden Divine presence repent mitzvos Ishmael Rome Isaiah sacrifices enemies song Song of Songs Achashveirosh Miriam Father in Heaven water Tisha b'Av Holocaust priests rosh chodesh Hagar prayer book Jews judgement Tallis Psalm Holy Ark Sukkah Shavuos holiday Torah death sin alone Chafetz Chaim Heavenly Mercy Ten Commandments Golden Calf Aharon Genesis Golus Esther Zion, Angel Final redemption Rabbis moon peace Laban Maimonides incense Jacob Ishamael Repentence evil inclination commandment Matisyahu Esau Earth idol Temple Mount idolatry G-d slaves angels Moses kiddush Abrahem Baku mitzva Amram Mount Zion Amalek light End of Days creation Chanukah Moab Magog Red Heifer esrog tablets Sabbath Psalms war chaos synagogue fault Hasmoneans Jerusalem Ruth Prophecy tremors evolution heavenly throne Abraham Banias flood Jewish festival Elul salvation paradise automobiles pain Sukkos America locusts lights cholent Hashem Protective edge United Nations Jewish People Pinchas patriarchs materialism Sea of Galilee purity Yerushalayim Red Sea stones kinneret New Moon Avraham heaven slavery danger logic Galil King of the Universe Holy land Malbim night Chol haMoed miracles Jewish holidays Judaism patriarchs'matriarchs shmittah Israel Jeremiah Geula cries rabbi bible evil Faith matzos prophet Samuel yeshiva sanctity Tu b'Shvat terrorist Rachel heavenly gates persecution gossip Second Temple Adam Torah scholars deluge Passover Exodus leprosy trees Tu b'Av Europe Miraglim Gog Nation of Israel Joseph bird pray brotherhood Tefillin Rosh Hashanah missiles Canaan kesuba Egypt culture Lunar eclipse Chanukkah Talmud King David keys Babylon Jewish siddur Ashkenazi Angel of Death Zion King Solomon Maccabeans spies three weeks spirituality God Shushan angel rain Mount Sinai Eglon resurrection fires dreams mikveh bris milah compassion terror Yom Kippur hubris soul David Passover Seder Yaakov Moshiach Ezekiel holy redemption Eve Ammon Solar eclipse High Priest blessing Torah portion shofar Sephardi prayers self-worship Sarah Rebecca world to come Western World Terror Attack in Jerusalem Sodom Sages fear Haman exile redeemer Lot fragrance Moshaich Moshe seder Purim