28 Av 5781 / Friday, August 06, 2021 | Torah Reading: Re'eh
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Menachem Av: First Step to Ascent    

Menachem Av: First Step to Ascent

With Elul almost here, our first priority must be self-correction, for this is the time of year that's so especially conducive for it. Let's take the first step...


With Elul almost here, our first priority must be self-correction, for this is the time of year that's so especially conducive for it. Let's take the first step, and Hashem will help us with the rest.


The first step in self-correction, and especially in learning to guard our eyes and in striving for personal holiness, is to know that we have an evil inclination. In other words, a person should be aware that there's a war raging around him, and he must be careful until his very last moment on earth.


Once a person is aware of the evil inclination, he begins to pray earnestly. He asks Hashem for assistance in overcoming such evil inclinations as anger, lust and wasting time. He seeks Hashem's help in performing every mitzva and especially in avoiding the transgression of the negative mitzvoth such as gossip and slander. He knows what the Gemara warns, that if Hashem doesn't help a person, he can't overcome his evil inclination (tractate Kiddushin, 30b).


What does Hashem want from a person, with this long and dragged-out war? First of all, Hashem wants us to recognize that we have an evil inclination. We did not create it; Hashem, in His Divine wisdom, implanted it within us. Hashem has placed us in a position in which we have to pray. Hashem doesn't want us to persecute ourselves because we have an evil inclination, nor does He want us to be sad and depressed. He created us in such a manner that we'll always need His help so that we'll pray to Him and seek Him.


The core of all evil is the evil inclination toward sexual lust. Any person who is honest with himself will admit that he has daily challenges with his eyes, which he would not be able to overcome if it were not for Hashem helping him. As such, we must seek Hashem's mercy and assistance every single day in guarding our eyes.


This is a war. The evil inclination is a ruthless enemy. Imagine how we'd pray in the battlefield under intense enemy fire! That's exactly how we must pray in begging Hashem daily to help us guard our eyes. A few mumblings are not enough - one must try to pray for at least thirty minutes a day in asking Hashem to help him guard his eyes and to preserve his personal holiness.


As soon as a person internalizes the fact that he has an evil inclination and that he must pray for Hashem's help, he begins to live a new life of steady spiritual ascent. Hashem is waiting to hear our prayers and is more than happy to help us overcome the evil inclination. There's no other way!


The Heavenly Court won't ask a person why he had an evil inclination and bodily appetites. But they will ask us why we didn't pray and seek Hashem's help. No one is expected to overcome the evil inclination on his own, as the above-mentioned Gemara teaches us. But we are expected to follow in the example of the great tzaddikim and to pray continuously for Divine assistance.


People protest that thirty minutes a day is too much to devote to guarding our eyes and attaining personal holiness. Does one think that he can overcome such a prodigious evil inclination as sexual lust with a few perfunctory words a day?


What will a person say in his own defense when judgment day comes around? "I wanted to guard my eyes but I couldn't overcome the urge to look..." The Heavenly Court will respond that if he really would have wanted to guard his eyes, he would have devoted thirty minutes a day in asking Hashem to help him.


Self-persecution doesn't fix anything. Indeed, it makes things worse. One must take positive action - turn to Hashem and request His assistance! That's all that Hashem expects from us. The meaning of Hashem's command to us to be holy (see Leviticus 19:2) is that we do our best to guard our eyes and maintain personal holiness. Once we do, everything else falls into place - we connect with Hashem and begin to taste the sweetness of life.


The greatest obstacle in getting close to Hashem and in making true teshuva is a lack of emuna. This manifests itself in self-persecution, somber moods and emotional fatigue.


Rebbe Nachman says that people fail to heed the advice of tzaddikim because they lack emuna. Whereas the advice of tzaddikim would make life so much easier, those who lack emuna only make life harder on themselves. While many "believe" in Hashem, they don't apply their belief to their daily lives, for if they did, they'd start praying in earnest. That's exactly the preparation we need to be doing in Elul.

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  2 Talkbacks for this article    See all talkbacks  
  Appreciate R Arush's wisdom-they're truly life altering
Dr. Alex Pister8/29/2016 3:40:10 AM
  Appreciate R Arush's wisdom-they're truly life altering
Dr. Alex Pister8/29/2016 3:39:42 AM

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