17 Iyar 5779 / Wednesday, May 22, 2019 | Torah Reading: Bechukotai
 
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The Force of Deception    

The Force of Deception



Have you ever met the frum Yetzer Hara, the religious evil inclination? He looks and sounds "religious" and tricks you into thinking his motives are pure; they aren't...

 



Have you ever met the frum Yetzer Hara, the religious evil inclination? He disguises himself in religious clothing and tricks you into thinking his motives are pure. But they aren't.

 

His message is that you need to be more than you are but it's not based on love or concern for your development. He is out to sabotage your emuna.

 

For people with low self-esteem the quest for spiritual attainment can become a form of emotional torture, another way to put themselves down.

 

I have known women that have made their monthly trip to the mikveh into a nightmare of doubt and worry. How can they be SURE they really did everything right, that no detail was overlooked by themselves or the attendant? These women can't seem to accept that all was kosher, that they did their very best. Often these women return to the mikveh; as soon as they get home they invariably find something to fret about, some detail they missed.

 

The yeshiva world is rife with young men suffering from OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) and the halachot provide endless opportunities for self-doubt and mental torment. Young men can spend an hour just getting through the Shema. And ritual hand-washing can be fraught with misgivings.

 

My husband, who teaches the laws of kashrut, has received frantic calls from people who are so sure they made something treif that they have trouble accepting they didn't.

 

I once observed a young father who constantly worried that he wasn't eating for the sake of heaven. He refused to take a bite of food until he was sure he had the proper intentions. Between each forkful he would contemplate his hunger trying to determine if he was perhaps eating like an animal, with no thought of God. He was very thin and while everyone else was enjoying good conversation and a delicious dessert, he sat there grimly, his eyes on his Gemara, still on the first course.

 

I knew a girl who felt like a failure if she didn't pray three times a day although women are not obligated to do so. She imagined she was letting God down.

 

I have heard young harried mothers berate themselves for not having more guests for Shabbos, not doing enough chessed and sometimes buying challa instead of baking it.

 

What is the point of this needless suffering, this daily torment that people inflict upon themselves?

 

It is the work of the “Frum Yetzer Hara” the force from the dark side, who is out to weaken you, to ultimately smother you with your own despair.

 

This force sets up camp in your psyche and judges you all day long, finding fault in the way you serve God. His take on things? You are simply not good enough and what's more you never will be. Why bother he says, this is as good as you'll get, the best you can be. He informs you that God is not impressed and neither is anyone else. If they are it’s because they don't know your real level which in hurricane language is a category zero. You barely make a ripple in the scheme of things, you will never succeed and you will never enter into God's holy hall of fame. No one will write a book about you and you'll be lucky if you don't burn in hell for the full eleven months. Most likely you'll be sent back down for another go, since you failed so miserably the last time (and all the times before that...who knows how many attempts you've made?).

 

People that suffer from the need to be perfect mean well. They want to do everything right in order to come closer to Hashem. But the opposite happens. Because they are so obsessed with the need to avoid a mistake, they serve God with tension, nervousness and pain. They do the mitzvot with angst, not pleasure, and judge themselves harshly and can never take pleasure in their small victories.

 

The result is sadness and a nagging feeling of hopelessness which can cause a person to give up any genuine attempt to improve.

 

And what happens to the Frum Yetzer?  He wins an Oscar for his stellar performance as your greatest mentor, your biggest ally and your very own spiritual coach.

 

But he's a fraud and he knows it. He's your enemy not your friend. You have to fight back with emuna, in yourself and in Hashem's love for you. We aren't expected to be perfect, that's why Hashem gave us the Bedtime Prayers that we say every night before going to sleep.

 

“I hereby forgive everyone who sinned against me (meaning yes, people hurt people every single day) and may it be Your will that I sin no more...(Yes, you sweetie-pie.)

 

But just in case we do sin again, we get to say this prayer the next night and the next and the next because although we strive for perfection, we're only human. Not robots, not angels, not God.

 

We get rewarded for our efforts, the results are up to Hashem. Just don't kill yourself trying, for that defeats the purpose. We are supposed to choose life. And we are supposed to be happy. The ways of the Torah are sweet and pleasant. If they aren't you may be trying to live out some fantasy. You may be listening to the voice of treason and you may have to remind yourself that the frum yetzer hara is just another name for the devil in disguise.

 

 

* * *

Rebbitzen Yehudit Channen began her career as a Crisis Intervention Counselor in Silver Spring, Md. in the seventies. After moving to Israel, she worked as a marital mediator and social skills instructor for kids. Following the death of a son, Rebbitzen Channen became a certified bereavement counselor and worked with young mothers who had suffered loss. Most recently she worked at the Melabev Center for the memory-impaired, as an activity director and group facilitator for families coping with Dementia.  The Rebbitzen has written for numerous magazines and newspapers and recently led an interactive creative writing course called Connective Writing. Yehudit Channen is the wife of Rabbi Don Channen, Rosh Yeshiva of Keter HaTorah.  They are blessed to have nine children and many grandchildren and live in Ramat Beit Shemesh. Today, Rebbitzen Yehudit Channen is a certified Emuna Therapist for Breslev Israel. You can set up an appointment with her by contacting staff@breslev.co.il





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