3 Teves 5782 / Tuesday, December 07, 2021 | Torah Reading: Vayigash
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The Last Punch    

The Last Punch

Sometimes, we make a good resolution, but struggle to keep it. Don’t give up! In the war against the Evil Inclination, the winner is the one who throws the last punch…




“Only your holy things and your vows which you bring up, you will bring it to the place where Hashem chose" (Deuteronomy/Devarim 12:26)  


People often accept upon themselves virtuous resolutions, for example to keep Shabbos in a better manner, or other mitzvot, but then later they stumble and violate their resolution one time, and this causes them to give it up entirely.  


It is worthwhile to inform such people that this is a temptation of the Yetzer Hara (Evil Inclination. The Yetzer uses all of his power to cause a person to fall into despair, as this will cause him to stop becoming stronger in Judaism. For this reason, It is brought in the name of the Baal Shem Tov zy”a that when a Jew loses hope after committing a sin, the Yetzer Hara has more pleasure from this than the sin itself, because through the despair, one stops fighting against the Yetzer Hara 


A Jew once came to the holy Rebbe Avraham of Slonim zt”l, and told him with a broken heart how much he tries to serve Hashem, but he is not successful, and he feels like he is sinking in mud, as soon as he takes one foot out of the mud, the other foot sinks. The Rebbe told him, “It is true that you are sinking in mud, but you should know that if you give up, Heaven forbid, and sit in it, you will never get out, but if you keep trying, you will eventually get out to achieve your goal.”  


Similarly, a story is told that the holy  Rebbe  Noach  of  Kobrin,  zt”l, was once discussing with his  Chassidim about how to find spiritual encouragement. The Rebbe wanted to make a point, so he turned to one of his followers, who grew up in a small village, and told him: “didn’t you grow up in a small village where you would ride on a horse? If you fell off the horse, what would you do?” The man told him, “I fell of the horse often, but I always jumped right back on, and kept riding, because if I stayed on the ground, I would never reach my destination". The Rebbe then told his followers: “This is how a person must serve his Creator. One must ride on his own Yetzer Hara like a man riding a horse, and even if he falls off, he has to get right back up and keep riding, and this is how one can arrive at one’s destination in coming closer to the Blessed Creator”.  


The Holy Rebbe Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev zt”l explains the verse in (Psalms/Tehillim 103:5) “You renew my youth like an eagle”, that the nature of an eagle is to lose its feathers, but they grow back quickly, and a person needs to learn from this, that even if he finds himself falling spiritually, and it seems like he has no feathers on his wings to fly and soar in the worship of the Creator, do not give up, rather believe that you have the power to return and be strengthened to soar above again anew.  


Along these lines, we need special  chizzuk  (strengthening)  when  we  find ourselves violating a mitzvah we vowed to be stronger in, because we mistakenly think that since we already violated our vow, there is no difference how often we violate it. However, the truth is that every violation is a new and separate sin, and for this reason, King Solomon said “do not be too wicked” (Ecclesiastes/Kohelet 7:17), and our Sages explained this with a parable, that if someone eats garlic and the odor is coming out of his mouth, if he eats more garlic, the odor will only become stronger. So too, every sin mires a person deeper in impurity. Therefore, when a person falls, he needs to become strong right away, to ensure that he does not continue to fall and become mired deeper in the mud.  


When a person follows this path, and does not lose hope because he falls, then he can be sure that in the end he will be able to overcome his Yetzer Hara totally, and to keep the mitzvot constantly in the proper manner. The main difficulty in life is only at the beginning, as Rashi writes in the name of the Midrash on the verse “and now, if you listen, you will listen to my voice” (Exodus/Shemot 19:5): If you accept this upon yourself now, it will become sweeter from now on, as every beginning is difficult.  


Without Divine Aid, it is impossible to overcome challenges, as our Sages teach “If Hashem did not help a person, he would not be able to conquer his evil inclination” (Kiddushin 30b). However, if someone demonstrates his pure intentions by being strong to overcome the Yetzer Hara each time he fails, this is what our Sages meant when they taught “one who comes to be purified is helped from Heaven” (Yoma 38b).  


Such a person is called a Tzaddik, as we find in Scripture “The Tzaddik falls seven times and gets back up” (Proverbs/Mishlei 24:16), that a Tzaddik is also able to fall many times, but he is able to get up again every time anew, and therefore he keeps the title “Tzaddik.”  


The holy books bring a parable to what this is like, to two people who are dueling, and each is smitten by the other, and each is bleeding profusely, but in the end one of them defeats the other, and the winner is the winner, and he receives a prize and much honor, even when he leaves the duel with many wounds. This is how our war with the Yetzer Hara is. Even if one is wounded many times in the war with the Yetzer Hara, if he is victorious in the end, he is the winner, and he is worthy to a great reward in the Next World.  


This is what the holy Rebbe Mordechai  of  Lechovitch  zt”l  taught: “In  the war against the Yetzer, you give hits and you receive hits, but the main thing is that the person gives the last hit.”  


It is possible to say that this is what is hinted to here in the verse: “Only your holy things and your vows which you bring up”. The word “only” is a limiting word, meaning that when you have failings and limitations in the attributes of your holiness and in the vows for the mitzvot you promised, “you should lift up” - be careful to be strong and to continue to go up higher, and then you will be promised that in the end you will “come to the place where Hashem chose - you will be brought to your destination you seek, to fulfill the Will of the Creator perfectly. 



The Kalever Rebbe is the seventh Rebbe of the Kaalov Chasidic dynasty, begun by his ancestor who was born to his previously childless parents after receiving a blessing from the Baal Shem Tov zy”a, and later learned under the Maggid of Mezeritch zt”l. The Rebbe has been involved in outreach for more than 30 years, and writes weekly emails on understanding current issues through the Torah. You can sign up at www.kaalov.org 



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