My Jewish friends may be surprised to learn how much Christians don’t know of their culture. There are so many amazingly useful parts to Judaism that the majority of Christians just aren’t told about, and thus don’t incorporate them into their lives. It is as if Christians stripped away all the awesomeness of Jewish life and went for the soap-box car rather than the Rolls Royce.
There are so many parts to talk about, but I’m going to only mention one part for now. This is the concept of the “yetzer hara”. This is translated as “the evil inclination.” I first heard about this from the podcast called “Living with G_d : spiritual tools for an outrageous world” by David Sacks.
He refers to the action of the yetzer hara as “spiritual identity theft” He identifies it as a thing outside of us that is trying to prevent us from fulfilling our calling. It is trying to stop us from being who G_d (or Hashem) needs us to be. It tries to prevent us from doing good deeds, or mitzvahs.
This is the most useful thing I have ever come across.
He says that sometimes it is useful to name it. I’m calling it “the not me”.
I now see that desire to stay home and not exercise as the not me. I see the desire to not read the daily Bible readings as the not me. The same is true of not writing every day. These are all the things that further me on my path toward wholeness.
I mentioned this to a guy about exercise. He had a YMCA membership but found it impossible to find time to exercise. He said he wanted to get up earlier in the morning and go, but he just couldn’t. I remember what this feels like. This feels maddening. You say you want to do something good, and then you don’t do it.
With this idea of the yetzer hara, you learn to see that negative inclination as an opposing force. It isn’t you. You want to exercise, to do something good, but the yetzer hara says you don’t. It sounds a lot like you saying that.
Part of the idea is that simply by naming it you have power over it. You know its tricks.
I have started to see this feeling as a very useful tool. The more I feel that I don’t want to do something that I know is good, the more I see it as a sign that I’m really on to something awesome. I actually use it as a spur to do it. The stronger the force against, the more I know I’m on to something.
It is like having a bratty older sibling saying that “you can’t do it” and working up enough energy to do it, just to prove him wrong.
It is about walking through an obstacle, rather than getting stopped by it. It is about using it as a stepping stone rather than a stopping point.
First you have to see that it is there, and know its tricks. It isn’t you. It mimics you, but it is actually a force outside of you that is trying to stop you. Sometimes, just knowing about an obstacle is helpful. It takes away some of its power.
May this tool be of as much use to you as it has been for me.