Enticement of the Yetzer Hara #10:10 - TOPPLING THE WISE PERSON

[Greater is the hatred wherewith the am haaretz (ignorant Jews) hate the Torah scholar than the hatred wherewith the gentiles hate Jews...It was taught:] He who has studied and then abandoned (the Torah, hates the Torah scholar) more than all of them." (Pesachim 49b)
** Author's Introduction **
(with classic commentaries)
from Chovos Halevavos - Duties of the Heart
by Rabeinu Bahya ibn Paquda zt'l (originally published 1080 CE)


english translation by Rabbi Yosef Sebag (DafYomiReview.com) 

10 - TOPPLING THE WISE PERSON

But if a man is wise in understanding of G-d and His Torah, the yetzer will strive to damage and confuse his wisdom and actions by objections and arguments from whichever side he can - from reason, scripture, and tradition. He will bring spurious proofs whose premises are not true and whose conclusions do not necessarily follow.

(Tov Halevanon: It is known that through two ways a [logical] proof is established. One, through true premises. Two, through conclusions that necessarily follow. i.e. if there is a foundation of premises which are undoubtedly true, then when the premises are combined with each other, the conclusions that are drawn from them must undoubtedly follow... a spurious and faulty proof is due to either one of the premises is not true or that the conclusion does not follow these premises on proper consideration. This is what the author wrote that for the proofs of the yetzer, neither the premises are true nor do the conclusions follow.

Pas Lechem: For example, if we start with the premise that Reuven is taller than Shimon and Shimon is taller than Levi. Then the conclusion that necessarily follows is that Reuven is taller than Levi. However, it is possible that the premises are not true, that Reuven is not taller than Shimon or that Shimon is not taller than Levi, and the conclusions are automatically null and void. The second example, if we establish that Reuven loves Shimon and Shimon loves Levi, and we want to draw the conclusion that Reuven loves Levi. Even though the premises are true, the conclusion does not necessarily follow.

Pas Lechem: "rash/hasty proofs" - which suddenly grab the heart of a man, and are impressed on his mind before he can calmly deliberate it. Like a man in a panic, who is frenzied and rushed.)



If your intellect is sharp and your wisdom is strong in analyzing and defending and debating a position, you will see the various fallacies in the proofs of your yetzer, and the truth will become clear to you. The correct view will be apparent to you, your knowledge will be freed from doubts and your actions, from confusion.

(Pas Lechem: that you are wise and know the ways of proofs, which ways they are headed, then automatically you will know how to guard yourself from their fallacies when you contemplate them and see that they do not tread on the path of truth.)

But if your knowledge and ability in this is deficient (in the ways of proofs - PL), his enticements on you will be (increasingly -PL) stronger. He will overcome you more frequently. His ruling over you and surrounding you in your outer and inner life will become more imperative because he comes to you with wisdom, and leads you using proofs which your mind relies on. If your understanding has become seduced by him, he will let up from you, and it will help him work against you, because you rely on your mind when you have doubts, and trust its reasoning when some matter is not understood by you.

(Tov Halevanon: "his enticements on you will be (increasingly) stronger" - at first he comes with an argument of "maybe". Afterwards, he strengthens on you to establish his view as truth.
"more imperative" - you will accept his view with great imperative.
"because you rely on your mind when you have doubts" - you will rely on him. You think that this is not the acts of the yetzer since he has infiltrated in you with wisdom.

Pas Lechem: "his enticements on you will be increasingly stronger" - this is referring to the simple enticements mentioned earlier (for enjoyments). And on his overpowering a man by arguments and proofs, he wrote: "and will overcome you more frequently". After he has habituated your mind with the arguments and proofs, they will be more prepared and readily available to invoke on you one after the other.


"His ruling over you" - he will rule over you to entice you to do disgraceful acts, and surround you with the hardship of the lusts of the world.
"in your outer and inner life" - i.e. in your actions and in your thoughts.
"he will let up from you" - he will let up on you and leave you a bit, since he no longer needs to strain himself on you because your intellect has become evil and stands in his place to entice you and help him.

Marpe Lenefesh: When your mind is seduced to believe his advice, then your intellect will depart from you, i.e. the intellect/conscience was given to a man to guide him to the just path, and the yetzer will divert it from you to help him do all the things G-d considers abominations with support of reason. Therefore our sages said (Pesachim 49b): "[Greater is the hatred wherewith the am haaretz (ignorant Jews) hate the Torah scholar than the hatred wherewith the gentiles hate Jews...It was taught:] He who has studied and then abandoned (the Torah, hates the Torah scholar) more than all of them.")


And when the yetzer has overcome you, and rules you with the aid and support of your understanding, now, by deceiving you (away from the good - PL) and representing in your eyes falsehood (false imaginations to attract you to evil - PL) in the form of something demonstrated [as true], he will transfer you from this level, which was near to truth, and where falsehood was still concealed, and descend you to a lower level, where there is less truth and more falsehood.

(Tov Halevanon: "which was near to truth, and where falsehood was still concealed" - the falseness was not visible there, only the truth was visible and the falsehood was concealed inside it.
"and descend you to a lower level" - where the falsehood is more visible, and from level to level until you will be confident in yourself and will believe in that which is complete falsehood.)



And thus, he will not cease to lower you from one level to the next, until he will bring to the level where the truth is completely concealed, and there is complete falsehood. And he will uproot you from this world, and topple you from the levels of reward in the next world. And your wisdom will become an evil for you (in this world - TL), and your intellect, the cause of your destruction (in the next world - TL), as written "Hoy! They are wise in their eyes, and think they are understanding"(Yeshaya 5:21), and "they have rejected the word of the L-ord; and what wisdom is in them?" (Yirmiyahu 8:9), and "For the ways of the L-ord are just, and the righteous do walk in them; but transgressors do stumble therein" (Hoshea 14:10).

(Pas Lechem: "Hoy! They are wise in their eyes" - the wise man said: He who thinks himself wise is a fool. Because one who is truly wise does not think of himself as a wise man.

"they have rejected the word of the L-rd; and what wisdom is in them?" - from this verse one can recognize and test himself. If he senses that his wisdom has led him to evil, certainly it is not true wisdom.

"For the ways of the L-ord are just...etc" - Perhaps a man will think that he will not be punished for this since his wisdom has deceived him and he is unintentional in this. On this he answered that it is not so, because no one will err except he who seeks to err and desires in it so as be liberated through it (i.e. the true truth seeker will not err. But he who has ulterior motives will be attracted to the convenient lies of the yetzer), because "the righteous will certainly walk in the ways of G-d while the sinners themselves will stumble in them" (Hoshea 14:10). On this the Talmud says (Bava Basra 14b): "Moshe wrote and he who wants to err will err".

Specifically "he who wants", i.e. no one will err except he who wants to err and seeks excuses for doing so.

Manoach Halevavos: The ways of G-d and His Torah are just. But they correspond to those who learn them. The righteous who learn them will go in them, like their way and justness. But the sinners will stumble more in learning the wisdom of the Torah. For their wisdom will be a cause for their harming themselves. (Translator: The Vilna Gaon brings the analogy that Torah is compared to water. Just like water causes good plants and bad plants (weeds) to grow, so too the Torah causes whatever is in a person's heart to grow, whether it is good or bad.)

Marpe Lenefesh: "and topple you from the levels of reward in the next world" - i.e. even if you are a Torah scholar and toil in mitzvot - you will not have any reward in the next world when you heed to the yetzer that all your actions be not l'shem shamayim (for G-d), as will be explained. You will be like Doeg and Achitofel or the like, and the apikorsim in every generation who have no portion in the next world despite that they were big Chachamim (sages),... through the Torah they became wise men to commit evil.)


It has been said that when wisdom is used in the proper way (to attain through it the favor of G-d - PL), it is a cure for all illnesses (of the soul - PL), but if one sways from its proper path, then it becomes an all-encompassing disease without cure and without medication.

(Pas Lechem: through this swaying away, a man is prepared to do all sin and iniquity whether inwardly or outwardly.)

On this, the Torah is compared to fire as written "Is not My word like fire?" (Yirmiyahu 23:29), because it enlightens the eyes, as written "the commandments of the L-rd are pure, enlightening the eyes" (Tehilim19:9) and "Your word is like a candle to my feet, and a light to my path" (Tehilim 119:105). But anyone who turns away from its proper path, it burns up with its fire, as written "by fire G-d will exact judgment" (Isaiah 66:16), and "on the wicked he will rain fiery coals", and "Should I say; I will not mention Him, and I will no longer speak in His name, but this was in my heart like a burning fire" (Yirmiyahu 20:9).

(Tov Halevanon: One benefits from fire if he is far away and it enlightens the eyes. But if one gets close and clashes with it, it burns. So too for wisdom, it is beneficial in being like a candle to the feet of the Torah and the religion. Then the light is sweet and good to the eyes of the intellect. But it burns those who enter it to damage and extinguish the flames. On this it says "do not stray after your hearts" (Bamidbar 15:39) and in the end they will inherit Gehinom (where he is punished by the fire of the Torah itself - PL).
"but this was in my heart like a burning fire" - Lest you think that one who is very close to the Torah also gets burned even if he is good. On this he brought this verse to teach that, on the contrary, closeness from Torah and yirah (fear) is the level of the prophets. The Torah only burns those who stray from its paths.)



Therefore, be careful that your steps not stray from the path of the forefathers and the path of the early ones towards a new path you have devised, and be careful to not rely on your intellect nor to take counsel only with yourself. Do not reason on your own. Do not distrust your forefathers in the tradition they bequeathed to you as to what is good for you. Do not reject their advice in what they taught you because none of the plans you can think of were not previously known and (all of - PL) their good and evil consequences were already weighed.

(Pas Lechem: "nor to take counsel only with yourself" - nor with other people of the same level as you who are also enticed by their yetzer lest they lead you astray. (i.e. get a wise Rav) Take counsel on how to wage war with the yetzer and to avoid his traps. This is for turning from evil.
"Do not reason on your own" on how to sustain the yoke of G-d's service . This is for doing good. (as in the verse in Tehilim "turn from evil and do good").
"Do not distrust your forefathers..." - that you inherited falsehood. "Do not reject their advice in what they taught you" - in what they taught us as to how to wage war with the yetzer. These are the fences they enacted to distance from his traps.)



According to your reasoning, you may be impressed by the advantages which your plan brings at the beginning, but the long term negative consequences which the plan will bring are hidden to you. In your short sightedness, you will see its initial benefits but not its error and eventual damage. And the wise man said "do not remove an ancient boundary stone set up by your forefathers" (Mishlei 22:28), and "listen my son to your father's instructions" (ibid 1:8), and it is said of one who condemns the ways of his forefathers (who sees himself more righteous than his forefathers - TL) "a generation clean in its own eyes, and yet are not cleansed of their excrement" (ibid 30:12), and "there is a generation that curses its fathers" (ibid 30:11) (i.e. his forefathers are primitive in his eyes and he abandons their Torah - TL), and "the eye that mocks a father, [that scorns obedience to a mother will be pecked by the ravens of the valley, will be eaten by the vultures]" (ibid 30:17).

(Pas Lechem: You think that this thing is just, and it is possible that it truly is good in the beginning, but its end will be evil and bitter. Hence with your little yishuv daat (clear-headedness), you grasp its beginning but not its end.

Tov Halevanon: "a generation clean in its own eyes, and yet is not cleansed of their excrement" - he sees himself more pure and clean than the early generations and seeks actions to become more righteous than them. But in truth, he is not even clean of the filth and waste of nursing babies. i.e. he transgresses sins that are known even to the [Talmud Torah] school children.)


However, if you see fit to take on yourself additional duties, what you can, beyond what is required, then, provided you are fulfilling those that are obligatory and that your motive is love of piety, and after your understanding has [examined it and] agreed, and that it is far from lusts - then the resolution is good.

(Pas Lechem: "far from lusts" - Since sometimes the stringency is a ploy of the yetzer in order to satisfy through this another desire such as the lust for honor and [to receive] praise for this, or the like. Therefore he said that one must examine himself in this if it is remote from his lusts.)

You will receive reward for this and are not deviating from the way of the forefathers. Because they already said "make a fence for the Torah" (Avos 1:1), and "why was Jerusalem destroyed? Because they pursued the letter of the law, and did not go above and beyond the letter of the law" (Bava Metzia 30b), and "says Rav Huna - he who only occupied himself is as if he had no G-d, for it is said: 'Now for long seasons Israel was without the true G-d' - What is meant by 'without the true G-d'? - It means that he who only occupies himself with the study of the Torah, it is as if he has no G-d" (Avodah Zara 17b).

And one of the pious would say "he who does no more than his duty is not doing his duty". But these "extra" acts are not accepted until one first fulfills the obligatory duties.

(Pas Lechem: It appears to us that the author's intent in this is that whoever performs his deeds only within the bounds of the Torah is not fulfilling his duties. Rather one must be stringent and add to the obligation... And the verse which says 'without the true G-d', the intent is that he does not put to heart to fence himself [with stringencies] in order to not come to stumble in the mitzva itself. This is the intent of the "additional" [things]. If so, he is not mindful that G-d is described with the attribute "the G-d of truth". The intent of the word "truth" is eternity and permanence. Therefore the sages said: "the seal of the Holy One is truth" (Shabbat 55a), and just like He is permanent, so too His words are permanent. Likewise the blessing on the shema "He is permanent (kayam),etc. and His words are kayam (permanent/everlasting)". Understand this.
"he who does no more than his duty is not doing his duty" - i.e. the extra is not secondary. Rather it is primary for one who needs it, just like the duty itself. This is what the sages said (Yevamos 109b): "Whosoever says that he has only [an interest in the study of the] Torah, does not even have Torah [study]"... Nevertheless, one should not precede the extra to the duty itself because "these extra acts are not accepted until one first fulfills the obligatory duties".)


Our Sages already permitted us, and even [sometimes] obligated us to add on to the commandments, as they said (regarding friday evening) "one must add from profane to holy" (Yoma 81:2). Other examples are additions to fasts, prayer, charity, and refraining from the unnecessary permitted foods. They also warned us against taking an oath in G-d's Name, even for the truth, and from talking excessively even if the words are free of falsehood, and from discussing the affairs of other people, even if the words are not derogatory. Likewise, to refrain from lavishly praising someone even if it fitting, and to not speak bad or be disgusted by those who are falling short in fulfillment of their duties even if they deserve it, and many more things like this.

(Manoach Halevavos: "To refrain from lavishly praising someone even if it fitting" - Our sages taught (Arachin 16a): "He that blesses his friend with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, it shall be counted as a curse to him?", since from the praise, there will come derogatory remarks. Because there is no man who does not have enemies who hate him and are jealous of him, and when they hear the praise, they will speak bad of him...

Marpe Lenefesh: The Ramban wrote (on Devarim 6:18) that all the good conducts, even though they are not [explicitly] mentioned in the Torah, the Torah nevertheless exhorts us on them, as written there: "And you shall do that which is right and good" - that everything which is good in the eyes of G-d and man, you are under duty to do it all, see there. Likewise he wrote on the verse (Vayikra 19:2): "You shall be holy", that this is a commandment on a man to be holy and pure in all of his conducts and traits. That he should be entirely holy. He then went to explain the good conducts, see there. He ended off: "even though these enactments are Rabbinical, the main intent of the verse is to exhort us in this, to be clean, pure, and separated from the masses of men who dirty themselves with superfluous and ugly things".)


It is proper for us to now bring some examples of the second type of enticements of the yetzer which one can learn to apply to other matters and to guard oneself from them with G-d's help when he understands them. Because necessarily, every good thing has corresponding bad things which can spoil it. Therefore, one who understands the things that damage good deeds will be capable of guarding himself from them. But one who knows only the good deeds, and does not know the things which can damage them will end up with nothing due to the abundance of damaging things which will beset him.

(Marpe Lenefesh: i.e. there is no good thing which does not have a corresponding damaging thing which can ruin and spoil that good thing. And the more good something is, the more quickly it can become spoiled. Similar to silk clothing which can be ruined with a bit of oil or a stain...unlike coarse cloth..)

One of the pious would instruct his disciples: "learn the bad things first to avoid them, and afterwards learn the good things and do them, as written 'Plow for yourself a furrow and do not sow upon thorns'" (Yirmiyahu 4:3).

Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai would say regarding the falsification of weights and measures (Bava Basra 89b) "woe to me if I say, woe to me if I don't say; if I say - perhaps the swindlers will learn from my words, if I don't say - perhaps the swindlers will say that the Sages are ignorant of our tricks.", the question was raised: "did he speak of them or not?", and concludes "he did speak of them", relying on the verse "for the ways of the L-rd are right, and the righteous shall walk in them, while the wicked shall stumble on them" (Hoshea 14:10).

(Marpe Lenefesh: From here is a proof that one need not refrain making known and publicizing the various types of incitements of the yetzer on a man. And we need not worry lest people may learn from these things to deceive others.)

Rachel Chana:  I have heard R' Miller, zt"l say that we don't follow the advice of the Chovos Halevavos today pertaining to the study about the bad things in order to refute the sheker and chazav contained within them because it's a dangerous thing.  We should just show stubborn resistance and resist the Yetzer Hara even if we don't equip ourselves with knowledge of falsehood.  For example, we don't need to delve into the falsehoods of evolution, Xianity, Islam, alien philosophy, foreign ideologies etc. in order to acknowledge that these are plain outright sheker.

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