Enticement of the Yetzer Hara #13: Endless Worries and Distractions of this World

** 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) 


When the yetzer gives up trying to entice you in these ways, he will try to ruin your [religious] deeds by distracting your mind with this world and its people and with your extensive desires so that you forget your final end.
Marpe Lenefesh: He will cause your mind to always worry and think on this world, and from where will come your livelihood and desires, so that you forget your end. Not only that, but even at the time you want to pray or learn torah, he will put in your heart every which way he can [to distract you] as will be explained.)
When he sees that you wish to turn your attention to matters of the next world, such as during prayer, whether obligatory or voluntary, or when you study the torah or some other wisdom related to emuna (faith) or mussar (ethics), he will confuse you and distract your thoughts with secular matters, such as thoughts of merchandise, buying and selling, profit and loss. He will say to you: "you should be happy that now you have some free time, an opportunity which will not return due to your many business dealings. Now, think about your business partner, and make an accounting of what he owes you and what you owe him, and how much you have collected of your debts, and how much is due to you. Consider which financial means of gaining livelihood are suitable to you and which are not. Reflect on which matters brought you satisfaction and which made you regret, and if you have a court case against someone, review in your mind all of your claims and all of his claims against you, and all the ways you can outsmart him when the case is brought to court."

So too, if you have money [to invest], or sheep and cattle, or land for sowing, or you have a job to do for the nobleman or a commoner, or you need to make an accounting with either, or if you owe debts which you are unable to repay, or you have friends which you must watch over and think about, he will bring one of these to your mind when you turn to devote some time to matters of service of G-d. This is to distract you and ruin your deeds. Because when you do them, you are ready in body but distracted in mind and spirit.
Pas Lechem: The reason the yetzer is successful in his plan and is able to distract you is because while doing these things, namely, prayer or torah study, you were ready in body; i.e. you prepared only the limbs of your body but did not prepare for this your heart and mind. If you had mustered them for this completely, there would not have been any opening for the yetzer to enter in your heart/mind.
Marpe Lenefesh: Why was he able to put in your mind all these things? Because you recite your prayers without kavana (intent/direction) of your heart. But if you would pray with all of your kavana, to understand every word that comes out of your mouth - none of this would happen to you.)
If he does not distract you with one of the things mentioned previously, he will remind you of riddles, or other subjects which require much thought. If a man is among those who play dice or chess, or the like, he will bring him to picture as if the game is arranged before him and he needs to think about which moves to make, and which strategies to use to win the game.


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