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Sunday, 25 January 2015

The Snake in Your Life

Daf Yomi Yevamos 112

Two chasidim, Moishy and Shmelka, were debating the length of time one should spend on prayer.  
Said Moishy, “The quicker one prays the better.  Picture a beautiful garden.  You want to protect it from wild animals and so you place a fence around it.  The closer you place the fence-posts to one another, the greater the protection against any intruders.   The same is true of prayer: the closer you place the words of prayer to one another, the less chance you will give the yetzer hara (evil inclination) to enter and distract you from your prayers, destroying your precious garden.”
Replied Shmelka, “You’d be right if you were certain the wild animals were outside the garden.  But what if the animal is already there with you on the inside and your challenge is to drive it out of the garden?”

Rami bar Hama asks: Why is the case of deaf-mutes different to the case of those who are insane? Regarding the former, the Rabbis allowed them to get married, whereas the latter, the Rabbis did not!
The Gemara answers: In the case of deaf-mutes, the institution of marriage is sustainable, and therefore the Rabbis facilitated their marriage.  For insane individuals, however, whose marriage would not be sustainable – since a person cannot live in the same cage as a snake – the Rabbis did not facilitate the institution of marriage. 

The snake, of course, is a reference to the yetzer hara – the evil inclination within each and every one of us, constantly tempting us to sin, just like it did with Adam and Eve.  The best way to avoid sin is to make sure that you’re not dwelling in the same cage or garden as the snake.   The further away the snake is from your life, the less you’ll fall prey to its temptation.

The purpose of marriage is for a couple to grow together spiritually.  An individual can only accomplish so much on their own without guidance from another.  Marriage brings out the best in one another in order to maximize mitzvah performance and minimize transgression. 

It’s a sin to get angry.  Therefore, the Rabbis determined that one who is insane is not fit for marriage.  It might not be their fault.  But if they will be the cause of their spouse’s sin - since most people do not have the requisite patience to live with someone who is insane and will frequently end up getting angry – the Rabbis deemed them unfit for marriage.   They might be attractive and beautiful, but if they might cause you to sin, marrying them would be like placing yourself in a cage with a snake.  They’re not the snake, G-d forbid – the snake is the yetzer hara who will use the opportunity to make you angry, thereby sinning. 

Every day we begin our prayers asking G-d, ‘Do not bring us to any test.’   If we ask G-d to help us avoid situations of spiritual challenge, how much more so must we avoid placing ourselves into such situations!  Life has enough tests and challenges without placing ourselves into spiritually challenging situations.  As much as possible, you want to avoid getting into the cage with the snake. 

And such situations come up all the time.  The less opportunities you give the snake – the yetzer hara – the less he will be able to lead you astray.  You need to be careful at work and university – don’t ever get into a working relationship that may lead to a situation where you might find yourself alone with a member of the opposite gender!  You need to be careful when you go on vacation that you’ve made provisions for kosher food – don’t tell yourself you’ll figure it out when you get there! 

You wouldn’t willingly walk into a cage with a cobra, so why would you invite the spiritual snake into your life?  Life is challenging enough as it is, without placing yourself into situations of spiritual test.  May you merit a life filled with positive spirituality and may the snake keep far away from you and your family!

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