Torah in honor of the fallen in this war
Torah in honor of the fallen in this warArutz Sheva

Our Sages say:( Brachot 60: )’All that Hashem does, is for the good’.

They also say ( Kid’ 30: )’The yetser ha’ra is hard, so that even his Creator calls him: ‘bad’.

How do we reconcile these two seemingly opposite sayings, AND what relevance does this have to Matan Torah?


Let us elucidate: the Gemara relates ( Shab’ 88: ) that when Moshe Rabbeinu ascended above to receive the Torah, the ministering angels objected, arguing that it should remain above, with them.

Hashem directed Moshe to reply to them.

Moshe opened his rebuttal by ‘asking’ rhetorically: ‘Hashem, the Torah that You are giving me, what is written in it? ‘I am Hashem Your G-d who took you out of Egypt’.

Said Moshe to the angels: Did you descend to Egypt? Were you enslaved there? Why should the Torah be given to you?

The gemara continues with Moshe prov that each of the Dibrot, in turn, has no relevance to angels, concluding:’Is there envy between you, that might lead you to kill one another?

And - on our subject -: Is there a yetser ha’ra which affects you’, that you have to contend with, and overcome?

The gemara concludes, the angels then conceded ‘defeat’, and agreed that the Torah should properly be given to Moshe.

Fast-forward to Matan Torah, to the giving of the Torah on Har Sinai.

Might we not have expected that the yetser ha’ra would be a ‘guest of honor’, as - as we just learned - we only received the Torah because we - unlike the angels - had a yetser ha’ra?!

Yet we find that the yetser ha’ra was ‘absent’ at that event.

The gemara relates ( Shab’ 146. ):’Israel who stood on Har Sinai, their impurity’, their yetser ha’ra, ‘ceased’

Rav David Cohen, the Rosh Yeshiva of Chevron, offers a proof of this:’Man by his very nature is to seek independence without restrictions. Yet Bnei Israel accepted on themselves total subservience to all that the Torah commands.’

Assuredly the yetser ha’ra, whose very essence is to seek to subvert man from performing mitzvot, would, had it been able to do so, used all its wiles to persuade Bnei Israel not to submit.

Indeed, the gemara relates ( Kid’ 30: ) that this was the ‘purpose’ for which the Torah was ‘created’: Said Hashem: I created the yetser ha’ra, I created the Torah as the תבלין: the ‘seasoning’ against it.

We can now answer the seeming contradiction we raised at the outset:

The harder the yetser ha’ra, the greater the reward for overcoming it!

Thus, it had to be, at the same time ‘bad’ - in the sense of the difficulty in contending with it - yet, at the same time, ‘good’, as only by contending with, and overcoming it, did we merit reward.

For this very reason, the yetser ha’ra was not permitted by the Creator, to be present at this momentous event, since ( Shab’ 88. ) the whole of Creation was dependent on Bnei Israel accepting the Torah - and therefore the yetser ha’ra, if permitted, would have seen if as an existential battle for it, and used all of its wiles to dissuade Bnei Israel from acceptance it, and this could not be permitted.

The Malbim brings a beautiful proof, as to the complete subjugation of Bnei Israel, to Hashem’s Will, at Matan Torah.

We read: ( Yitro 19:22-23 ) Hashem adjured Moshe to warn the people not to ascend the mountain on which Hashem is about to descend, to give the Torah, lest they perish.

Moshe answers: ‘The people CANNOT ascend, because you have commanded us to set boundaries from the mountain, and sanctify it.

Comments the Malbim:’Moshe, in his words, also included another answer: since at the gathering at Har Sinai, the yetser ha’ra had been ‘plucked’ from their hearts, they returned to the state of Adam HaRishon before he transgressed, when there was no possibility of sin; when You ordered that they set boundaries from the mountain, they COULD not ascend, as there was no possibility, or ability, to transgress Your command, and to rebel against Your mitzvot.’

This raises the question that has been raised by all our commentators: Why, then, did Hashem, as the gemara relates ( Shab’ 88. ) see the need to suspend the mountain over their heads, like a sieve, saying: ‘If you accept the Torah, well and good; if not, there you will perish’?

Had Bnei Israel not proven their whole-hearted acceptance of the Torah?

The answer to this might be found in another gemara.

We read ( Suk’ 52. ):’In the days to come, Hashem will bring the yetser ha’ra and slaughter it, in the presence of the righteous and of the wicked.

To the righteous, the yetser ha’ra will appear like a high mountain, but to the wicked, it will appear like a strand of hair.

Both will cry, the righteous, recalling how difficult the battle against the yetser was; the wicked, wondering:’how could we not resist this hair?

And Hashem will wonder, along with them.’

I found a beautiful answer as to the suspended mountain, based on this gemara.

True, Bnei Israel had fully accepted the Torah of their own volition, proclaiming: ‘All that Hashem says, we will do and observe’, BUT this was at the singular time that they were not subject to the yetser ha’ra.

This would not be the case thereafter, as the yetser ha’ra’s absence was only temporary, to ensure - as we have brought - that Bnei Israel would accept the Torah, and the world not returned to ‘nothingness’.

The suspended mountain was an allusion to the yetser ha’ra, and its suspension over their heads, came to remind them that it was ‘lurking’ over them, and that they would have to again contend with it in the future, after this singular moment.

As hard as this battle will again be - like a mountain, as the gemara states - all that Hashem does is - as the Sages teach in our opening saying - for our good.

We can now also enjoy an intriguing gemara - it states ( Avoda Zara 2: ) that at the end of days, the nations would claim that they are entitled to be rewarded, even though they did not keep the Torah?

Why ? Argue the nations: Did you, Hashem, suspend the mountain over our heads, as you did with Bnei Israel, to compel us to accept the Torah, and we did not accept it?

Answers Hashem: Let the first ones answer for you: the seven Noachide Mitzvot that you accepted on yourselves, did you keep them?

No! They were therefore taken away from you.

How is this gemara relevant to our enquiry?

Answer: Hashem only suspended the mountain over those who would keep mitzvot, to assist them in their battle against the yetser ha’ra; the yetser ha’ra has no interest in those who do not keep mitzvot - meaning: the nations - and therefore Hashem did not suspend the mountain over their heads - as he did with Bnei Israel - to compel them to accept the Torah.

Let us conclude by savoring a beautiful original insight of Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch.

We read ( Breishit 4:7 ): Hashem said to Cain: ‘If you improve your ways, your sin will be forgiven; if you do not improve, however, at the entrance sin is lurking, and to you is its longing, but you can rule over it’.

Expounds the Rav: ’This is its whole purpose: that you should govern your yetser, and it thereby attains its destiny, and it is to this, that it yearns.

‘Indeed, there is great blessing in the power of the yetser, and it is necessary for the elevation of man; it was only created for man to rule over it, and to utilize its power in the correct manner.’

לרפואת חיילי צה"ל ולרפואת נועם עליזה בת זהבה רבקה ונחום אלימלך רפאל בן זהבה רבקה, בתוך שאר חולי עמ