Evil Inclination (Yetzer Ha-ra)

Gray_space available_2012-07-30

2013-05-24 – Sorry I’m late posting this. I was enticed by the devil to relax when I came home from work last night.


I had a couple of discussions this week with folks who believe that their failures are due to temptations by the devil. It seems weird to me, but whatever helps them overcome bear the burdens of being human is fine with me.

I don’t believe that humans have temptations that are inherently good or inherently evil. A person wants to eat. Evil comes when he takes food from the mouths of others. The desire to eat is neither good nor bad. A person wants to sleep. Evil comes when he lolls in bed when work needs to be done. The desire to sleep is neither good nor bad. A person has sexual desires. Evil comes when acting on those desires betrays the trust of another. And so it goes.

My evil inclination is to spend an excessive amount of time doing crossword puzzles. I’m embarrassed to say this, but it’s true.

Judaism doesn’t spend a lot of time talking about supernatural beings. Yeah, we have Satan, but tradition places the responsibility for sin squarely on the individual. Our evil inclination (yetzer ha-ra) is nothing more than the misuse of human desire. The desires themselves are not bad at all. It is the choice to respond to the desires in a way that causes harm that is evil. The yetzer ha-ra is not some irresistible force to do evil. The whole point is that it is resistible. We can choose good over evil.

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