Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Yetzer Temimut

dedicated to all the children of the world ...

As Torah tradition teaches, an individual is not born with a yetzer hatov (commonly called the inclination for good, and positive), only with a yetzer hara (commonly called the inclination for evil, and negative). More precisely and essentially however, we know that the yetzer hara is not evil. Rather, it is a neutral drive to live. This is very good. If this is very good, what is the merely good of the yetzer hatov? What it is, is incomplete. Let me explain, speaking from my experience and Torah study.

The yetzer hatov and the yetzer hara are both broken fragments of a united yetzer. How do I know this? I know it because I was born to remember, and remember I have faithfully done. Reiterating, as the Torah teaches us, we are not born with a yetzer hatov, we are born with only one yetzer, presumably the yetzer hara. (We only acquire a yetzer hatov around the age of 12 or 13.) In contradistinction to the idea that we are born with a yetzer hara "only", my experience suggests that the one yetzer we are born with is the yetzer temimut - a complete yetzer. Niddah 30b suggests that, kept in purity, the yetzer temimut is not taken from us, and consequently, we won't forget from whence we came (see below on the name Menashe). If we fail to keep the yetzer temimut in purity as the trials of life assail us, it will split into two - the yetzer hara (Menashe) and the yetzer hatov (Ephraim) - and the memory of where we came from will be hidden among the shadows cast within the soul by this catastrophe. (Interestingly, the one command (mitzvah) to "choose life", in my experience has two components - "go and remember".)

Kept in purity, the yetzer temimut is a neutral drive that "chooses life" to fulfill completely G-D's command to "choose life", as I did when entering physical existence concurrent with the secondary commands to "go and remember". Importantly, fulfilling this mitzvah (command) in a complete fashion IN PURITY is NOT positive. It is neutral. At the instinctual level, it neutrally "chooses life", fulfilling the divine will by doing so. The expression of its instinctual choice (life) is fit (kosher) and only seems negative or positive. In truth, it is neither negative nor positive - it is fit to balance the situation at hand in service of the divine will. The yetzer temimut, therefore, is an instinctual drive which remembers for life in a manner acceptable to Hashem, whether the intellect of the person understands the basis for his or her choices or not. The basic instinct of such a person is naturally driven to fulfill the divine will, even at the expense of its own desires. Active free-will choices against the divine will are footsteps upon the path which splits the one complete yetzer into two.

The "split" of the yetzer temimut is finalized around the age of bar or bat mitzvah, when one receives his or her yetzer hatov, according to tradition. What this really means - that one gets his or her yetzer hatov - is that the yetzer temimut has now devolved completely into 2 yetzers, which up until that time, the split may have been only partial. The split of these 2 yetzers is reflected in the split of Yosef's blessing, separating into his sons, the evil Menashe and the fruitful Ephraim. Let's look at the names of Yosef's sons.

Menashe - one who causes to forget. Yes, forgetting is a consequence of not keeping the yetzer temimut pure and intact. Forgetting augments the impure drive for life and causes one to seek gratification. Ephraim, fruitful as in be frutiful and multiply. Essentially, the drive to be fruitful is a drive toward reunification and wholeness. So, while one is made to forget, one is also given the power to fix the split and to reunify the yetzers. Baruch Hashem. And this is why the split yetzers battle - one seeks gratification (a lower reunification), while the other seeks completion (a higher reunification).

So, we can see that they key to choosing life is the yetzer temimut. The yetzer temimut seeks neither gratification nor completion, it seeks to do the divine will.

How is all this of importance considering that most people don't remember where they came from, evidencing a split yetzer? It is relevant to the children of this world, those still small enough to remember and those yet unborn. Most of us raise children on the assumption that they have only a yetzer hara (a selfish drive for gratification). But, my experience tells me that this is not true. Children, particularly small children, merely are choosing life in service to the divine directive within them. We, as parents, need to recognize the truth and not work so hard to "control" the yetzer hara, because the truth is, small children don't have a yetzer hara. They have a yetzer temimut. And we, as parents, need to figure out how to preserve it even as we provide a broken knowledge of good and evil with which our children must come to terms.

May it be Hashem's will that we learn how to accomplish this speedily, and in our day.

descriptions of pre-incarnate consciousness from my webpage
A Mystery Of Consciousness
First Beit
Primordial Desire
HaTorah Emet

and into physical reality

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