Was it worth it? Not sure… The next day, the lure came again. I fell right into the trap. I had done it yesterday, so what was any different about today? One more time wouldn’t be so bad…
Don’t worry, I’m just talking about an overindulgence with a box of chocolate malt balls. And several of their varying-speiced friends. But in truth this isn’t about fistfulls of m&ms, it’s about something much bigger.
You know this feeling. We choose or do something that absolutely isn’t the right choice. It’s clear as day. But we don’t listen HERE (point to heart), we listen from somewhere else. Somewhere not HERE (heart), but rather, from the place of “fill in the blank” - perhaps its choosing from fear of losing control, or the hurt inside us that wants justification, or from the place of disconnect that is yearning to be soothed in any way it can. I can first hand attest to letting my weaknesses take over, and its effects are disheartening.
Truthfully, I want to take pause with all of you in this discord.
I don’t think that any of us really want to be lured by temptation. But, we are created in such a way, that we sometimes want to do what’s not right. For some, we can be swayed all too easily to act or do in ways that are hurtful to ourselves and some times, unintentionally or intentionally hurtful to others. What is that?! Is that who we really are? It’s certainly part of us.
The rabbis call it our yetzer harah, our evil inclination - and I’m sure that every culture and tradition has a word for it. Sometimes it’s loud, sometimes she is an alluring whisper, often it’s all too convenient, and yet sometimes we go out of our way just to appease it. We see this in this week’s parsha, the section of Torah - and the issues of ignoring the heart not choosing the good and the right, and the dangerous implications that has on life. We are at the 2nd half of the ten plagues God has put on Egypt in order to get the Pharaoh to let the Israelites go. It’s like, how many times does the universe have to hit him -or us - over the head to make a better choice?! Time and again, Pharaoh refuses, and each time the text repeats that it’s God who has hardened Pharaoh's heart. There is, for obvious reasons, age-old discussions about God doing the hardening. Many of the ancient rabbis suggest that God hardening Pharaoh’s heart was another act of intervention, or a way to prove something to the nation about God’s power. I think it’s actually much more simple than that, and a result of human nature. It isn’t because God reached down and made it impossible for Pharaoh to do what’s right - but rather, Pharaoh chose not to do what’s right. God’s role in hardening Pharaoh’s heart was only a result of Pharaoh’s inability use his heart. This is the gift and the struggle that we have been given in this world. We become our choices. Even Moses and Aaron recognized this self-inflicted identity and they called him out on it.
The brothers literally walk into Paraoh’s space and ask him straight up - Yo - where is your humility? Have some respect, you human! As if to say - your luscious desires, your self-serving greed does not look good on you at all, and you are only making it worse for yourself, and everyone else. You gotta check yourself.
And here’s how I know that God did not intravenously hardened the heart, - because just a few lines later, after the plague of darkness, Pharaoh calls Moses and Aaron back to APOLOGIZE! He literally says חָטָ֛אתִי לַיי אֱלֹֽהֵיכֶ֖ם - I am guilty of sinning before your GODI! He asks for them to pray to God for him! So he is very much aware of what he is doing, but he cannot kick his addiction to power. He sees the dangers of his ways - but if there is anything I’ve learned about addiction - the change of behavior is the biggest part of the battle.
So what are we going to do? We will become our choices, even the small sneaky ones, or the masterfully orchestrated justification for that thing that we know isn’t a good idea but we’ve made it seem like one. We are only cheating ourselves in the end, and causing our hearts to stop talking to us.
The wisdom medicine that I am taking this Shabbat, is the reminder that there are to opposing voices happening within us at any given moment. The heart takes time and patience to hear.
For now, I leave us with this timeless parable: An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life: “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. ”It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil–he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you–and inside every other person, too.” The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf will win?” The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”