Yezer Ha-Ra (Judaism)

The Yezer Ha-Ra (“evil inclination”) has a recurring role in Jewish rabbinical writings as an embodiment of that within the heart or imagination of humankind that functions as ha Satan (the adversary) and tempts a man to do wrong. The Yezer Ha-Ra is part of human nature and exists in each human being as an always present potential adversary to Good. In most lore the Yezer Ha-Ra seems to be a powerful impulse that can erupt in the heart of a rabbi or scholar as easily as in the heart of an ordinary person. The emphasis is on the struggle within each inhabited psyche. The Yezer Ha-Ra usually manifests as an (almost) irresistible lustful urge. It is considered especially dangerous when a man leaves the synagogue on Friday night and goes home. En route he is accompanied by a good spirit and the Yezer Ha-Ra. If he is distracted from his spiritual reflection, he can fall victim to the latter. This is also true just after the marriage ceremony; the groom is considered very vulnerable due to the presence of spirits around the sacred rite and human closeness to the spiritual realm.

One night a rabbi was passing through the woods when he happened upon a small cottage with a light on. As he neared the dwelling, its occupant, a very attractive woman, came to the door wearing scant attire. She beckoned to him graciously and bid him enter. When he did, she offered him not a cup of tea, but herself. At this invitation he was nearly overcome by the Yezer Ha-Ra, but resisted it with all his might and managed to shout, “No!” Just as the magic word was uttered, the woman vanished along with the cottage. The rabbi found himself alone again in the dark woods.

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Author: Carol K. Mack and Dinah Mack

Keywords: Adversary, Angel of darkness, Body of death, Christ tempted, Christ's temptation, Christ's temptation in the wilderness, Deliver us from evil, Devil, Devil and Jesus, Devil tempts Jesus, diabolos, Evil angel, Evil Inclination, Evil nature, Evil one, Good angel, Good nature, Hara Yetser, Ha-ra Yetser, Hara Yetzer, Ha-ra Yetzer, Hara Yezer, Ha-ra Yezer, Intentional misspelling, Intentionally misspelled, Jesus' temptation, Jesus' temptation in the wilderness, Jesus tempted, Jesus tempted by Satan, Jesus tempted by the devil, Jesus tempted in the wilderness, Jesus's temptation, Jot, Jot and tittle, Jots, Man's sinful nature, Mispelled word, Mispelling, Misspelling, Misspelled word, Origin of sin, Personification of evil, Personification, Satan, Satan and Jesus, Satan tempts Christ, Satan tempts Jesus, Seducer, Sexual temptation, Sin, Sin in the flesh, Sin personified, Sin within, Sinful nature, Snatcher, Temptation, Temptation from within, Temptation in the wilderness, Tempted in the wilderness, Tempted of Satan, Tempted of the devil, Tempted sexually, Tempted to do evil, Tempts Christ, Tempts Jesus, The devil tempts Christ, The devil tempts Jesus, The Evil Inclination, The Evil One, Tittle, Two jots, Two yodhs, Two yods, Wicked one, Wilderness temptation, Wretched man, Yatsar, Yetsarim, Yetser ha ra, Yetser ha tov, Yetser ra, Yetser tov, Yetzer, Yetzer ha ra, Yetzer ha tov, Yetzer Hara, Yetzer ra, Yetzer tov, Yezer ha ra, Yezer ha tov, Yezer Hara, Yezer tov, Yod, Yodh

Bible reference(s): Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:13, Luke 4:2-13, Acts 5:3, 1 Corinthians 7:5, 2 Corinthians 12:7, 2 Corinthians 11:14, Ephesians 4:27, Ephesians 6:11, Ephesians 6:16, 1 Thessalonians 3:5, 1 Timothy 3:6-7, 2 Timothy 2:26, Hebrews 2:14, James 4:7, 1 John 2:13-14, 1 John 3:8, 1 John 3:10, 1 John 3:12, 1 John 5:18-19

Source: A Field Guide to Demons (New York: Owl Books, 1998), pp. 249-250.

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