Yetzer Harah

In Judaism, the yetzer harah is the inclination or impulse to evil, popularly identified with the lusts of the flesh. It also leads to such sins as greed, anger, revenge, violence, and idolatry.

The term yetzer refers to the inclination toward either good or evil. The yetzer harah is thus balanced by the yetzer ha-tov or tendency toward good. In Judaism, the yetzer harah is not the product of the Human Fall, as in Christian teaching, but is part of the original creation of God. While it does lead to sin, it is also essential, for without it, there would be no ambition, economic progress, or even procreation. However, some of the ancient rabbis held that God came to regret creating the yetzer harah and that it will eventually be done away with in the world to come.

The rabbis universally teach that the yetzer harah must be controlled and trained to follow the Law of God. Humans need to cultivate its opposite—the yetzer ha-tov—by studying the scriptures, following the God’s commandments, engaging in prayer, helping ones fellow man, and other good works. Although it is usually spoken of as an impersonal force, the yetzer harah is sometimes personified as Satan, sin, or the angel of death.

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Bible reference(s): Genesis 2:7, Genesis 4:7, Genesis 8:21, Deuteronomy 10:16, Job 1:6-12, Job 2:1-7, Psalms 51:10, Proverbs 25:21, Isaiah 5:18, Isaiah 14:4-19, Isaiah 57:14, Ezekiel 28:11-17, Ezekiel 36:26, Joel 2:20, Matthew 4:1-11, Matthew 6:13, Mark 1:13, Luke 11:4, Luke 4:2-13, John 8:44, John 13:2, Acts 5:3, Romans 7:17-24, 1 Corinthians 7:5, 2 Corinthians 12:7, 2 Corinthians 11:14, Galatians 1:4, 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, Matthew 5:18, Revelation 20:10

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