Yetzer Harah

The next question posed by Antoninus concerns the yetzer hara [the Evil Inclination]. Here, rather than the word נתנה (invested), the Gemara uses the term שולט (rules). I submit that this semantic difference, while not unusual, is an important one. To support his contention that the yetzer hara begins to rule at the moment of birth, rather than at “forming,” Antoninus quotes Genesis 4:7, “sin coucheth at the door.” Notice that the verse states that sin, not the yetzer hara, couches at the door. It is my contention that the Gemara refers to the time when the yetzer hara rules, that is, dominates man. While it is present (in vested, if you will) from conception, it begins to assert itself only when man encounters the possibility of sin, the requisite stimulus for expression of the yetzer hara. This, I submit, is the answer to the objection raised by the M'harsha (ad. locum). That is, the yetzer hara was indeed present in the twins within Rebecca’s womb. The very fact that they did not “kick their way out of their mother’s womb” attests to the yetzer hara’s presence, rather than its dominance.

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Author: Andy Solomon

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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

Source: “Instincts,” Tradition: A Journal of Orthodox Jewish Thought, Vol. 15, No. 3, pp. 167-170

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