We make Halachic decisions all the time without adequate information. We have treated certain mitzvot lightly. We have lost our awareness of them. We have repeated certain sins so many times that we have forgotten that they were sins. We refuse to listen to those who know more than we do. We have sinned in anger. Or, in arrogance. Or, with a casual attitude.
The story of David and Goliath beautifully illustrates the strategies of the Yetzer Hara. There are two armies preparing for battle. Thousands will probably be killed. Out comes this huge giant dressed in heavy armor, packing massive weaponry, and yells to the Jews, “Friends, Romans, Countrymen! Lend me your ears! I come to make peace not war! Why should we have a messy war with thousands dead? I am a peace-loving man. Instead of full-scale war, you send your best warrior, we’ll send our best warrior, me, and whoever loses will surrender to the victor!
“Don’t be intimidated by the fact that I’m 19 feet tall, weigh 780 pounds of pure muscle, that I could crush Arnold Schwarzenegger between my fingers and have an army that could stop a nuclear bomb. Certainly don’t be intimidated by the fact that the last time we had a war, I led my armies to victory, destroyed your Tabernacle, and swiped your Ark. I promise that if I lose, the Philistines will surrender.”
The Jews couldn’t find anybody to fight Goliath. Imagine if Hitler would have called up Churchill and said, “Churchill, why should we have a war where 50 million people will die? I’m a peace-loving man. Why don’t you send your best pilot, we’ll send our best pilot, they’ll have a dogfight, and whoever loses, that side will surrender. What do you think Churchill would have said?
Couldn’t the Jews say no? Why couldn’t they send out 20 of their best soldiers and take out Goliath? They never thought of saying no. So for 40 days the two camps faced off and the Jews didn’t know what to do. King Saul doesn’t want to fight because he’s convinced he’s going to lose. Meanwhile, he looks like an idiot in front of his soldiers. Everyday Goliath would come out in the morning while the Jews were saying Sh’ma and yell curses and taunts. It was psychological warfare, pure and simple.
This little kid David comes to visit his big brother Eliav at the front. He says, “Hey, what’s going on here?” Eliav angrily responds, “I know your insolence (“zadon”) led you to come here this morning.” Eliav assumed that David had come down because Samuel had just anointed him the next King of Israel. Hearing Goliath’s taunts, David asks, “How can you let this guy curse you like this?” Eliav replies, “Well, there’s no one to fight him.” David says, “I will go fight Goliath.” King Saul offers David his royal armor, but it’s too big and heavy. So David whips out his pocket sling-shot and, well you know the rest of story.
Do the Philistines surrender? No. What happened? Goliath set the agenda. In fact, he set it up so well that the Jews gave up hope. He intimidated them, he lied to them, and it worked! These are the strategies of the Yetzer Hara.
First the Yetzer Hara says, “I will set the agenda, not you.” “This isn’t a question of which Shul to daven at, it’s about the best way for you to find a spouse. So you won’t daven well, but you know here you will find a shidduch. Then we could move to a better Shul and then we will daven even better.” “This isn’t a question of not wanting to daven, this is a question of the best way to daven.” “This isn’t a question of Lashon Hara, this is a question of protecting people from an evil person.”
Second, the Yetzer Hara lies: “Is that avera going to give you such pleasure!” Third, it intimidates: “I know you promised to do much better this year. Don’t be intimidated by the fact that you have never beaten me yet! I look forward to having a fight with you. Don’t be intimidated by the fact that I win all the time.”
How could Eliav think that David was coming to visit him at the front just to be a big shot? Actually, David came to bring food from his father. The reason is because Eliav was doing the same thing to his brother as Goliath was to the Jews – he was intimidating him, setting the terms of the debate. He was telling David why he was here, rather that letting David explain why he was there.
Q: So how do you win against the Yetzer Hara?
RSW: The Vilna Gaon writes that you cannot win against the Yetzer unless you have God’s help. Anytime you want it, you can ask for it. The Chasidim say, as you know, all is in the hands of heaven except for Yir’at Shamayim, the fear of God. All you have to do is ask.
Q: Remember last week you explained that if we open ourselves to the influences of the day, and trust in God, God will do the rest of the work. Is the same true for Yom Kippur?
RSW: Definitely. Every Yom Tov.