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Mishlei: Conversations With Myself

“My child, if sinners seduce you, do not be enticed. If they say, ‘Come with us; let us wait in ambush for bloodshed; let us lurk for an innocent one, without cause. Like the grave, let us swallow them alive – whole, like those descending to the pit.’” (Proverbs 1:10-12)

The translation “sinners,” is based on the contextual meaning of “Chata’im,” which actually means, ‘sins.’ We find other verses that describe sinners as sins themselves: “Sinners – ‘Chata’im’ – will cease from the earth, and the wicked will be no more.” (Psalms 104:35) Kings David and Solomon describe sinners as sin. They are describing people whose constant sinning has transformed their very essence into sin. They have reached a point at which there is no separation between the sinner and the sin.

A person, who has mixed feelings about a sin, is separated to a degree from his action. David and Solomon are describing people who are totally committed to their evil. The sin has become their internal measure, or, their Midah.

Rabbi Yaakov Charlop (Mei Marom, Mishlei) explains that the conversation described in this verse is actually an internal conversation. He understands King Solomon as portraying one part of me, one Midah, attempting to entice other parts of my essence to join in the sin. Rabbi Charlop is not describing one part of me; let’s say my anger, controlling my behavior. That is control, not seduction. When I calm down, I will regret my behavior, creating the first separation between my actions and me. I may even unconsciously sense that “I” am not in control of my behavior, an important separation between my actions and me. That separation may actually be the “eye of the needle” opening described by the Sages as the beginning of Teshuva.

However, those separations indicate a bifurcated person. The seduction described by King Solomon is the Evil Inclination taking advantage of the “eye of the needle” to entice the parts of me that hesitate before sinning to join in the action.

Imagine a person who is angry with someone else in the synagogue. He may immediately react with anger towards that person. Or, the seduction may begin: “He is not the only one at fault. Why did no one else stand up for me? What kind of people are they? How can they pray to God and stand by when one person insults another? Are these people with whom I want to pray? There’s no point in being angry with the one who insulted me. I will have to pray somewhere else.”

The anger enticed the part of the person that wanted to calm down by saying, “There’s no point in being angry with the one who insulted me.” The Midah, or attribute of anger, changed this into a religious issue, enticing other parts of the person.

We can observe children who, aware that they are behaving badly and not knowing how to stop, behaving worse. That is an internal seduction.

Witness these internal conversations before we pray and begin to consider how unworthy or inconsistent we are to pray before God.

Listen in to these internal seductions when we hesitate to participate in a conversation that has detoured into Lishon Harah.

While we may see the “eye of the needle” as the opening to Teshuva, we must understand that, as with any opportunity for spiritual growth, it has a dark side as well; the opening for internal seductions.

The key is to recognize such internal conversations for what they are and refocus them towards the “eye of the needle” of Teshuva.

Note: I suspect that this is related to Adam seeing “the Woman,” a part of himself, outside of himself, as separate, and the fact that he eventually names her, “Chava,” the Articulator.

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