Sarah’s Corner: Everyone is Battling


Everyone is Battling

Sarah Pachter

Is $50,000 a lot of money? Most would say, “Absolutely.” However, our impression of $50,000 all depends on the context. $50,000 for dinner for two at a restaurant would be considered outrageous. The same amount for a newly built, three-story home in Los Angeles would be considered nothing!

A mitzvah can feel like either a burden or a gift. Do we carry around our responsibilities to our family and Hashem as though we are paying $50,000 for a meal or for a beautiful home? The task at hand is the same, but what we feel we are getting in return for our efforts is what makes all the difference in our life.

When we perform mitzvot, the question is, what are we “paying” out in effort and what are we “getting” back in return? Rabbi Shlomo Teichel shares a beautiful answer.

“If someone tells you that there is a bag weighing 200 pounds outside, and if you carry it across the street, the contents will be yours to keep, it would probably be too difficult to do. Most people can’t carry 200 pounds. But if the person tells you the bag is full of diamonds, you will find a way to do it, because you want the diamonds.”[1]

Our life’s goal is to transform our pekele of responsibilities into a sack of diamonds. The yetzer hara is cunning, and utilizes a multitude of tricks to cause us to view life through the lens of a burden. This is one of the yetzer hara’s greatest tactics to lead us to aveirot.

With coronavirus on the forefront of everyone’s mind, it feels like we are on a constant battlefield. We are being tested as parents, spouses, and children every second. This is a chance to build real middot in our lives as we face each new nisayon.

Having children, a spouse, and in-laws should all elicit gratitude and joy, yet the yetzer hara uses these relationships to create anger, tension, and challenges. One such trick of the yetzer hara is called “The Double Whammy,” which occurs when the yetzer hara strikes twice in succession. For example, suppose your in-law makes a snide remark. You manage to remain calm, and react with grace.

Later, when alone with your spouse, you replay the comment and share pride in combating the yetzer hara. As you recount the conversation, you suddenly become upset about the comment and agitated with your spouse for not validating you. Now, you are stewing. Bam! The yetzer hara has attacked again.

What we don’t realize about The Double Whammy is that the initial comment was just the set-up. The conversation with your spouse was the second slam, and the real test. Now your shalom bayit is compromised, a victory for the yetzer hara.

Other times, we fail the set-up, which puts us in a negative frame of mind. This leaves us vulnerable for the yetzer hara to attack when we are down.[2]

The yetzer hara, which works for Hashem, is merely doing its job when it continually strikes and causes us to blunder. Whenever we are tested, we must be prepared for The Double Whammy, and strengthen ourselves to do Hashem’s will. I have prepared three battle plans to help fight the yetzer hara and come out stronger.

Product Royalty

The Baal HaTanya explains that life is a battle between the animal soul and the spiritual soul. We struggle between both desires and are often willing to partake in spiritual pursuits so long as it does not interfere with our physical desires.

One way to bridge this gap between the higher and lower soul is by utilizing the concept of “product loyalty.” Product loyalty is the phenomenon of a consumer showing devotion to a product through repeated purchases, despite alternate companies’ attempts to lure them away.[3]

Studies show that when a customer chooses a product such as dish soap, it is extremely hard for a competitor to persuade a switch to their brand. Most clients will simply stay with what is known and comfortable. It is hard to steer away from whatever we are immersed in.

When we surround ourselves with something enjoyable that is physical, it’s much harder to leave that physicality for something spiritual. The reverse is true as well. Rebbetzin Sarah Yocheved Rigler shares the following example. Imagine you are at the Western Wall and ushering in Shabbat with a packed crowd. Singing and dancing fill the air, and the warmth and joy of each person connecting is indescribable. Suppose while everyone is praying in unison, someone calls out from the group, “Hurry! I just found out about a sale at Saks Fifth Avenue! 30% off their entire website!” How many people would race to leave the spirituality of the moment to pursue something more physical? Not a huge percentage. Product loyalty dictates that we will stay right where we are.

Conversely, when you are in the midst of a massive sale at a department store, after spotting a beautiful, modest dress at a perfect price, it would be hard to drop the dress to join a tehillim gathering.

It is hard to pull away from whatever we are “loyal” to at the moment. Surround yourself with spirituality to induce “product loyalty” to Hashem’s mitzvot. If we keep this in mind, the yetzer hara is at a disadvantage when trying to entice us to fail.[4]

Lofty Goal Exposure

The more frequently we are exposed to an advertisement, the more impact it can have on our psyche.[5] This behavior goes beyond marketing—the more we see anything, the more we desire it. We can make this work to our advantage in the spiritual realm. Consider placing magnets on the fridge to remind ourselves not to speak lashon hara or to increase emunah. Seeing this repeatedly has a psychological impact on our actions.

Expose yourself to greatness by reading stories of gedolim or creating a group of friends whose priorities are chessed and Torah. Through these examples, we can increase our exposure to the actions of lofty people and their goals, which in turn empowers our yetzer tov to achieve them.

Hashem is Always Watching

Pirkei Avot writes, “Know before whom you stand and will have to give accounting to.”

When my husband and I lived in New York, we placed hidden cameras throughout our home for security. One evening while watching the footage, we discovered that our housekeeper took the liberty of drinking straight from our gallon of juice, only to place the large carton right back in the fridge! Next, she laid down on the couch to rest—for four hours! Even though we were not physically at home, we were watching everything.

Although Hashem is not physically present in our lives, He is watching and guiding our every move.

The Shema, which testifies that Hashem is the one and only G-d in the universe, expresses this idea. The last letter of shema, ayin, and the last letter of echad, daled, spell the word “eid”—witness. Hashem is our witness and sees our every move; therefore, we must act accordingly.

Product loyalty, lofty goals, and remembering Hashem is watching are some of the greatest assets we have in combating the yetzer hara during times of difficulty. These tools can help us view our Torah observance as a relationship rather than just a responsibility. We might still be paying a high sum, but the mitzvot we acquire will make it feel like we are getting a steal of a deal.

We are all battling, but with these techniques in mind, we can start winning and begin viewing mitzvot like the diamonds that they are.

[1] Sarah Yocheved Rigler, Emunah with Love and Chicken Soup, pg. 105

[2]Heller and Rigler, Battle Plans, pg. 271


[4] Heller and Rigler, Battle Plans, Pg. 225