A Simple Mussar Technique

There are infinite facets to Torah and we have complex relationships with it.  Ideally, we’re supposed to use Torah in order to better and refine the world, both Olam Gadol, the macrocosm of the universe and Olam Katan, the microcosm, also known as Man.  Ideally, when we work on one we simultaneously benefit the other.

While it trivializes Torah, which means much more than our book of historical and ethical heritage, to turn Torah into a self-help, pop-psychology gimmick, Torah does, indeed, have the power to help us refine and strengthen ourselves.

All of us have our challenges, our yetzer harah, urges towards evil.  (In fact, learning to resist its call is one of our greatest spiritual opportunities, as well as challenges, as it gives equal weight to both options facing us at any one time, insuring that we truly do have Bechirah, “free” will.)  Almost all of us have an array of self-destructive appetites in one arena or another, ranging from addiction through compulsion through everyday desire.  They’re most often observed in the realms of food and sex, both realms of sensual pleasure, but can also manifest in power/control issues as well as others.  They are rarely easy to permanently overcome and each combination of person/appetite requires a different level and approach of response in order to transform them into non-negative forms.

This isn’t a comprehensive, fix-all technique, but it can be effective.  Other than possibly allowing disappointment when it’s not immediately “fulfilled”, I don’t think it can bring real harm.

When I have the presence of mind, the first thing I try to ask myself when I find myself drawn into a self-destructive pleasure (my biggest enemy, by the way, is carbohydrates which I very well know act like poison in my metabolism) is if I really believe that The Creator is powerless to present, presumably in a safe, healthy and growth-ful manner, the pleasure I think I need to provide myself in a less healthy way?

Ultimately, like in so much of our lives, it comes to faith.  And shifting our reliance from our often-inflated egos to God.

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