A Mountain, a Molehill, or Your Most Important Next Step?

October 28, 2016 at 6:49 AM , ,

“…The serpent was cunning…” – Bereishit 3:1

והנחש היה ערום מכל חית השדה – בראשית ג, א

According to the Midrash, G-d’s decree not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge applied only on the 6th day of Creation, the day that Adam and Chava were created. With the onset of Shabbos that evening, the prohibition would have been removed (see Bereishis Rabbah 21:7). Moreover, per the Talmud’s account of the day’s events, when G-d gave the command only three hours remained until Shabbos. But an hour later Adam had already sinned (Sanhedrin 38b).


The fact that Adam—who heard the command directly from G-d—could not wait a mere three hours and disobeyed G-d’s simple instructions so quickly is nothing short of astonishing. We see from here, however, that man’s temptation to sin is not determined by how objectively difficult it is for him to abide by a particular law, but by how critical it is that he keep it. The greater the mitzvah’s urgency, the greater the efforts of the yetzer hara, “the evil inclination” tasked with inciting man to sin. Because the command not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge was of such colossal importance (as is evident from the dire consequences of his transgression), the yetzer hara, embodied here in the serpent (Zohar, Bereishis 35b), made even this easy, short-term prohibition too tempting for Adam to withstand.

The lesson this teaches us is obvious. When we find ourselves struggling with a particular observance or prohibition, regardless if its origins are Biblical, rabbinic, or merely Jewish custom, we must recognize that the difficulty is simply a mirage created by the yetzer hara. In fact, our temptation to transgress is the greatest indicator that at that moment, in that place, for us as individuals, it is the fulfillment of this mitzvah in particular that is absolutely crucial.


—Likutei Sichos, vol. 3, pp. 747-749

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