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    A fter years of research, the Rebbe of Radzin zy”a believed he found the blue techeiles dye, which could be used for tzitzis. To verify his claim, the Rebbe of Radzin traveled to Rome. He wanted to see the color of techeiles in the kohen gadol’s clothing, which is stored in the Vatican. Getting into the Vatican wasn’t a simple matter. After much effort, the Vatican finally allowed him to visit the Vatican’s basement, to see the cohen gadol’s clothing, if he would first play and win two chess games against professional chess champions. The Rebbe thought of a plan which would enable him to win both games. He said that he wants to play both games simultaneously. Two games were set up in two adjacent rooms. He told the first opponent that he wants to play black. White goes first, so his opponent took a white pawn and made the first move. The rebbe didn’t respond to this move. He went into the next room, this time playing white, and copied the move of his first opponent. He watched carefully to see how the second opponent will respond. When the second opponent moved his pawn, he returned to the first room, to copy that move. Now he watched to see how the first opponent will react, and he repeated what he saw in the next room. In this manner, he won both chess games. We learn from this story determination. The Rebbe traveled all the way to Rome to verify his techeiles, and wasn’t daunted by the obstacles put in his way. We brought this story here, in order to draw an analogy on how one should battle the yetzer hara. When one battles with the yetzer hara, he needs wisdom to succeed. He should develop wise strategies in order to overcome him and win. Once, many years ago, someone claimed that he knew astrology. “Ask me your questions and concerns about the future, and I will tell you what the stars say!” he advertised. Many people came to him, paid the price he requested, and he would tell them what he claimed to know from the stars. People flocked to this stargazer and fortune teller and this kindled the king’s anger. The king thought that the self-proclaimed astrologer was just making up things, and he didn’t really see anything in the stars. So the king summoned the astrologer to come to his palace. Before the astrologer arrived, the king said to one of his soldiers, “When I give you the signal, shoot the astrologer in the head.” TorahWellsprings- Vayi shl ac h When the astrologer came in, the king said to him, “I understand that you know the future. Maybe you can tell me the date that you will die?” The astrologer was wise, and he understood what the king was plotting. “Honored king,” the astrologer began, “no one in the world can answer this question, because the date of one’s death is concealed from all mankind. But there is one thing that I do know. The day that I die will be exactly three days before the king will die.” The king, startled by the answer, quickly changed his plans. He feared that maybe, possibly, this astrologer really did know how to read the stars. The astrologer’s wisdom saved him from certain death. He also earned special protection, because the king ordered his soldiers to watch over the astrologer, to protect him from all harm. This story also reminds us that we must be wise in our battle against the yetzer hara. It teaches us to use our enemy, the yetzer hara, to turn him around to become our protection, just as the fortune teller changed the king who plotted to kill him and turned him to become his protector. As Abaya would often say, “le’olam yehei adam arum beyirah — a person should always be crafty and wise with his fear of heaven” (Brachos 17.). The battle against the yetzer hara is not a simple one, and one must muster wisdom and seek strategies and ways to overcome him and win.

    Know your Enemy

    When one is at war, two conditions are essential, for winning: 1) One must know who his enemy is, because if the enemy is camouflaged, one doesn’t know to be wary from him, and one cannot counterattack him. (Incidentally, this is the difficulty the world is facing right now in its war against terror. One never knows who the enemy is, and where the next attack will come from.) 2) One must develop strategies. The yetzer hara uses wisdom in his attempt to conquer us, and a person cannot win him without a plan. The Rebbe of Radzin thought of a wise plan to win the chess games, and lehavdil, the astrologer thought of a wise thing to say and was saved. Similarly, our battle against the yetzer hara should include wisdom, strategies, schemes and tactics. Without them, people fail. The problem is that the yetzer hara is also aware of the importance of these two points, and therefore, it prevents people from (1) knowing that he is around (2) and when people are aware of him, the yetzer hara prevents them from thinking matters through carefully, and from finding counsel how they can overcome him. In this week’s parashah, Yaakov Avinu battled with an angel. This angel, Chazal tell us, was none other than the yetzer hara.1 Yaakov Avinu was victorious and then Yaakov said, “hagidah na shmecha — tell me your name” (32:30). The angel replied, “lamah zeh tishal lishmi — why are you asking my name?” The Kedushas Tzion zy”a (Bobov) explains that the yetzer hara didn’t want to say his name, because his strength is when he is concealed and people do not know that he is there. No one, not even a fool, desires to listen to the yetzer hara who seeks to harm us. But the yetzer hara deceives people, because he tells them that an aveirah is a mitzvah. People aren’t aware that he is the one who is giving them the counsel. Therefore, the yetzer hara didn’t want to tell Yaakov Avinu his name. His strength comes from his ambiguity. Let’s take this a step further: Why did Yaakov want to know the yetzer hara’s name? A name describes the essence of its bearer. Yaakov Avinu wanted to know the yetzer hara’s name in order to understand its essence. Because by understanding the enemy – his techniques and ways – one can develop strategies to overcome him. The yetzer hara answered, “lamah zeh tishal lishmi — why are you asking my name?” We can explain that the yetzer hara wasn’t avoiding the question; he was answering it. The yetzer hara was saying, “My name – or more accurately, my mode of luring people to sin – is by saying, ‘Why are you asking my name?’” The yetzer hara keeps people busy and preoccupied, and steals their peace of mind, until it is very difficult to think about the yetzer hara and his ways, and to find strategies to overcome him. The primary scheme of the yetzer hara is when it tells people, “Why are you asking my name, who I am, and how you can overcome me? Just think about other matters, and don’t think about me.” With this, the yetzer hara becomes invincible. But if we can find the time to discover the tactics of the yetzer hara, and to seek plans to scheme against him, we can easily win over him.