Friday, September 18, 2015

Trivial Pursuits

Photo Luis Beltran

by Rabbi Yisrael Bronstein

"For I know its inclination" [Vayelech 31:21]

A man's yetzer hara schemes against him all the days of his life and tries to make him stray from the path of Torah. It is man's duty to use every strategy at his disposal in order to defeat him.

To what can this be compared? The Chofetz Chaim offered the following parable:

There were two countries that had been waging war for many years. One day, the king of one of the countries declared that whoever could resolve the dispute between the two countries and achieve peace would receive a very great reward - an opportunity to enter the king's vaults and take whatever he is able to amass in the duration of one hour.

A short while later, a certain wise man approached the king and proposed a solution to end the warfare. The king liked the plan very much and decided to use it. Eventually, peace was restored between the two countries and, as promised, the wise man was invited to the king's vaults to collect his reward.

However, when the day of reward drew near, the king became concerned: Perhaps the wise man would take the most precious treasures in his vault. The king turned to his advisers for suggestions on how to protect his treasures.

"Your highness" said one of the advisers, "I happened to discover that this man loves music. Why doesn't the king simply place the kingdom's finest orchestra inside the vault? When the man arrives, the musicians will start playing music that will enrapture him; he will be so mesmerized by the music that he will entirely forget about the king's treasures!"

The king was very pleased with the idea.

When the wise man arrived at the palace, he was immediately taken to the king's vaults. The heavy gates to the vaults were opened, and the wise man took a step inside. But as he made his way to the riches, he was frozen in his place. For emanating from inside the vault was the sweetest sounding music he had ever heard.

The wise man awoke from his trance and reminded himself why he had come. He took another step in the direction of the riches and tried looking through the treasures, but the beautiful music kept distracting him.

"I will only listen to these beautiful tunes for one more moment." said the wise man. But one moment quickly turned into two, then three and four...

Do not forget why you came here! he shouted at himself. But the music was simply too enchanting.

"The time is up!" announced a royal officer. The hour had passed.

"But I haven't taken anything yet." said the man.

"Nothing you say will make a difference now" replied the officer. "Your time has passed!" The man returned home sad and despondent over the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that he had squandered. Everything had been in his hands, but he let it all slip away.

So it is in our own lives, said the Chofetz Chaim. Man receives a very special gift from Hashem. Over the course of his life he is given the opportunity to amass innumerable mitzvos.

However, the "evil adviser" - the yetzer hara - offers his "advice" and seduces man with trivialities that draw him away from Torah and mitzvos.

But then, when man reaches the end of his days and is summoned before the Heavenly court, he is painfully reminded of how he wasted his precious time, choosing to indulge in listening to worthless "music". By then, however, it will be too late.

It is incumbent upon every individual to constantly remind himself why he has come to this world. Let him not allow the yetzer hara to distract him from his true task.


Yisrael K said...

Moshiach video

Anonymous said...

Heard this story many times! But by the zechut of the holy Chafetz Chaim this time I understood it like never before!
Thank you Devorah for the post.