“The Spice of Life”
The LubavitcherRebbe once said that the weekly parsha gives us advice on how to approach the challenges we face during that week. As we are currently on our second Shabbos of consolation after TishaB’Av an appropriate message would be one that helps us rebuild our relationship with the Creator that we had lost over the period of the Three Weeks.However, when we look to this week’s portion through the eyes of our sages, the message seems quite peculiar.
In the second paragraph of kriasshema, which is read in this week’s parsha, the torah states "You shall place these words of Mine upon your heart..." (11:18). The Talmud interprets “vesamtem" - "you shall place" as "vesam tam" - "a perfect elixir."The Talmud goes on to explain that the torah is the spice for the yetzerhara, our evil inclination. This interpretation assumes that the main focus is the yetzerhara and the torah is just an afterthought. How can we fit this idea with our general understanding that torah takes center stage in our religious identity?
Rabbi Yochanan Zweig explains that our sages are teaching us a powerful lesson about the greatness of the yetzerhara. We understand the yetzerhara to be our evil inclination, but fundamentally, the yetzerhara is a more powerful tool. It is the source of all of our drives in every facet of our lives. It is what provides us with strength and an awareness of our God-given potential. However, when used alone, the yetzerhara can make us reckless. Or worse, because it makes acutely aware of how great our potential is, we try to drown out that awareness with distractions and meaningless pursuits.
This is where the torah's role as a spice for the yetzerhara comes in. The torah is the tool which can help us actualize the potential we’ve been given and help us focus our drives toward positive, productive pursuits.
Coming off of the three weeks that lead to TishaB’Av, we feel a desire to refocus ourselves and reevaluate our goals. We were lost because we allowed ourselves to be overcome by our yetzerhara, just like the Jewish people in the times of the temple had their struggles with the yetzerhara. As we continue the weeks of consolation that lead from TishaB’av to Rosh Hashana, let us take the lessons of the torah and continue our personal growth and increase our closeness to Hashem. May continued progress in proper focusing of our potential help us to rectify the sins that are preventing us from having the BeisHamikdash, and may it be rebuilt with the ultimate redemption, speedily and in our days.
Have a great Shabbos.