Thursday, May 23, 2024

Megillah 25: Tempering the Fire

On this daf, we find some teachings about idolatry.

The Gemara tells us that when the sages disabled the evil inclination for idolatry, a lion of fire emerged from the Kodesh Hakodoshim. Rav Nosson of Breslov explains that this lion alludes to animal desires, which can also generate holy enthusiasm. We don’t need to deny these desires, but they must be sublimated to holiness and used for the good. We are commanded to marry and have children—it is no mitzvah to avoid this relationship. Quite the contrary, this is one of the greatest mitzvos. It is the first step to partnering with Hashem and attaining perfection.

Rav Nachman of Breslov teaches that the difference between using our material natures positively and negatively is not quantitatively. Whatever one’s attitude, one acts in approximately the same manner: We all need to eat, fulfill the mitzvah to procreate, etc. But one’s primary focus is either on fulfilling Hashem’s will or on selfish pleasure. That is where the difference lies.

In Avos, our sages say, “Strengthen yourself like a lion while serving the Creator.” This alludes to overcoming the destructiveness of misused physical desire. In order to focus the inner lion of fire, we first must learn patience. We need to be happy with ourselves, with who we are right now, even as we yearn for so much more (Otzar Hayirah).

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