Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim – Associate Rosh Yeshiva – PTI – Passaic Torah Institute – Parsha Acharei Mot-Kedoshim – How To Deal With The Satan

Some of us feel a little strange discussing Yom Kippur in the springtime. What’s the connection between Yom Kippur and Acharei Mos? Rav Dessler helps to resolve the dichotomy by showing how the lessons of the Yom Kippur service apply each day of the year.

One of the central parts of Yom Kippur in the Beis Hamikdash was the service with the two goats. Two identical goats were selected and brought into the Beis Hamikdash. Lots were then drawn. One was sacrificed and its blood was sprinkled inside the Holy of Holies, while the other goat called Seir l’Azazel (the goat for Azazel) was led to a distant precipice and cast off the steep rocky cliff.  

Why specifically on Yom Kippur do we cast a goat off a cliff? The Ramban brings the Zohar which tells us the Azazel goat was a bribe to the Satan. Certainly, it’s timely to learn a piece from the Zohar, as this week is Lag Baomer, which marks the yahrzeit of Rebbe Shimon Bar Yochai – the author of the Zohar. A bribe to the Satan!! What is that supposed to mean?

I believe the following is a good analogy to help us understand the concept that Rav Dessler says the Zohar is alluding to. As a boy, I was very interested in the martial arts. Martial arts help harness our energy and deliver focused strikes. One doesn’t need to be muscular to defend himself from a strong opponent. Many forms exist, but the method I liked most was Akido, which uses the opponent’s own energy to gain control over him.

This is an analogy to our everyday encounter with the yetzer harah(evil inclination), the force inside us which is constantly attempting to ensnare us in its evil web. Rav Dessler explains there are two methods one can take to defend oneself. The first is a head-on approach, using strong willpower to overcome our urges and temptations. The challenge with this method is it’s very difficult to constantly go head-on. In a moment of weakness, we are likely to find ourselves flat on the floor before we even realize what happened.

The other method is to bribe to the Satan–the Seir to Azazel–by using the yetzer harah’s own tricks against itself. The approach of the yetzer harah is often to convince us to do something small, with its goal to slowly desensitize the person and to keep increasing the bad deed. Sometimes, it presents an “opportunity” as urgent, something that must be done immediately! We can, however, appease the Satan by saying “yes” I will do what you are asking … in a few minutes. We can therefore push it off indefinitely. This diffuses the impulse, using the yetzer harah’s own tactics against it.

We can use this Akido-like strategy when we are being tempted to sleep late, or to say a sharp comment, or to check our phone during davening. True, we can go head-on by saying “no”, but we can use the appeasement approach by saying “yes” … in a few minutes. A friend of mine employed a variation on this tactic. He really enjoyed steak dinners, but he also wanted to learn more. So, he resolved that every time he would complete a Gemara, he would grill the choicest steaks. The Satan heard “eating steaks”, but my friend used this potentially base motivation for the higher goal of learning Torah. He delayed it with learning Gemara first. This approach helped him to complete many masechtos of Gemara.

This whole approach, says Rabbi Hirsch, is alluded to in the word Azazel. The word Azazel is a hybrid of two words. Az – strong – and Azal – to move. We should utilize the strength of our opponent to move forward in a positive direction.

In many years, including the current one, Parshas Acharei Mos is read together with Parshas Kedoshim. Upon closer examination, we see the two are linked by our above concept. Kedusha is not accomplished by abstinence, but utilizing both our strengths and weaknesses for a special purpose that is noble and brings us closer to Hashem. On Shabbos, we eat our best foods and drink our best wines. On Yom Tov, we wear our finest clothes. On Seder night, we fill our table with silver and crystal. We utilize our opponent’s energy to propel us forward, by transforming what could be materialistic into holy acts to honor the Almighty.

Let us resolve to not let our yetzer harah control us, but rather to use its cunning for holy accomplishment.

Aleeza Ben Shalom – Dating Foreigners

Q: I am not from the United States. I speak English well but it is not my first language. I am finding this to be a bigger problem than I expected. First, not everyone understands my accent perfectly, which makes first-time phone calls/dates much more difficult. But that isn’t the only issue. Even though some of my dates find my accent – and my background – to be new, exciting, intriguing, they don’t realize that it isn’t just a cute way of talking, but an entirely different approach to life. I find that in other countries there is a totally different “normal” for family expectations, financial expectations, even emotional expectations. I am having trouble bridging this gap with the people I date. Am I a lost cause? Do people need to be from similar cultural backgrounds to connect with each other?

A Foreigner

Dear Foreigner,

Don’t despair just yet. You’re not a lost cause. While it is true that couples from similar backgrounds may have it easier at times, there are plenty of couples who are from different countries and end up happily married. All relationships take time to develop.

You specifically mentioned that dating over the phone can be challenging. I would agree with you that it’s not ideal for you to start dating over the phone. If you meet someone at an event or online, it’s best that you find a way to get an in-person date and skip the get-to-know-each-other phone calls. You’re in a similar position to someone who stutters. For anyone who has challenges or differences with speech, it’s important the first time you get to know someone it is in-person. Perhaps once you get to know your date you could then transition to having a phone date once in a while. For the beginning, though, it may be best to set up your date via email or text if you’re finding it challenging to be on the phone.

Understanding a person’s accent is one challenge; another challenge will be understanding what someone means or getting them to understand what you’re trying to say. Even people from the same country who speak the same language have to learn how to communicate clearly with each other.

Communication issues, while common in relationships, are more common with people from different countries. It’s sometimes hard, as you know, for the non-native speaker to get across what they mean. You may also have trouble understanding phrases, slang or colloquialisms. While these issues can be frustrating at first, in time they become easier, especially as you two begin to understand each other at a deeper level.

As you said, some people may think you being “exotic” or different isn’t a big deal, while others find it exciting. From your accent to cultural differences, yes, these things can be a challenge. There will be many differences that come up over time, and you and your date will need to carefully navigate how you deal with those differences. Family integration, financial preferences, emotional connections – these are things you’ll need to pay extra attention to.

The best way to bridge the gap is not to assume anything. Don’t assume you know how your partner will react or what your partner’s preferences are. The more different you are, the less you will understand about how the other person thinks or what they prefer. Of course, in time you’ll get to understand their way of thinking and know their preferences, so don’t worry; the relationship isn’t a lost cause. But at the beginning you’ll have to do more work to build the relationship and really understand your partner.

However, if what you’re really asking is: “How can I be understood by dates who seem to come in with assumptions about me?” then the answer is different. You may need to be choosier about who you date, and try to focus on finding people who share more ideas and expectations with you. Also, you should trust your instincts; if you feel someone is a true mismatch, don’t pursue the relationship.

May you have an easier time with dating and may you and your date be willing to put in the time to get to know each other at a deeper level.

Originally published on Aish.com.