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“Man has been placed in the midst of a raging battle. All affairs of the world, whether they are good or bad, are trials to man: Poverty on the one hand and wealth on the other; serenity on the one hand and suffering on the other. The battle rages from both sides. If he is victorious on all sides, then he can become a ‘Whole Man.’”

(R’ Moshe Chaim Luzzato, Mesilas Yeshorim)

THE “RAGING BATTLE” of life surrounds us every moment, every day. Good and bad, suffering and serenity, health and illness, all challenge us alike. How should a person react to life’s tests—to nisyonos? Why, indeed, are we subjected to these never-ending tests? And, perhaps most important, how can we emerge victorious in this lifelong battle, so that we become, as the Mesilas Yeshorim says, “whole?”

The force behind the challenge—
and our power to overcome it

There is a force within us that creates these challenges. It brings the rich to miserliness and the poor to despair, the suffering to doubt and the untroubled to complacency. It possesses the power to take each human condition and turn it into a test of faith and strength. It is the Yetzer Hora—the evil inclination, the unwelcome guest in the soul of every human being. It is the inclination with the power—and the purpose—to challenge us to sin. The time will come when the Yetzer Hora will lose its power. The Gemara tells us that at the end of days, Hashem will slaughter the Yetzer Hora in front of the tzaddikim, the righteous, and in front of the resho’im, the evil. In the Olam HaEmes, the World of Truth, the Yetzer Hora will appear in its true form, unmasked by human misinterpretation. Still, it will appear in different forms to different people.

To the tzaddik, the Yetzer Hora will appear as a mighty mountain, and to the rosha, as a thin hair-like strand. But in the World of Truth, both the righteous and the evil will know beyond a doubt that what he sees is the very force that has challenged him throughout his life. And, interestingly, the Gemara tells us that both tzaddik and rosha will cry at the sight.

How can it be, asks Rabbi Kolonymus Kalman, the Me’or V’Shemesh, that the same entity, the Yetzer Hora, will appear so differently to different people? How can the tzaddik see it as a mountain and the rosha as a hair?

It is because each person will see the Yetzer Hora as the challenges he was presented with. The tzaddik, presented throughout life with difficult tests, will see the mountain of challenges he overcame. He will recall the trials and tests he faced, each one meted out to him according to his ability to overcome it. He will understand the power of his faith, and the way each test strengthened it to massive proportions. And when faced with the greatness of his efforts, the har govoha—the mighty mountain he battled, he will cry, overwhelmed with emotion at his success.

Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser is a noted author, lecturer, and Rabbi of K’hal Bais Yitzchok, Brooklyn, New York.


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Acknowledgments Introduction Testimonies Photo Gallery 1 Reflections from Nancy's Mother