10/09/2006

The Yetzer Hara to Teach Torah

I’ve got a terrible yetzer hara to teach. That one of the reasons I started this blog, after all. I’ve got ideas, and I want to share them. This yetzer can be altruistic, but can also contain elements of hubris, desire for attention, recognition, or adulation, and even a desire to ‘control’ other people. Even if it’s altruistic, there a danger of trying to ‘monopolize’ the Torah, or to blur the lines between Torah and ‘what I think’, or to confuse my necessarily limited view of Torah with ‘what the Torah says’.

There are a number of ways to ‘deal’ with that yetzer and avoid its pitfalls, but I really can’t speak for others when talking about coping strategies. My assessment, and I could be totally off on this (but I don’t think so), is that most people with this yetzer are in denial of its existence. As C.S. Lewis dramatizes in The Screwtape Letters (ADDeRabbi’s pick for ‘Best Mussar Sefer Ever’), the best way to tempt Man is to have him believe he’s not being tempted. I’ll reserve my list of ‘dos and don’ts’ for another time.

There’s a new dilemma that this yetzer has presented, though – getting involved in teaching and speaking here in Modi’in. The ‘established’ presence in town is the B’nei Akiva circles – the Hesder Yeshiva, the Yeshiva High School, the elementary schools, girls high school, and shuls in that orbit. I’m not a card-carrying member of that basic R’ Kook-Mercaz ideology, so fat chance of breaking in to that circle. I can try setting up a different adult educational model, but that seems like something that would require more time, effort, and money than a hobby. Can’t afford that, so I’ll stick with blogging.

So I tried playing the ‘American’ card. There’s a communal ‘leil Hoshana Rabbah’ learning program sponsored by that nexus of institutions I just mentioned. I asked if I’d be able to give a shiur, and got a very cold response. Then I mentioned that there’s nothing in English for the extensive English-speaking population, which includes a number of guests for Yom Tov. And then the doors started opening. One person put me in touch with another, who put me in touch with the organizer, who basically handed me the job of organizing a parallel ‘English’ track.

OK, it’s a tad subversive; but it gets the foot in the door, and doesn’t undermine anyone. Would it be too much to have a female speaker?
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