Lessons From Las Vegas (The Parables of the Ben Ish Hai) – Mussar

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Once, the yetzer horah asked the yetzer tov for permission to entice a certain righteous man to go to a gambling casino – complete with a bar and disco. Having full confidence in the tzaddik, the yetzer tov agreed to the plan. And so one night, the tzaddik found himself in a Las Vegas hotel, amongst people out for the night to have a “good time”. He stayed for a while and then returned home.

When he got home he flung himself on his bed and starting weeping with great sobs. “What happened?” asked his wife. “I used to think that I served HaShem with a pure heart,” he cried, “that I learned Torah and performed Mitzvoth with a full measure of happiness and joy. But tonight I saw the way lighthearted people enjoy themselves in a casino. They sit around the table rolling the dice – with great desire and excitement – till the wee hours of the night. Never in my life did I learn Torah or do a Mitzvah with even a one tenth of the desire and excitement that they had!

Then I saw intelligent people watching a comedy routine. They laughed so hard that tears rolled down their cheeks. I never enjoyed learning Torah and doing Mitzvoth even a fraction as much they enjoyed the show. Then I saw men and women dancing together. They danced with all their strength and rejoiced at their total expenditure of energy. I never put that kind of energy into my Torah and Mitzvoth. So I am crying because I used to think that I served HaShem with great joy and enthusiasm. But now I now that my service to HaShem is on a very low level.

When the yetzer hora heard these words his heart nearly stopped beating. He realized that his plan backfired. Instead of alluring the tzaddik to partake in the earthly pleasures, the exposure to the casino motivated the tzaddik to repentance. Now, he would apply what he learned from seeing the joy that people have in pursuing their desires, and intensify his joy and enthusiasm in Torah and Mitzvoth!

We understand from this parable that it is important to learn from the powers of the yetzer hora, as well as, from the powers of good. The powers of the yetzer hora reveal to us the levels of joy and enthusiasm, as well as, the capacity of energy that people devote to activities that they enjoy doing. May our Torah and Mitzvoth be filled with the highest levels of joy and enthusiasm!

Today: Increase the level of joy in one Mitzvah that you do today.

Copyright © 2010 by Rabbi Zvi Miller and the Salant Foundation


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