Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!

Genesis 4:3-7:

In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel for his part brought of the firstlings of his flock, their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is lurking at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.”

“He who obeys his inclination is like an idolater. “There shall be no strange gods in thee” (Psalm 81:10) means, Make not the stranger in you your ruler!”
- Yannai (Jerusalem Talmud: Nedarim 9.1)

“Torah, prayer and the contemplation of death will help you in your struggle against the Evil Inclination.”
- Simeon ben Lakish (Talmud: Berakot 5a)

I was intrigued by a program put together by one of my former medical student's synagogue as a discussion topic prior to the High Holy Days. The discussion was based on an old episode of Star Trek. It couldn't be embedded, but you can watch it here.

Tamudic wisdom talks about how each person lives a delicate balance between the Yetzer Harah (the evil inclination that lives in each of us) and the Yetzer Hatov (the good inclination that lives in each of us.)

This episode of Star Trek, "The Enemy Within," really emphasizes this interplay. Short version of the episode:

In a transporter malfunction, Capt. Kirk becomes "two Kirks"--a good one and a wicked one. The bad one gets into a lot of trouble. But we discover two interesting surprises. The first is that the "good Kirk" finds himself unable to totally behave as the captain of the Enterprise ought to behave--it is actually the "bad Kirk" who has many of the qualities that temper Kirk's ability to command a ship. The other is that both Kirks are becoming weaker disconnected from each other. Ultimately, Scotty has to figure out some fancy transporter manipulation to "put the Kirks back together."

But what really struck me in this episode, despite the fact I probably have seen it a hundred times and I figured there was "nothing new to see" was that it is the "good Kirk" that tells the "bad Kirk," "Don't be afraid," as they are trying to figure out how to put the two Kirks back into one. When both the Kirks go back into the transporter to be re-united, it is the "good Kirk" who is holding up the "bad Kirk," who, by now, is too weak to stand on his own.

Don't be afraid.

How many times in the Bible do we see that the first thing out of an angel's mouth, when they appear to humans, is "don't be afraid?"

But as I watched this episode with a spiritual eye, a few things popped into my head.

One is that the saint in us needs the sinner in us to bear the things that are not easy to bear--to shoulder responsibility, to stand in the gap, to go against the grain. If we were only made of saint stuff, we would not be stubborn enough to endure.

The other is that it is actually the sinner in us that actually feels fear, not the saint. It was "good Kirk" who had to tell "bad Kirk," "Don't be afraid."

Spock, of course, finds this all "fascinating."

It made me think about how we so often, when we have done wrong, and are asking forgiveness of our sins, have a tendency to want that forgiveness to be manifested in the removal of our "bad half." We want to be more Yetzer HaTov and less Yetzer Harah. Yet if we got our wish, we might not be capable of what our Yetzer HaTov desires.

We'd be better off asking simply for our two halves to be in harmony with each other.

Without our Yetzer Harahs, how would our Yetzer HaTovs know what was right and act upon it? Without our Yezher HaTovs, we would simply be at the mercy of all our selfish desires.

It really twists things up, doesn't it?

One without the other weakens us and makes us less whole.

I thought about all those times in my life that I basically asked God to erase my selfishness, my coveting, my stiff-necked-ness. It was a mistake. A person can't repent, can't turn from evil and towards good, unless we have within us what we need to turn FROM. Otherwise, there's no reference point.

It's interesting that when we go back to the Genesis Adam/Eve story, when Eve ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, it says "her eyes were opened." Open and receptive to seeing both saints and sinners. It was a necessary skill.

How could we ever know the goodness of God if we knew nothing about evil--really knew? Yet our knowledge of evil is what helps us see what's truly good.

I also thought about how those fears and uncertainties creep up on our lives, and we don't even consider for a minute that our fear is not the good in us feeling threatened--it's the bad in us that feels threatened. Our personal "good" doesn't fight "bad" but instead learns to coexist. When properly controlled, the "evil" in us is useful in the activation of the "good in us."

We innately desire "wholeness," I believe, but that happens only if we can sit with all the bad parts of us and make peace with both our halves. To fully be free of fear, as one of God's people, walking in his Light--it means we need to understand it is the "bad half" of us that is afraid, and it is up for our "good halves" to be comfortable enough with our own dark side to hold him or her to ourselves and agree that both halves of us, are, indeed one.

St. Augustine put it another way--"Hope has two daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger that things are the way they are. Courage to make them the way they ought to be."


Spent all my time reading and pondering again, so I leave a comment that says little besides "wow" and "thank you!"

And L'shanah tovah!

Thanks...never thought about this. ears ago, I discovered the harder I tried to be good, the worse I became So I gave up. Our deal. I pursue Him, He transforms me. My two selves war within me. If I take away their swords or ammunition, they have no choice but to coexist.

I will have to chew on this some more....

Same sort of problem with me. Trying to "be good" just never seems to work...and even me at my happiest is just a little onery. I'm a person of the snappy comeback and the quick wit. I realize that "wit" is my Yetzer Harah living within the bounds of my Yetzer HaTov! Unchecked I would be cynical and angry and bitter. Checked, I'm pretty darn witty and funny and make others laugh at the times they need it!



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I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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