The Yetzer HaRa and Yetzer HaTov

In Uriel Ben Mordechai’s new translation of Romans (principally from the earliest extant version we have, Papyrus 46 – circa 170 CE), we see the use of the Hebraic understanding of our nature consisting of two ‘hearts’, that is, of a fleshly heart and a spiritual heart; an evil inclination (the Yetzer haRa), and a good inclination, (the Yester HaTov).

http://www.above-and-beyond-ltd.com/store/books/if.html#kosher_paul

For much more on this and other Hebraic principles or Hebraisms, please see my articles on the Hebraic Mindset as circumcisedheart.info as well as my book ‘Doctrinal Pitfalls of Hellenism’.

Uriel essentially translates the Greek back into its Hebraic underpinning and perspective, and then into English (à la, Prof. David Flusser) so that the Yetzer haRa and Yetzer haTov are seen and explicitly referred to in Romans 2:17; 7:5; 8:4, 5, 6, 11,12,13, and in 8:26.
 Judaism understands from the Tanakh that man has two hearts, and two inclinations, an inclination to do good and an inclination to do bad. This Hebraic concept of ‘Yetzer HaRa’ and ‘Yetzer HaTov’ (the evil inclination and the good inclination) relates to the choice of the will to be faithful to God rather than follow the natural ‘lusts of the flesh’.
The origin of this understanding is that in Hebrew the singular for ‘heart’ (pronounced ‘lev’) is לב and the plural ‘hearts’ is sometimes spelt in more than one way such as לבבך or ֵלבבם or לבבות. If you look at the Sh’ma (starting at Deut 6:4) in a Hebrew Bible such as Hebrew-English Tanakh (Varda Books 2009) you will see the plural, לבבך in both verses 6 and 7.
This literally translates into English as: “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all your hearts, and with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words, which I command you this day, shall be upon your hearts …”
So some debate occurred within Israel religious scholars over the centuries about why the plural? The Talmud relates that their conclusion is that we have two hearts, a yetzer hatov and a yetzer hara (essentially a ‘fleshly heart’ and a ‘spiritual heart’). This is also clearly seen in the ‘Al Chet’ Prayer that is recited every Yom Kippur, where the 19th prayer is to pray for forgiveness “For the mistakes we committed before You with the Yetzer HaRa”.

Romans 8:4

Thus all who seek HaShem need to make the choice to follow the good heart rather than the fleshly heart. All who have ‘circumcised hearts’ are then aligning their ‘fleshly heart’ with their ‘spiritual heart’, and will inherit the Olam HaBah, the Kingdom of God.
The Apostle Paul calls the Torah spiritual in a number of places such as 1 Cor 10:3 and Romans 7:14. So for example, when Paul writes in 1 Cor 15:44 “It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.” he is speaking primarily on an individual basis of this choice that we all have – whether to be ‘born from above’, that is to follow our good inclination, to circumcise our hearts and have the ‘faith of Yeshua’ which is the ‘faith/faithfulness of Abraham’, or to remain alienated from God in allowing our ‘fleshly heart’ or evil inclination to lead us astray.
Mussar (Jewish ethics – see this short post for an introduction) teaches though that the ‘evil inclination’ is really also for our good because when recognized and alerted to, it can help us to recognize where our character falls short and what we need to correct to synchronize our ‘fleshly heart’ with our ‘spiritual heart’ so as to fully turn our whole being to HaShem.
So here is just two of the many references in Uriel’s translation:
Romans 8:4
“…so that the righteous verdict of the Torah can be satisfied in us who walk not in a manner conforming to “yetzer ha’rah,” but conforming to “yetzer ha’tov”.
Romans 8:
“6 The truth is that the perspective of the “yetzer ha’rah” is death, while the perspective of the “yetzer ha’tov” is life and shalom,
7 precisely because the mind bent on the tendency towards evil opposes G‑d with hostility. …”
Again, I strongly recommend Uriel’s version which can be purchased as a pdf from here –http://www.above-and-beyond-ltd.com/store/books/if.html#kosher_paul 

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Raised for a time such as this – the example of Hadassah

We read through the Book of Esther for Purim yesterday.

Despite having read or listened to the entire Bible at least 20 times over the last 10+ years, there is always a number of new insights (or perhaps restored (i.e. had forgot, now remember!) ones.
I saw a few in the Book of Esther yesterday.
One of the great quotes of wisdom in Esther is this:
“ For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14

I think this is a universal principle.

We are all given at least one, if not many unique opportunities in life to make a positive and significant difference. This situation (or situations) occurs where there is seemingly no-one else available to stand up and be counted, yet it always seems the situation requires a serious stepping out of our comfort zone, and most likely some serious risk to our job, our reputation, or relationships, or even our very freedoms.How many times might we even baulk and fail to make a stand. Yet the Almighty is most gracious. I believe He gives us another, and another, chance to show our true heart, to show that we really are His children, with His desire to see justice and mercy prevail.

And at the same time, the Almighty being all-powerful does not need us to make the stand, as He can always find another way. It is we who benefit, and perhaps as Mordechai states to Hadassah (Esther) here, perhaps we too face some serious negative consequences if we don’t ‘step up to the plate’.
So how do we prepare ourselves for this momentous times of challenge and times when we really grow to be all we were created to be. Hadassah had a challenging upbringing. Surely this helped her prepare for this moment. But she was also brought up in a household that clearly honoured the Almighty and sort to live by His Instructions (Torah), to be kind, respectful, gracious and holy. Surely this God-fearing environment helped her come to this moment in time and helped her to be ready to heed the call.
Another intriguing aspect that stood out was how the night before Queen Hadassah was to meet with her King and the evil Hamman, the King (perhaps under the subtle influence of the King of the Universe) could not sleep. With no TV and little other forms of entertainment, he decides to read the ‘Chronicles of the Kings’ (essentially the diary of the daily life of the King and his Kingdom).
Here he reads of the event where Mordechai saved him from the evil intentions of Bigthana and Teresh, two of the Kings eunuchs. This leads to the ‘tables being turned’ on Haman, who having expected to get a great blessing has to instead bestow it on Mordechai, a man who, as a result of Haman’s arrogance, he despises. What a sweet narrative for us to read – the good guy prevails!
And then note how, when Hadassah points the finger at the evil Haman, the King, rather than making a very hasty decision walks off into the garden to ponder the accusation and his response.
He must surely have been torn between his ‘right-hand’ man who had been for sometime his most loyal and trusted deputy, and this Mordechai whom he didn’t really know, but whom he had just ‘delighted to honour’.
So while the King paces in the garden, Hamman now recognizing out perilous his position has suddenly become, pleads profusely with Hadassah, to the point it appears of either getting on the couch with her or perhaps kneeling at her feet and laying his hands on her as he pleads for his life. The King re-enters and see’s Hamman before ‘forward’ with the Queen and assumes that he is in some way assaulting her.
… And the king said, “Will he even assault the queen in my presence, in my own house?” Esther 7:8
 
And notice how quick the eunuch Harbona, presumably one of the Queen’s attendees is quick to stand up for her and state to the King that Haman had made some gallows with which he had planned to hang Mordechai, that could now be used against Haman. Perhaps this eunuch was more prepared to make a stand himself because he was witness to the good character and God-fearing nature of Hadassah.
This is a great story!
 If you haven’t already read it this Purim, I recommend finding the time to do so, and especially, if possible do it in company.