Parshas Matos/Masei

The Secret is Out!


“When you enter the Land of Israel you should drive out all its inhabitants… for if you don’t then those who remain will be pins in your eyes”. (Bamidbar 33:55)

There is a fable from the 1800’s describing what happens when you put a frog into boiling water. The premise is that if a frog is put suddenly into boiling water, it will jump out. However, if the frog is put in warm water which is then brought to a boil slowly, it will not perceive the danger. The frog will then be cooked to death.

Sun Tzu was a Chinese general and military strategist who lived in the sixth century, before the common era., His book, The Art of War, was the most important military treatise in Asia for the last two thousand years. Sun Tzu wrote, “The clever combatant imposes his will on the enemy but does not allow the enemy’s will to be imposed on him”. What enables the good general to strike and conquer, and achieve things beyond the reach of ordinary men? It is knowledge of the enemy’s dispositions, and what he means to do.

We are in a battle, every second of our lives, with the Satan, the Evil Inclination. He never rests but is always thinking of strategies to ensnare us. If we know some of those strategies in advance, we can help protect ourselves from sinning.

One of his strategies of the Evil Inclination is to slowly chip-away at us-like the frog in the fable- until we fall into sin. He will entice us to do a very small sin by saying, “It’s not such a big deal…. Everyone is doing it… You are a good person; this little thing won’t matter- Hashem will overlook it”. Then the Evil Inclination will entice us to do a slightly bigger sin – almost imperceptibly. Before we know it, he gets us to do a very big sin, without our even realizing it. Had the Evil Inclination tried to get us to do that big sin right away, we would have been able to withstand the temptation. However, since he worked on us, in small steps, we succumbed. It’s like water constantly dripping on a rock. After a long time, it bores a hole into the rock.

In Parshas Masai, Hashem told the Jewish people, “When you enter the Land of Israel you should drive out all its inhabitants… for if you don’t then those who remain will be pins in your eyes”. The Ramban explains, they will be like a bribe that blinds the wise (and makes even the wise incapable of fair judgement). They will cause you to err and eventually you will serve idols and turn away from Hashem.

The Rosh haYeshiva of Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim, Rav A. Henach Leibowitz zt”l, asked the following: The people we are speaking about were great and righteous. A bribe to a judge may blind his partiality in a court case. But what is the comparison here? How can it cause the Jews to serve idols? The Rosh haYeshiva explained the Ramban. In this case, we aren’t speaking about monetary bribes but the influence of environment and society. If the Jews ignore Hashem and don’t send out the inhabitants, then the inhabitants will have a corrupting influence on the Jews. It will happen subtly and slowly. It will not be noticeable at first. Then it will spread and eventually lead these great people to serve idols.

An awareness of the Evil Inclination’s strategy can protect us.
As soon as we feel a slight slipping, we should be on guard, quickly stopping it before it “snowballs”.

Don’t let the Evil Inclination make a frog out of you!