(ז) רַבִּי נַחְמָן בַּר שְׁמוּאֵל בַּר נַחְמָן בְּשֵׁם רַב שְׁמוּאֵל בַּר נַחְמָן אָמַר, הִנֵּה טוֹב מְאֹד, זֶה יֵצֶר טוֹב. וְהִנֵּה טוֹב מְאֹד, זֶה יֵצֶר רָע. וְכִי יֵצֶר הָרָע טוֹב מְאֹד, אֶתְמְהָא. אֶלָּא שֶׁאִלּוּלֵי יֵצֶר הָרָע לֹא בָּנָה אָדָם בַּיִת, וְלֹא נָשָׂא אִשָּׁה, וְלֹא הוֹלִיד, וְלֹא נָשָׂא וְנָתַן. וְכֵן שְׁלֹמֹה אוֹמֵר (קהלת ד, ד): כִּי הִיא קִנְאַת אִישׁ מֵרֵעֵהוּ.
(7) Rabbi Nahman said in Rabbi Samuel's name: 'Behold, it was good' refers to the Good Desire; 'And behold, it was very good' refers to the Evil Desire. (It only says 'very good' after man was created with both the good and bad inclinations, in all other cases it only says 'and God saw that it was good') Can then the Evil Desire be very good? That would be extraordinary! But without the Evil Desire, however, no man would build a house, take a wife and beget children; and thus said Solomon: 'Again, I considered all labour and all excelling in work, that it is a man's rivalry with his neighbour.' (Ecclesiastes 4:4).
The verse in the Torah states: And they cried with a loud voice to the Lord their God (Nehemiah 9:4). What was said? Rav said, and some say it was Rabbi Yoḥanan who said: Woe, woe. It is this, i.e., the evil inclination for idol worship, that destroyed the Temple, and burned its Sanctuary, and murdered all the righteous ones, and caused the Jewish people to be exiled from their land. And it still dances among us, i.e., it still affects us. Didn’t You gave it to us for solely for the purpose of our receiving reward for overcoming it. We do not want it, and we do not want its reward. We are prepared to forgo the potential rewards for overcoming the evil inclination as long as it departs from us. In response to their prayer a note fell to them from the heavens upon which was written: Truth, indicating that God accepted their request. The Gemara makes a parenthetical observation. Rav Ḥanina said: Learn from this that the seal of the Holy One, Blessed be He, is truth. In response to the indication of divine acceptance, they observed a fast for three days and three nights, and He delivered the evil inclination to them. A form of a fiery lion cub came forth from the chamber of the Holy of Holies. Zechariah the prophet said to the Jewish people: This is the evil inclination for idol worship, as it is stated in the verse that refers to this event: “And he said: This is the evil one” (Zechariah 5:8). The use of the word “this” indicates that the evil inclination was perceived in a physical form. When they caught hold of it one of its hairs fell, and it let out a shriek of pain that was heard for four hundred parasangs. They said: What should we do to kill it? Perhaps, Heaven forfend, they will have mercy upon him from Heaven, since it cries out so much. The prophet said to them: Throw it into a container made of lead and seal the opening with lead, since lead absorbs sound. As it is stated: “And he said: This is the evil one. And he cast it down into the midst of the measure, and he cast a stone of lead upon its opening” (Zechariah 5:8). They followed this advice and were freed of the evil inclination for idol worship. When they saw that the evil inclination for idol worship was delivered into their hands as they requested, the Sages said: Since it is an auspicious time, let us pray also concerning the evil inclination for sin in the area of sexual relationships. They prayed, and it was also delivered into their hands. Zechariah the prophet said to them: See and understand that if you kill this evil inclination the world will be destroyed because as a result there will also no longer be any desire to procreate. They followed his warning, and instead of killing the evil inclination they imprisoned it for three days. At that time, people searched for a fresh egg throughout all of Eretz Yisrael and could not find one. Since the inclination to reproduce was quashed, the chickens stopped laying eggs. They said: What should we do? If we kill it, the world will be destroyed. If we pray for half, i.e., that only half its power be annulled, nothing will be achieved because Heaven does not grant half gifts, only whole gifts. What did they do? They gouged out its eyes, effectively limiting its power, and set it free. And this was effective to the extent that a person is no longer aroused to commit incest with his close relatives. The Gemara returns to its discussion of the verse in Nehemiah cited above: In the West, i.e., Eretz Yisrael, they taught the debate concerning the verse “the Lord, the great God” as follows: Rav Giddel said: “Great” means that he ascribed greatness to Him by enunciating God’s explicit name. And Rav Mattana said: They reinserted the following appellations of God into their prayers: “The great, the mighty, and the awesome God” (Nehemiah 9:32).