Yetzer ha'Rah of Idolatry and Sex Yoma 69B

Talmud: Yoma 69B (This is a story about the time of Ezra & Nechemya– upon the return of Jews from exile in Babylon and Persia to Israel to rebuild the second Temple – approx. 500 – 400 BCE)

  1. "And [they] cried with a great [loud] voice unto the Lord, their God" (Nechemya 9).
  2. What did they cry? — Woe, woe, it is he (the yetzer ha'rah of idolatry) who has destroyed the Sanctuary, burnt the Temple, killed all the righteous, driven all Israel into exile, and is still dancing among us!
  3. You have surely given him to us so that we may receive reward through him.
  4. We want neither him, nor reward through him!
  5. Thereupon a note fell down from heaven for them, whereupon the word ‘truth’ was inscribed.
  6. (R. Hanina said: One learns from this that the seal of the Holy One, blessed be He, is truth).
  7. They ordered a fast of three days and three nights, whereupon he (the yetzer ha'rah of idolatry) was given over to them.
  8. He came forth from the Holy of Holies like a young fiery lion.
  9. Thereupon the Prophet said to Israel: This is the evil desire of idolatry….
  10. As they took hold of him, a hair of his beard fell out, he raised his voice and it went [was audible] four hundred “parsaot” (miles).
  11. Thereupon they said: How shall we act? Perhaps, God forbid, they might have mercy upon him from heaven! —
  12. The Prophet said unto them: Cast him into a leaden pot and close its opening with lead, because lead absorbs sound….
  13. They said: Since this is a time of grace, let us pray for mercy (to eliminate) the (evil) desire of sex.
  14. They prayed for mercy, and he was handed over to them.
  15. He said to them: Realize that if you kill him, the world ends.
  16. They imprisoned him for three days, then looked in the whole land of Israel for a fresh egg and could not find one.
  17. Thereupon they said: What shall we do? Shall we kill him? The world would end. Shall we beg for half-mercy? They do not grant ‘halves’ in heaven.
  18. They put out his eyes and let him go. It helped inasmuch as he no longer entices men to commit incest.

1. (נחמיה ט, ד) ויצעקו אל ה' אלהים בקול גדול

2. מאי אמור אמר רב ואיתימא ר' יוחנן בייא בייא היינו האי דאחרביה למקדשא וקליה להיכליה וקטלינהו לכולהו צדיקי ואגלינהו לישראל מארעהון ועדיין מרקד בינן

3. כלום יהבתיה לן אלא לקבולי ביה אגרא

4. לא איהו בעינן ולא אגריה בעינן

5. נפל להו פיתקא מרקיעא דהוה כתב בה אמת

6. אמר רב חנינא שמע מינה חותמו של הקב"ה אמת

7. אותיבו בתעניתא תלתא יומין ותלתא לילואתא מסרוהו ניהליהו

8. נפק אתא כי גוריא דנורא מבית קדשי הקדשים

9. אמר להו נביא לישראל היינו יצרא דעבודת כוכבים שנאמר (זכריה ה, ח) ויאמר זאת הרשעה

10. בהדי דתפסוה ליה אשתמיט ביניתא ממזייא ורמא קלא ואזל קליה ארבע מאה פרסי

11. אמרו היכי נעביד דילמא חס ושלום מרחמי עליה מן שמיא

12. אמר להו נביא שדיוהו בדודא דאברא וחפיוהו לפומיה באברא דאברא משאב שאיב קלא שנאמר (זכריה ה, ח) ויאמר זאת הרשעה וישלך אותה אל תוך האיפה וישלך את אבן העופרת אל פיה

13. אמרו הואיל ועת רצון הוא נבעי רחמי איצרא דעבירה

14. בעו רחמי ואמסר בידייהו

15. אמר להו חזו דאי קטליתו ליה לההוא כליא עלמא

16. חבשוהו תלתא יומי ובעו ביעתא בת יומא בכל ארץ ישראל ולא אשתכח

17.אמרי היכי נעביד נקטליה כליא עלמא ניבעי רחמי אפלגא פלגא ברקיעא לא יהבי

18. כחלינהו לעיניה ושבקוהו ואהני דלא מיגרי ביה לאיניש בקריבתה

Study Questions

  1. If God created the world based on the wisdom and physics of “challenge and reward”, why would God agree to abandon that architecture and neutralize the “challenge” just because the people feel they are vulnerable to failure?
  2. Affirming this change with Emes, “truth” furthers the irritation. At least let God do so reluctantly. What is the role of Emes as God's response to the people?
  3. What does the Yetzer Ha'rah of idolatry depict by appearing as a young fiery lion?
  4. Why does the Yetzer Ha'rah of idolatry emerge from the Holy of Holies?
  5. Why does the cry of the Yetzer / lion concerned the people?
  6. What do you think is the “content” of his cry?
  7. What is "halves" (half mercy) that is not granted in heaven? Why not?
  8. If the consequence of killing the Yertzer ha'rah of sex is no further procreation, what is the consequence of confining the Yetzer Ha'rah of "avodah zarah".
  9. Why does the Yetzer Ha'rah of sex have no visual description
  10. The Yetzer Ha'rah of sex speaks to / reasons with the people, why? (Yetzer Ha'rah of idolatry does not).
  11. The people seem to consider killing the Yetzer Ha'rah of sex, but not the Yetzer Ha'rah of idolatry, why?
  12. Why does he refer to himself in third person (“if you kill him”)
  13. Is the Yetzer Ha'rah internal or external?
  14. Is the Yetzer Ha'rah “evil”?
  15. Why are there only absolutes (no halves in heaven)
  16. Does Emes relate to "no halves in heaven"?