Issue 41 | Parshat Vayakhel |When Your Enemy Masquerades as Your Friend



The Despicable Nature of Deceit

What is worse: An obvious enemy or an enemy that feigns to be your friend?

“Keep your friends close and your enemies closer,” is a classic mafia expression. Clearly, the foe that masquerades as a friend is far more dangerous than the exposed foe.

In this week’s insight the Baal Shem Tov offers us a brilliant expose of the enemy that colors and camouflages himself as your friend.

Each of us was born with an enemy within: your animal soul and yetzer hora (evil inclination), which tries to seduce you with the temptations of the material world. This yetzer hora is actually G-d’s messenger, sent to put up resistance and challenge us, in order to elicit our inner strengths to not succumb to its entreaties and become the best we can be. So why then, asks the Baal Shem Tov, will the yetzer hora be judged for loyally fulfilling its Divine duties?!

The Baal Shem Tov explains all this with a peculiar Talmud which offers two opinions as to the prohibition of slaughtering a life on Shabbos: 1) The prohibition consists of coloring (when slaughtering an animal the meat around its head gets colored with blood), 2) The prohibited work here is taking life. What is the meaning behind these two enigmatic opinions? How could coloring possibly be the reason for the prohibition? Coloring seems like a trivial detail in comparison to the primary work and prohibition of killing the animal!

With a brilliant elucidation of this strange Talmud, the Baal Shem Tov teaches us how the enemy who wants to take our soul “colors” and disguises himself as our friend, and what this deceit is capable of.


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