Most of today’s daf focuses on the yetzer ha-ra – the evil inclination.
Rav Avira expounds: There are seven names given to the yetzer ha-ra:
- God called it ra – evil (see Bereshit 8:21)
- Moshe called it arel – uncircumcised (see 10:16)
- King David called it tameh – defiled (see Tehillim 51:12)
- King Solomon called it soneh – hated (see Mishle 25:21-22)
- Yeshayahu called it mikhshol – a stumbling block (see Yeshayahu 57:14)
- Yehezkel called it even – a stone (see Yehezkel 36:26)
- Yo’el called it hatzefoni – the hidden one (see Yo’el 2:20)
One explanation for the different names is that they express different levels of evil, ranging from the latent evil that exists in every person (ra), to the ability of the yetzer ha-ra to hide the good from a person (arel), to act as an enemy by encouraging evil behaviors. Furthermore, even someone who tries to avoid it by casting it aside will find himself stumbling over it (mikhshol) in the form of a difficult to remove (even) temptation that is hard to even locate in order to avoid it, since it is hidden (tzafun) deeply in one’s heart.
The Gemara also introduces us to a passage in Zekhariah (12:12) that describes a eulogy that is attended by all the people of the land. According to one opinion, this is the funeral of the yetzer ha-ra in the next world. At that time it will appear before the righteous as a huge mountain, which leads them to lament, “how could we have overcome this great mountain,” and before the sinners as a strand of hair, leading them to lament, “it would have been so easy to overcome this thin strand of hair.”
Why does the yetzer ha-ra appear differently to different groups of people? The Ri”af suggests that, as time passes, the yetzer ha-ra grows larger and larger. The sinners who trip up right away cannot comprehend how they were felled by something so small. The righteous, who withstand temptation, see it as a huge obstacle that they still managed to overcome.