What do our great teachers say about overcoming evil inclinations without Torah? Is it even possible? Look forward to your answers!

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    What do you mean by Torah: the study of Torah? The performance of Torah? Something else? What do you mean by "overcoming evil inclinations" do you mean doing what is right in the face of a tempting option to the contrary? Don't you think that folks without Torah (a term pending your clarification) do so on occasion?
    – mevaqesh
    Jul 21, 2017 at 19:11
  • "What do you mean by Torah: the study of Torah? The performance of Torah? Something else?" The Torah as a guide in one's life, incorporating both written and oral traditions of Torah. The concept "overcoming" evil inclinations means the willingness to do what is right as he or she understands the difference between good and evil inclinations. " Don't you think that folks without Torah (a term pending your clarification) do so on occasion?" I'm sure many do. But are they aware that they're doing so? Are they aware of the fact that they're being righteous? or wicked? Jul 21, 2017 at 19:38
  • But are they aware that they're doing so First of all, I think you are kidding yourself if you think that folks without Torah never choose to do the right thing. More significantly, if you are only asking about those who are aware of what they are doing, you should edit that, along with other clarifications, into the question. Comments arent the place for corrections and are transient by nature.
    – mevaqesh
    Jul 21, 2017 at 19:44
  • Why do you think that Torah would have anything to do with the evil inclination?
    – mevaqesh
    Jul 21, 2017 at 19:56
  • Highly related: judaism.stackexchange.com/a/71632/8775.
    – mevaqesh
    Jul 23, 2017 at 18:21

1 Answer 1


Kiddushin 30b (translation from Sefaria)

ת"ר (דברים יא, יח) ושמתם סם תם נמשלה תורה כסם חיים משל לאדם שהכה את בנו מכה גדולה והניח לו רטיה על מכתו ואמר לו בני כל זמן שהרטיה זו על מכתך אכול מה שהנאתך ושתה מה שהנאתך ורחוץ בין בחמין בין בצונן ואין אתה מתיירא ואם אתה מעבירה הרי היא מעלה נומי

The Sages taught: “And you shall place [vesamtem] these words of Mine in your hearts” (Deuteronomy 11:18). Read this as though it stated sam tam, a perfect elixir. The Torah is compared to an elixir of life. There is a parable that illustrates this: A person hit his son with a strong blow and placed a bandage on his wound. And he said to him: My son, as long as this bandage is on your wound and is healing you, eat what you enjoy and drink what you enjoy, and bathe in either hot water or cold water, and you do not need to be afraid, as it will heal your wound. But if you take it off, the wound will become gangrenous.

כך הקב"ה אמר להם לישראל בני בראתי יצר הרע ובראתי לו תורה תבלין ואם אתם עוסקים בתורה אין אתם נמסרים בידו שנאמר (בראשית ד, ז) הלא אם תטיב שאת

So too the Holy One, Blessed be He, said to Israel: My children, I created an evil inclination, which is the wound, and I created Torah as its antidote. If you are engaged in Torah study you will not be given over into the hand of the evil inclination, as it is stated: “If you do well, shall it not be lifted up?” (Genesis 4:7). One who engages in Torah study lifts himself above the evil inclination.

ואם אין אתם עוסקין בתורה אתם נמסרים בידו שנא' לפתח חטאת רובץ ולא עוד אלא שכל משאו ומתנו בך שנאמר ואליך תשוקתו ואם אתה רוצה אתה מושל בו שנאמר ואתה תמשל בו

And if you do not engage in Torah study, you are given over to its power, as it is stated: “Sin crouches at the door” (Genesis 4:7). Moreover, all of the evil inclination’s deliberations will be concerning you, as it is stated in the same verse: “And to you is its desire.” And if you wish you shall rule over it, as it is stated in the conclusion of the verse: “But you may rule over it” (Genesis 4:7).

Now it sounds like without learning Torah, there's no hope. But it could simply mean you're making the job very hard on yourself.

However, the Mesillas Yesharim Chapter 5 writes (translation mine):

והנה פשוט הוא, שאם הבורא לא ברא למכה זו אלא רפואה זו, אי אפשר בשום פנים שירפא האדם מזאת המכה בלתי זאת הרפואה, ומי שיחשבו להנצל זולתה, אינו אלא טועה, ויראה טעותו לבסוף כשימות בחטאו. כי הנה היצר הרע באמת חזק הוא באדם מאד, ומבלי ידיעתו של האדם הולך הוא ומתגבר בו ושולט עליו. ואם יעשה כל התחבולות שבעולם ולא יקח הרפואה שנבראה לו שהיא התורה, כמו שכתבתי, לא ידע ולא ירגיש בתגבורת חליו אלא כשימות בחטאו ותאבד נשמתו.

It's obvious if the creator only made the Torah the cure for this wound (the yetzer hara), then it is impossible, without any exception, to be healed from it without [Torah]. Someone who thinks they can be saved from it without [Torah], is only making a mistake, and he'll see his mistake when he dies due to his son. Behold, the yetzer hara, in truth , is very strong in a person. Without his knowledge it grows and overpowers him. Even if he tries every strategy in the world besides the cure that was created for it, meaning the Torah, as I wrote, he won't know or sense the strengthening of his disease. He'll only realise when he dies from his sin and loses his soul.

He clearly writes it's impossible.


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