Transforming the Evil Inclination: The Hidden Path to Redemption and Righteousness

8 min read

In the final days, a profound transformation occurs within the human soul, where the Yetzer HaRa, the evil inclination, is not eradicated but redirected towards righteous purposes. This transformation leads to an alignment where our will becomes indistinguishable from HaShem’s will, enabling us to harness even the Yetzer HaRa for good. The concept can be illustrated by the merging of the stick of Ephraim with the stick of Yehudah, creating a unified entity, as mentioned in Ezekiel 37:19. This merging symbolizes the reconciliation of opposing forces, much like our left hand becoming our right hand.

The verse from Isaiah 1:27, “Zion shall be redeemed with justice and her returnees with righteousness,” can be reinterpreted in this transformative context. Here, justice (מִשְׁפָּט) is seen as a form of strength (כּוֹחַ). In the transformed state, justice requires the fortitude to maintain balance and enforce righteousness. This strength is moral and spiritual, derived from perfect alignment with HaShem’s will. As it says in Psalms 89:14, “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne.”

Righteousness (צְדָקָה) in this light is achieved through strength. It implies the strength of character and the ability to utilize the Yetzer HaRa for good, as the Sages teach in Berakhot 54a that we are to serve HaShem with both our inclinations. This balance reflects the ultimate equilibrium necessary for redemption, where both inclinations, the right (Yetzer HaTov) and the left (Yetzer HaRa), are harmonized and used for righteous purposes.

The middle path, the proper path, is central to this understanding. The middle path represents the balance where justice and righteousness are intertwined, and strength is tempered with compassion. This balance is essential, mirroring the harmonious nature of HaShem’s creation, where dualities are reconciled and unity is achieved. This path reflects the ultimate harmony and completeness envisioned by the prophets, as seen in Micah 6:8, “What does HaShem require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

From a PaRDeS perspective, this interpretation can be explored on multiple levels. The Pshat, or simple understanding, of the verse speaks of redemption through justice and righteousness. The Remez, or hint, reveals strength as the inherent power within justice, suggesting the transformation of inclinations. The Drash, or interpretative level, explores the moral fortitude and the balanced use of both inclinations, symbolizing unity and harmony. The Sod, or secret/mystical level, delves into the unification of dualities, aligning with the middle path and achieving true balance, reflecting the sefirah of Tiferet, which represents beauty and harmony.

In this balanced state, we discover the secret to life. Aligning with HaShem’s will, we use both our Yetzer HaTov and Yetzer HaRa for righteousness, achieving true harmony and redemption. This understanding highlights a profound mystical truth that true redemption involves not the destruction of our inclinations but their transformation and alignment with divine will. The balance achieved in this state is not a passive equilibrium but an active, dynamic process where every aspect of our being is used for good, as articulated in Proverbs 3:6, “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”

This balanced state of being is essential for understanding the true nature of redemption. It underscores the importance of integrating all parts of ourselves in the service of HaShem. By aligning our will with HaShem’s and transforming our inclinations, we participate in the divine process of creation and redemption. This holistic approach to life and spirituality offers a path to true fulfillment and harmony, both within ourselves and in our relationship with the divine. In this way, the verse from Isaiah encapsulates the profound journey of transformation and unification that leads to redemption, emphasizing the strength and righteousness necessary to achieve this state. This journey is a testament to the enduring power of HaShem’s will and the potential for human beings to align themselves with that will, creating a world of justice, strength, and righteousness.

How can someone use their yetzer hara for good in a practical way?

The concept of using one’s Yetzer HaRa (evil inclination) for good can be challenging to grasp, but it is deeply rooted in Jewish thought. The Yetzer HaRa, while often seen as a source of negative impulses, can be transformed and harnessed for positive purposes. Here’s how this can be applied on a practical level:

First, it is essential to understand that the Yetzer HaRa is not inherently evil. It represents our basic drives and instincts, such as ambition, desire, and competitiveness. These drives can lead to negative behaviors if left unchecked but can also be channeled towards positive ends when properly directed.

One way to use the Yetzer HaRa for good is by transforming ambition into a drive for personal growth and community improvement. For example, if someone has a strong desire for success and recognition, they can redirect this ambition towards excelling in Torah study, performing mitzvot (commandments), or contributing to charitable causes. This transformation is akin to what the Sages suggest in Berakhot 54a, where we are encouraged to serve HaShem with both our good and evil inclinations.

Another practical approach is to use the energy and passion of the Yetzer HaRa to fuel perseverance and resilience. For instance, someone might have a strong competitive nature. Instead of using this trait to dominate others, they can channel it into becoming a leader in community service or advocating for justice. This approach aligns with the verse in Psalms 89:14, “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne,” emphasizing that true justice requires strength and moral fortitude.

Balance is crucial in this process. As seen in the reinterpretation of Isaiah 1:27, “Zion shall be redeemed with justice and her returnees with righteousness,” balance involves harmonizing justice (strength) and righteousness. This means using the Yetzer HaRa’s drive for action and change while ensuring it is guided by ethical and moral principles. A practical example of this balance is in business ethics, where competitive drive is balanced with fairness and integrity, creating a successful and ethical business environment.

The middle path, often referred to in Jewish thought, is about finding this balance. As Micah 6:8 teaches, “What does HaShem require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” This path involves using our instincts and desires in a balanced way, ensuring that our actions are aligned with HaShem’s will. On a practical level, this means regularly reflecting on one’s motives and actions, seeking to align personal desires with higher values.

To further illustrate, consider the example of someone with a strong desire for wealth. This desire, driven by the Yetzer HaRa, can lead to selfishness and greed. However, when redirected towards positive goals, it can inspire the individual to become a successful entrepreneur who uses their wealth to support charitable organizations, fund community projects, or create jobs, thus benefiting society.

In everyday life, this transformation involves mindfulness and intentionality. It requires being aware of one’s drives and consciously deciding to use them for good. Techniques such as daily reflection, learning from Torah and Jewish wisdom, and seeking guidance from wise and ethical mentors can help in this endeavor.

Ultimately, using the Yetzer HaRa for good is about balance and transformation. It involves recognizing the inherent power within our inclinations and redirecting that power towards positive, constructive, and righteous actions. This process is a testament to the profound potential for growth and redemption within each individual, aligning with HaShem’s vision for a harmonious and just world.


As we reflect on the transformative power of harnessing the Yetzer HaRa for good, we are invited to consider the deeper implications of this practice. How can we, in our daily lives, recognize and redirect our base inclinations towards positive ends? What steps can we take to ensure that our desires and ambitions serve higher purposes and align with HaShem’s will?

By engaging with these questions, we explore the profound journey of aligning our will with the divine, achieving true harmony within ourselves and in our relationship with the Creator. This journey is not about the eradication of our inclinations but about their transformation and integration, leading us towards a balanced and righteous life.

May we all find the strength and wisdom to use both our Yetzer HaTov and Yetzer HaRa in the service of HaShem. May our actions contribute to a world of justice, strength, and righteousness. And may we merit to see the ultimate redemption and harmony as envisioned by our prophets.

Baruch HaShem, may He guide us on this path. Amen.

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