Q. Dear Rabbi!
I need your help urgently. I was reading in the Torah about how Rivka felt when she was expecting her twin sons; how she felt her child kicking and attempting to leave the womb when she passed a house of Torah study and yet she also felt her child kicking and trying to escape when she passed a house of idolatry. I too am experiencing something of the sort; I really enjoy praying and studying Torah, I especially enjoy doing Chessed, but I equally enjoy doing other things which I’m too embarrassed to describe. I read that Rivka went to seek G-d when she felt this happening to her. So I guess I’m also trying to seek some divine guidance on this one. Please help me with this confusing predicament.
Confused Good-and-Bad Guy, Planet Earth.
A. Hi there!
It seems you are experiencing quite a common Jewish problem – one that even rabbis tend to struggle with.
You see, I know this nice French man who used to be a catholic and then a protestant missionary who eventually converted to Judaism and is now a counter-cult and missionary professional.
He related that once he discovered the truth of Judaism, throughout the lengthy period prior to his conversion he never once doubted his serious intention to become a Jew. The day after his conversion was completed and he was entered into the covenant, suddenly a disturbing thought entered his mind: “Why did I do this?” he thought to himself.
He shared his disturbing thoughts with his rabbi, who was actually amused, “you are now thinking like a real Jew!” he told him with a smile.
So as you see, conflicting thoughts are quite familiar to the typical Jewish mind.
Just to give you some peace of mind, here’s what’s happening:
When Rivka went to seek Divine guidance, this is what she was told: you have two nations in your womb; you’re expecting twins! Now, what kind of reassuring answer is that? Wasn’t He just confirming her concern? Why would the righteous Rivka feel consoled to hear that one of her sons will be a sinner?
Well, the answer is quite simple.
Rivka thought there was one baby in there and was concerned that this baby inside her enjoys spirituality and worldliness equally, he enjoys both good and evil. This was something she couldn’t accept.
When G-d told her that it’s not the same guy pushing for the good stuff as the one pushing for the bad stuff, she felt greatly reassured.
Now back to your question: you say you feel like Rivka, with these opposite inclinations raging within you. So you can also rest assured that they are not coming from the same place.
You are like a mother carrying two distinct babies inside her, you possess two distinct souls within you. One is G-dly, which is responsible for your drive towards G-dly and spiritual ideas and activities, and the second is an animalistic soul, which is responsible for your drive towards activities an animal would also be drawn to.
So it’s just good to know that you’re not strange for wanting both, you’re a regular healthy guy.
There is plenty of advice on how to tame that animal within you, but that’s for another time.
In the meantime, stay happy!
All the best,
(Based on the writings of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev in his Sefer, Kedushas Levi and Chapter 28 of Tanya, written by the Alter Rebbe)