Yetzer Hara -
Prayer to Overcome the Evil Inclination
The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
The yetzer hara represents the inner impulse or tendency within the human heart to gravitate toward selfish gratification (the word yetzer first appears in Genesis 6:5 where the wickedness of man is described as "every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually"). The yetzer hatov, on the other hand, represents the inner impulse to do good.
Yetzer is also used in Scripture to refer to something formed or shaped, like pottery fashioned by the hand of a potter. Just as a potter purposes a shape in his or her mind before forming an object, so that which is intended within the mind will shape or form our character and disposition, especially with regard to our relationship with God.
The following prayer appeals to the LORD to help us love His Torah and His mitzvot and also to keep us from the power of the evil inclination within us that pushes us into sin, pride, perversity, temptation, and shame:
Blessed art Thou, LORD our God, King of the universe, who removes sleep from my eyes and slumber from my eyelids. May it be Your will, LORD our God and God of our fathers to accustom us to Your Torah and attach us to Your mitzvot. And do not lead us into the hands of sin, nor into the hands of pride or perversity, nor into the hands of temptation, nor into the hands of shame, and do not let the evil inclination rule over us.
"He who obeys his inclination is like an idolater. "There shall be no strange gods in thee" (Psalm 81:10) means, Make not the stranger in you your ruler!"
- Yannai (Jerusalem Talmud: Nedarim 9.1)
"Torah, prayer and the contemplation of death will help you in your struggle against the Evil Inclination." - Simeon ben Lakish (Talmud: Berakot 5a)
Barukh attah Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha-olam,
hama'vir shenah me'eynai utnumah me'afapai.
Vihi ratzon milfaneykha, Adonai Eloheinu velohei avoteinu,
shetargileinu betoratekha vedabkeinu bemitzvotekha,
ve'al tevi'einu lo lidei chet, velo lidei averah,
ve'avon, velo lidei nissayon, velo lidei vizayon,
ve'al tashlet banu yetzer hara.
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