Urgency, Importance, and the Yeitzer

Rabbi Ephraim Becker wrote in a reply to a comment on one of his posts:

The Yetzer hijacks our urgency (we get more excited about playing with the latest PDA than about getting up and putting on Tefillin) and leaves us struggling with trying to uphold rules that do not move us – only the guilt remains.

Two comments later he elaborates:

Simply put, the Yetzer operates with the ancient principle that nature abhors a vacuum. A person’s mind is going to be filled with something that excites him (be that a positive, productive endeavor or a negative self-destructive one) or, when there is fear of the ‘excitement’ (as when a person is afraid to confront him or herself) then there is numbness. The Yetzer is always alert for such emptyness and offers the person here-and-now excitement in an attempt to distract the person from here-and-now growth and closeness to HaShem. In that sense the Yetzer hijacks our urgency. That is one of the reasons that it is so important to visit and revisit our urgencies and why the masters of Mussar advocated avoiding unnecessary urgency or excitement. Urgency and excitement are precious commodities, to be used with caution and purpose.

Thinking about the yeitzer hara in terms of urgency…

Time management experts point out our habit of confusing the urgent with the important. Picture being a salesman in a store, helping a customer. You get a call, and after quickly assessing the caller, you learn it’s a potential customer asking about a product. Who is the higher priority? It should be the person who is interested enough in buying that they came to your store. But since the phone call rings, and demands immediate attention (urgency), we very often fall into the trap of keeping the customer waiting for the call — in a way that may well cost you the sale. As opposed to politely putting the caller on hold.

The yeitzer is out there seeking immediate gratification. Therefore is it surprising that it too creates that sense of urgency that we so often allow to override our real priorities?

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