One of the primary topics of Parshat Bereshit is Adam Harishon’s one commandment from Hashem, the famous instruction not to eat from the Etz Hada’at. In “Michtav Mayeliyahu,” Rav Eliyahu Dessler asks an obvious question: How could it be that Adam Harishon failed to keep this commandment? He had nearly everything he could want, and yet he wanted the one thing he could not have! Rav Dessler answers that Adam did not commit his sin by accident or without intent. Adam knew what he was doing and what the consequences would be – and yet he still ate from the tree! According to Rav Dessler, Adam reasoned to himself, “If I commit this Aveirah, I will get an internal Yetzer Harah, which will try to force me to sin. When I still obey Hashem’s will even then, my reward will be far greater, since there will be an internal force trying to stop me!” Hakadosh Baruch Hu, however, disagreed. He knew, in His infinite wisdom, that the Yetzer Harah cannot be underestimated. Adam thought that if he had the test of an internal inclination towards evil, he would still do Hashem’s will, meriting greater reward. Hashem responded that Adam, though correct in theory, was not correct in practice. Once an internal force of evil exists, doing Hashem’s will is something no one can be sure of. One never knows when he will slip.
This point is well illustrated by two other cases in Tanach. The first is the Parsha of the Yefat Toar. This is the case described in Parshat Ki Tetzei of an opposing army sending women to the front lines of a war to entice the Jewish army. The Torah provides a way for the Jewish soldier in this situation to marry such a girl sent by the enemy. Let us stop for a moment and consider who this Jewish soldier really is. The Torah tells us in Parshat Shoftim that to be a Jewish soldier, one must be unafraid (see Devarim 20:1-9). Rashi there brings a Machloket from the Gemara as to what “afraid” means. Rabi Akiva says the man whom the Torah excuses is afraid of warfare, whereas Rabi Yose Hagelili argues that he is afraid Hashem will let him die in battle because of his Aveirot. According to Rabi Yose Hagelili, then, any soldier who has actually made it to the battlefield must be righteous enough to be unafraid of Hashem’s punishment in war. It is strange to think that this is the soldier who is so easily enticed in the case of the Yefat Toar! Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Weinreb comments that this comes to illustrate the point made above. One can never be sure, when it comes to a test, whether he will be able to conquer his Yetzer Harah.
The second example from Tanach is that of David Hamelech and Batsheva. The Midrash says that David asked Hashem why his name could not be included in the first Berachah of Shemoneh Esrei, next to the Avot. Hashem responded that all the Avot had proven themselves by passing difficult tests, but that David had not. David therefore asked Hashem to send him a test, so that he could pass the test and merit to have his name in Shemonah Esrei. When it came to the test, however, David failed. He did not resist his Yetzer Hara, and sinned in the Batsheva incident. This highlights the point that even great Tzaddikim like David Hamelech can never be sure of conquering their Yetzer Hara when put to the test.
The lesson for us is obvious. If our ancestors could not be sure of withstanding tests, how much more so we, who cannot approach their level, must be extremely careful to avoid situations which might lead to sin. As Adam Harishon and David Hamelech learned the hard way, it is not in our best interest to look for tests. As we pray every morning, may Hashem withhold the tests altogether, thus enabling us to keep His Torah and Mitzvot to the fullest.