Let My People Know

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz: “They have lost all of their creativity.”

“Crushed and mangled” is someone who suppresses his drives – and along with them his ambition and creativity – which sometimes happens because of misplaced piety.

Early Christian monks would often castrate themselves for this same reason – the desire to achieve holiness.

Instead of struggling with one’s evil inclination – a protracted struggle that can continue for years, in which one can never be certain that he is truly rid of the inclination – one simply removes the inclination entirely.

One would think that this should be considered an exemplary act; it is certainly good-intentioned behavior.

To be sure, there are inclinations that cannot be so easily cut off.

Jealousy and honor, for example, are traits that cannot be eliminated from a person’s consciousness.

But if a safe, minor operation can solve the problem of sexual temptation forever, it would seem like the perfect solution to this problem.

Many baalei teshuva face this very problem.

They observe that since they have become observant, they have lost all of their creativity.

When they were sinners, whether big or small, they were full of vitality and creativity.

Afterward, when they accepted upon themselves the yoke of God’s kingship, they became truly “crushed and mangled, torn and cut,” with all the accompanying ramifications.

They may have a much less powerful evil inclination, but they have rendered themselves impotent in terms of creating good in the world.

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz