All quotes from/about the Tanya within the post can be found here:
All boldface & underline below are my own additions.
What was Really Wrong with Esav?
Esav's big defect lay not in the fact that he felt such desires.
His defect lay in his unwillingness to STRUGGLE against these desires.
For all his abilities toward fighting (hunting, battle, and so forth), Esav remained immersed in his desires rather than fighting them.
Rabbi Jacobson pointed to the Lubavitcher Tanya's Likutei Amarim-Chapter 27 for a deeper explanation of this:
The Yaakov Avinu Category
- Those who manage to overcome their lesser desires to the point they no longer experience such desires (Yaakov Avinu)
- Those who constantly suffer these desires, yet overcome them—in other words, those in constant battle (Esav...or who Esav was supposed to be, but failed)
The Yaakov Avinu type makes sense.
After all, the more you refine yourself & clean out your brain, the less attractive prohibitions become.
Probably, we've all experienced it on some level; we felt a strong pull toward a certain behavior or desire, but as we matured emotionally & spiritually, we wondered why we ever felt attracted to such a thing.
It's like drinking from a dirty toilet.
That act is so obviously repulsive, no one feels tempted to do it.
No one passes by a grungy outhouse catering to a much-frequented campsite and says, "Oh gosh, Hashem please help me fight my overpowering yetzer hara—how else can I resist taking a slurp?!"
Furthermore, if a person ever confided in you about feeling that way, you'd probably feel so creeped out, you'd avoid that person from then on.
This is because just the idea is so obviously repellent.
So it makes sense that a truly elevated person, a person who truly worked on himself & made enormous progress, a person with genuine self-awareness who underwent a raw cheshbon hanefesh followed by the appropriate repentance...it makes sense that such a person does not even feel attracted to certain acts.
He does not even experience certain desires.
And it's true.
But for some people, it's not true. They never reach that happy state of freedom.
The Esav Category
Why create such people?
(Note: The truth is...ALL people start off in the category of struggling against lesser desires. With strenuous effort & time, some people graduate to the Yaakov Avinu category where they simply do not feel the desires. But some people never enter that category...or they do not enter it completely.)
Here's Likutei Amarim 27 on the topic:
By averting his mind from sinful thoughts, he fulfills the injunction,
“You shall not follow after your heart and after your eyes, by which you go astray.” [Bamidbar/Numbers 15:39]
Only when sinful thoughts enter one’s mind can he fulfill this command.
But if you've nothing to lead your heart or eyes astray, then you cannot fulfill this mitzvah.
Only people with wayward desires can fulfill this mitzvah.
Think about that for a moment...
Born to be Bad
"...You created righteous people, You created wicked people..."
But rather, some people become tzaddikim released from these desires while others spend a lifetime as benonim ("middlemen"), never freed from their desires & trapped in a constant state of battle.
Whether Hashem created a person to be a tzaddik or a rasha, both MUST work on themselves to overcome their forbidden stuff.
But the person destined to remain a benoni his whole life certainly suffers more.
He always feels the pull of his desires.
The commentary there sums it up:
A tzaddik subjugates his animal soul to such a degree that it is unable to arouse temptation in his heart.
His mind is therefore untroubled by evil thoughts.
Those, however, of whom Job said that they were “created wicked” cannot rise to this level.
It is always possible for evil thoughts to enter their minds; their task is not to give them free rein.
Yet the Tanya (based on the Zohar) finds wonderful things to say about this.
The Wonderful Reason for being Born to be Bad
Yay! Whee! Woo-hoo! ♫"If you're flawed and you know it, clap your hands! If you're sinful and you know it clap your hands!..."♪
Yes. Like that.
Here's Tanya Chapter 27 to explain:
Our Sages have said: “When one passively refrains from sin, he is rewarded as though he had actively performed a mitzvah." [Kiddushin 39b]
Consequently, he should rejoice in his compliance with the injunction just as he does when performing an actual positive precept.
Behold, this is the trait of the beinonim and their task:
to subdue the evil impulse and the thought that rises from the heart to the mind and to completely avert his mind from it, repulsing it as it were with both hands, as explained above in ch. 12.
The Alter Rebbe explained there that the evil in the soul of the beinoni remains vigorous; his task is to prevent it from expressing itself in thought, speech, and action.
Thus, he has no control over the occurrence of evil thoughts in his mind, but only over his acceptance or rejection of these thoughts.
Hakadosh Baruch Hu holds absolutely no hakpadah [strict judgement, condemnation] against a Jewish person who possess evil traits and lusts.
Hakadosh Baruch Hu does not come in accusations about this since He implanted these within him, and He brought us down here for this purpose.
The hakpadah occurs when the Jewish person does not strive to seek out the path and the counsel as to how to get out of [those evil traits and lusts].
Not IF he feels the pull of the yetzer hara, but HOW he responds.
Based on the Zohar, the Tanya there goes on to describe how the mere act of pushing away a thought, of refraining from sin, subdues the Sitra Achra (the Dark Side) in both This World and the Upper Worlds!
That explains why Hashem created people to struggle like this.
Whether you want to call them benonim, reshaim (as defined by their urges, not necessarily their actual behavior), or the Esav type, the all-important purpose they serve in the world comes from their ability to beat down the Sitra Achra by virtue of their silent & unseen mental abilities.
Without their sinful desires, there is no repelling or refraining, and without that repelling or refraining, there is no suppression of the Sitra Achra at its very root.
When Lifelong "Failure" is Actually Massive Success on All Levels
Therefore, one should not feel depressed or very troubled at heart, even if he be engaged all his days in this conflict with the thoughts which will always enter his mind.
For perhaps this is what he was created for, and this is the service demanded of him--to subdue the sitra achara constantly.
Your EFFORT decides everything.
Not the result. Not your innate nature.
But the mere effort determines your status.
Because your lesser aspects come from Hashem.
Whether you developed these unwanted traits & tendencies from your background, upbringing, culture OR you were born with them...they come from HASHEM.
The question is why?
Why did He implant these unwanted traits & tendencies within you?
Again, as we see above, the very act of repelling these tendencies & desires reaps powerful results.
Someone needs to weaken the Sitra Achra in both This World and the Upper Worlds.
Someone needs to fight the Sitra Achra at its root.
Someone needs to cut off the head of the snake.
And if you suffer from any kind of sinful thoughts or desires...then that heroic someone must be YOU.
- The Ultimate Meaning behind Pain and Frustration (explains the theme of The Lost Princess)