As Iron Sharpens Iron

Proverbs 27:17

Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.

This verse is connected with ‘yetzer hara’ or the natural inclination to evil which may be harnessed to achieve good.

.. initially, “man is born a wild ass” (Job 11:12), and he has no yetzer hatov (tendency towards good), only yetzer hara…

Yetzer hara is not a demonic force that pushes a person to do evil, but rather a drive toward pleasure or property or security, which if left unlimited, can lead to evil (cf. Genesis Rabbah 9:7). When properly controlled by the yetzer hatov, the yetzer hara leads to many socially desirable results, including marriage, business, and community.

And God saw all that He had made, and found it very good…vehinei tov zeh yetzer hatov, vehinei tov me’od zeh yetzer hara – “good” refers to the Good Inclination but “very good” refers to the Evil Inclination.
Why? Because were it not for the Yetzer ha-Ra no one would build a house, take a wife, give birth, or engage in commerce.

In other words, God is the source of the Yetzer ha-Ra and, despite what we may think, has blessed us though it with a purpose in mind – to fill us with desire; the desire to make the world better than it is.

Proverbs 20:27 The spirit of man is the lamp of the LORD, Searching all the innermost parts of his being.

Rabbi Schnuer Zalman offers a facinating parable for the inner life of the soul: quoteing the biblical verse, “The soul of man is a divine flame” (Proverbs 20:27), he explains that just as the flame is always swaying, dancing, licking the air, seeking to tear free of the wick and rise heavenward, so too the soul in man is always aspiring to leave its shell and experience oneness with the divine.

The Hidden Chambers

The actual word “subconscious” or “unconscious” is not used in our translations. The Hebrew word found in Scripture is “cheder,” which means the innermost part, the hidden chambers, the inward part or the secret place. Of the over 38 Scriptures that use the word cheder, over half refer to a secret, hidden, innermost chamber or parlour. Here are a few examples.

Proverbs 20:27, “The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord, searching all the inward parts (cheder) of the belly.” (Why would the spirit search our inward parts, if not to reveal hidden sin in us, to us?);

Proverbs 18:8, “The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts (cheder) of the belly.” (If there is no “secret place” or “hidden chambers,” where is this “innermost part”? This is also quoted in Prov erbs 26:22).

Proverbs 20:30, “The blueness of a wound cleanseth away evil; so do stripes the inward parts (cheder) of the belly.” (What does God mean, if we don’t really have an innermost part or hidden chambers where evil can hide?).

And, Proverbs 24:4, Only “by [intimate] knowledge (daath) shall the chambers (cheder) be filled with all precious and pleasant riches.” (Intimate knowledge of God happens internally—in our soul. How then, can these “chambers” be filled with “all precious and pleasant riches,” if there really is not an “innermost part”?)


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