The Gemara (Talmud) in Sukkah tells us “l’asid lavo,” at the end of days, Hakadosh Baruch Hu (The Holy One, blessed be He) will take the yetzer hara (evil inclination), will take the Soton (Satan), “v’shachto,” Hashem will kill him, “befnei hatzadikim ub’fnei haresha’im,” in front of the righteous and in front of the wicked. And the Gemara explains “halalu bochim v’halalu bochim,” both groups will be crying bitter, bitter tears. The tzadikim cry because at that moment they see him as a mighty, powerful mountain. And they say to themselves how could we have conquered this? The resha’im cry because they see him as a thin thread — how could we have fallen for such a little obstacle, how could we have destroyed ourselves? Explains the Gemara, that’s the way of desire, the way of the yetzer hara. It starts out as a thin thread, and when you give in it becomes thicker and thicker and thicker, until you’re tied to the chair with powerful bonds that you can’t escape.
I’d like to ask a very obvious question on this Gemara. I understand why the wicked would be crying. At that moment in time Mashiach (Messiah) comes, it’s the end of days, and every human being understands life with a clarity of understanding like the sun at midday. Suddenly the veil is lifted and everyone gets it. They see the tremendous accomplishments of a mitzvah (commandment) and the tremendous damage of a sin. And the resha’im (wicked) recognize their folly, their stupidity, I ruined my life. I get it; I understand why they cry.
But why are the tzadikim (righteous) crying? Okay, they see a powerful mountain. They see what the Soton could have been. But why are you crying? And the Maharsha is bothered by this question and the Maharsha explains why they cry. He says they cry because at that moment the tzadikim recognize how beautiful that friend was. They recognize how on the job he was, 24/7/364. Hashem created the Soton, Hashem created the yetzer hara, for one reason: To challenge man. And he’s there constantly challenging me, constantly raising the bar. And in that moment of clarity the tzadikim get it, they recognize how valuable he was.
If you’d like to understand an interesting phenomenon, have you ever noticed you could be doing really well and you’re conquering desire and you’re growing, and all of a sudden she’s there. And she wasn’t supposed to be there and what are you doing here and how’d it happen? Well, I’ll explain it to you. In the world there is something called the Soton. And the Soton’s job is to trap you, to entrap you, to ensnare you, to get you to fail. But not because he’s bad and not because Hashem wanted to create something evil. His job is to constantly raise the bar, constantly challenge you to grow. Much like a personal trainer who’s going to always push you a little bit more, he knows how much you can handle and he’ll constantly push you a little bit more, a little bit more and constantly push you almost to the breaking point, but not quite.
In that moment of clarity the tzadikim recognize the beauty of the yetzer hara, the beauty of the Soton. They cry because they recognize what they were able to accomplish, that they can never again accomplish. You see, in this world of darkness that we live in, if I battle the battle, if I fight the fight, I grow, I accomplish — that’s something that you can’t do once Mashiach comes. Because then everyone gets it, everything is clear; the battle is over. But now in the time of darkness, if I conquer, if I grow — even if I lose some, but I win some — I grow, I become tremendous.
The tzadikim in that moment have a clarity of understanding. They begin crying because they recognize what an opportunity life was. They recognize their best friend was the Soton.