כי תראה חמור שנאך … עזב תעזב עמו וגו’ … כג-ה
If it comes before you, the donkey of your friend in need of unloading packages, and the donkey of your enemy who is overly burdened and requires assistance, one must see to the burdened donkey of his enemy before helping his friend’s donkey. The reason, writes the gemara (בבא מציעא לב:), is “כדי לכוף את יצרו” – “To subjugate one’s evil inclination.” The gemara questions this line of reasoning and asks, but what about the prohibition of צער בעלי חיים – (allowing) the pain of a living being? It immediately counters with: “אפ”ה כדי לכוף את יצרו עדיף” – “Even so, the act of subjugating one’s evil inclination takes precedence.” An amazing gemara, indeed! Even in the face of transgressing an איסור דאורייתא (according to one opinion in the gemara), a person is required to focus on quelling his yetzer hara, instead of fulfilling the mitzvah!
Explains R’ Itzele Blazer ZT”L, one needs to approach this concept from the position that just as one must slaughter an animal, kosher it, and eat it for his sustenance, so too, must one “slaughter” – subjugate – his evil inclination as part of his very survival on this world, even at the expense of a living animal. For the yetzer hara is continually on patrol, attempting to bring a person down, causing him to sin and convincing him that his ultimate purpose in life – Torah and mitzvos – are not significant in the grand scheme of things.
Thus, it is no great stretch for the very same yetzer hara to convince a person to disregard his enemies’ needs, and see to his friends’ assistance, since they both truly require it. But by doing so – giving in to his yetzer hara’s demands – one is denying his very own life-blood, the very sustenance that neces-sitates his existence on this world. To this, states the gemara unequivocally: “Even so, subjugating one’s evil inclination takes precedence.”