"A nd he said ‘If Eisav comes to one camp and strikes it down the remaining camp will escape.’ ” (Bereishis 32:9)

The Gemara (Sanhedrin 105b) tells us that it pays to do actions even if they are lo lishmah even if they won’t be performed with the purest of intentions because such actions will come to be lishmah — for the right reasons.

Yet this idea comes with a disclaimer. A person must know that if he doesn’t try to direct his actions to approach lishmah then he’ll never reach it. He can do plenty of mitzvos but they will never change his inner self unless he yearns for it. (Rav Dessler Michtav MeEliyahu) “

“I’m going to be in Israel in January!”

I was thrilled. I hadn’t seen Keren for years. We decided to meet at a Yerushalayim café.

When I spotted her across the room I barely recognized her. “What have you done to yourself?” I hugged her tightly. “There’s only half of you here! What’s your secret?”

“Weight Watchers ” Keren answered calmly as she ordered a black coffee.

“Weight Watchers? C’mon everyone does Weight Watchers. How did it work for you so well?”

“You’ve got to do Weight Watchers the spiritual way.” She winked. “Believe me it’s a weighty matter.”

I groaned. “Deep down you’re still the same Corny Keren even in your size 6!”

“Chazal compare the ongoing feud between Yaakov and Eisav to the feud of each individual with his own yetzer hara. We must prepare ourselves for this fight using the same three things Yaakov did before meeting Eisav: Presents tefillah and battle plans.

The presents are what we offer our inner self. These are not necessarily the purest incentives: think promises of reward fear of punishment enjoyment. But in order to reach full victory and inner dveikus we need to add two things: tefillah the expression of wanting to reach the inner self and battle plans for fighting the yetzer hara. With these three strategies we enter our spiritual wars. “

“Last year my company transferred me to their Manhattan branch. I found the change hard hated the commute from Lakewood. Such long hours but it meant a raise. What could I do?” She snatched a bite of my muffin and grinned. “One point. Anyway this office had some perks. One was that the company would allow me a longer lunch hour and pay for Weight Watchers. Who knew?

“But when I went to check out the group it was non-Jewish and I wasn’t sure I should do it. I figured I’d give it a try. It was a heavy decision.”

I snorted swallowing my coffee. “Can you stop it? I’m trying to eat! So how’d this group work when others didn’t?”

“These ideas are very deep and very basic to our avodas Hashem. The non-lishmah must be accompanied by real yearning to reach lishmah. In regard to tefillah Hashem does chesed and promises us that if the prayer comes from a spiritual pure place of yearning it will not be returned empty even when a person still hasn’t reach his ultimate spiritual place. Finally the battle plans are meant to work on nullifying the desires of self in a world that is based on “lo lishmah.”

“The group was very different from any of the Lakewood groups I’ve joined. It was all corporate workers career-oriented and driven. The competition was refreshing and I found myself swept along. But the more I went the more I realized how my drive was different from theirs.

“I’d be hearing lines like ‘If I don’t lose six pounds by Thanksgiving I’m burying myself in my room ’ ‘I’ll kill myself if I gain again ’ ‘I’m so depressed that I broke my diet.’

“I realized while I also wanted to lose my overall goal was different. Can you imagine saying something like ‘If I don’t lose ten pounds by my daughter’s chasunah I’m not walking her down the aisle’ and meaning it?

“I understood that I needed more than the competition. I needed to realize why I wanted to lose weight and what could effectively help me to achieve that goal. I want to be healthy and feel good about myself for my family and for my future. It didn’t happen overnight. I had to keep focusing on the reasons behind my fight with food. But with that goal in mind I was able to jump in and realize what was I weighting for?” (Originally featured in Family First Issue 569)