I was informed that a giant billboard has been put up on the Brooklyn side of the Belt Parkway leading toward Manhattan warning people to guard their eyes as they enter the Sodom and Gomorrah of the Big Apple. Apparently it’s the initiative of pious Ultra Orthodox Jews in their continuing battle against the very real dangers of immodesty which surround us everywhere, now more than ever because of the Internet.
In his book, Nefesh HaChaim, Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin explains that each and every Jew is a miniature Mishkan (Tabernacle), connecting us to all of the highest spiritual worlds of the universe (Nefesh HaChaim, Gate One, Ch. 4, Addendum).
Because of this Divine connection, a Jew has to live with the moment-by-moment recognition that all of his thoughts, words, and doings have profound cosmic influence, for good, and for evil. As the Nefesh HaChaim makes clear:
“A man of Israel must understand, know, and establish in his mind and heart that every detail of his deeds, speech, and thoughts, at every second and time, all rise up according to their root source to influence the most exalted worlds. When a wise person recognizes this truth, his heart will greatly tremble in the face of his wrongdoings, realizing the awesome and devastating damage that even a small transgression can cause, even more than the destruction wrought by Nebuchadnezzar and Titus.
“For their deeds had no damaging effect on the upper worlds, for they have no portion or root source in those worlds that would enable them to cause damage there. Rather, it was our sins that polluted the celestial Temple, so to speak, and that gave Nebuchadnezzar and Titus the power to destroy the Sanctuary below…. Therefore, when a man entertains an impure, licentious thought in his heart, God forbid, he in effect brings a prostitute into the most exalted, celestial Holy of Holies, giving strength to the forces of impurity and evil in this transcendently holy place, to a much greater extent than the impurity caused by Nebuchadnezzar and Titus when they brought a prostitute into the Holy of Holies in the Temple sanctuary on earth.”
The fire that destroyed the Temple started in our hearts and our minds. Every time a person watches pornography on the Internet, he is adding flames to the conflagration that is still burning in the Heavenly Mikdash, thus preventing the Temple’s rebuilding. When he gazes at erotic images, he causes the exile of the Shechinah (Divine Presence) from within his own miniature Mishkan, thus adding to the prolongation of the Shechinah’s exile from the world. You may think that your erotic interludes are your own private affair, but the very opposite is true. Every time a Jew watches something immodest on the Internet, his fantasies and lustful thoughts pollute not only himself, but his family, his neighborhood, all of the Jewish People, and all of Creation! You have to ask yourself – is this something you want to do? In addition, don’t think yourself such a hero, that you can look at whatever you please without falling. If you feel this way, you’ve already fallen. Samson and King Shlomo were also convinced they could control their yetzer, and look what happened to them.
Remember, you’re being filmed! One must live with the awareness that God is always with us, wherever we are, outside on the street, and in every room of our homes. Just as a person wouldn’t watch pornography while someone else was watching, all the more so when he is aware that the King of kings is observing all of his deeds. Imagine that a camera was recording your every move on the computer – would you still click on immodest sites? Would you still go astray after your eyes if you knew that a video of your doings was going to be posted on Youtube for the world to see? You may not be caught in This World, but up in the big Movie Theater in the sky, when you come before the Heavenly Tribunal, your Youtube history is going to be presented on the Big Screen for all of the Celestial Judges to see.
It should be noted that the Torah prohibition, “Thou shall not follow after your heart and your eyes which cause you to stray after them,” which appeared in the Torah portion last Shabbat, applies to looking at immodest images of all types, whether it be girls in bikinis, lingerie ads, models on the runway, as well as porn. The damage it causes to the Jewish soul is the same for looking at any of them. If you find yourself tempted, remind yourself that it’s more harmful than eating pork!