In today’s blog, we are going to take a short hiatus from the writings of Rabbi Kook and look at a different aspect of t’shuva. In last week’s Torah portion of “Ke Tetze,” we find the following:
When your camp goes out to fight against you enemies, then keep away from every evil thing. If there be any man among you who is not pure by reason of the impurity that chances by night, then he shall go outside of the camp, he shall not come within the camp; but it shall be when evening come on, he shall immerse himself in water… for the Lord your G-d walks in the midst of your camp to deliver you, and to give up your enemies before you; therefore your camp shall be holy, that He shall see no unclean thing in you, and turn away from you (Devarim, 23:10-16).
Unlike the claims of “Ultra-Orthodox” Jews of today who negate, and even denigrate, participation in Israel’s armed forces, there are several commandments explicitly written in the Torah which deal with Jewish soldiers and our wars against our enemies. The holy heroes of our Biblical past, whether it be Avraham, the sons of Yaacov, Moshe Rabeinu, Yehoshua, King David, the Macabbees, or Rabbi Akiva, who gladly carried the weapons of Bar Kochva out to battle, were also fierce military warriors.
A reality in conquering and settling the Land of Israel, the Land where Hashem commands us to keep the Torah, then as now, is the need to use the military capability that G-d gives us. One of these mitzvot is to keep our army camps holy, not by dodging our share in the war effort, but in working to insure that the proper level of holiness is maintained, which would certainly be the case today in Israel if all of the “Ultra-Orthodox” Jews would enlist alongside their brothers. However, this is not the subject of this blog.
The commandment to guard our holiness applies to our communities and homes as well. Our Sages tell us that “keeping away from every evil thing” means keeping away from sexual transgression and from gazing at women (Avodah Zara 20A). The continuation of the verse is clearly referring to the unintentional spilling of seed in vain which is wont to occur when a man gazes at immodest images. Engaging in this wasteful act deliberately is even graver, and is considered one of the severest transgressions in the Torah (see Shulchan Aruch, Even HaEzer, 23:2). The Torah informs us that as a result of the spiritual impurity which this causes, the Shechinah flees from our presence, making us vulnerable to our enemies. No other sin triggers such an extreme reaction. The Midrash teaches that the Holy One Blessed Be He is slow to anger in regard to every sin, except immorality (Bereshit Rabbah 26). “Rabbi Simlai taught that wherever there is sexual immorality, indiscriminate destruction comes to the world and kills the good with the wicked” (Ibid.) This is the reason why we are called upon to keep our camp holy, to insure that the Shechinah, which guards over Israel, never leaves us prey to our enemies, G-d forbid.
Today, the “evil thing” in our communities and homes is the onslaught of immodest websites and images on the Internet. For example, a while back, every time I punched in the words “Jewish Press” on my search engine, an ad for a website called “Hottest Jewish Girls” would show up right next to it on the page. Now a man has to be an absolute tzaddik, or have the strength of Superman, or have downloaded a reliable filter, not to be tempted to look. Unfortunately, the evil inclination often wins out, and the result is that our homes become polluted with a terrible spiritual pollution which drives the Shechinah away, leaving ourselves and our families exposed to terrible consequences, may G-d have mercy!
On the eve of Yom Kippur, to enter into a mood of repentance, many congregations recite the prayer called “Tefilla Zaka,” which begins:
Almighty, Father of mercy and forgiveness, Whose right hand is extended to accept those who return in t’shuva, and Who created man to bestow goodness upon him at the end of his days, and Who created in him two inclinations, the good and the evil inclination….
About the Author: Tzvi Fishman was awarded the Israel Ministry of Education Prize for Creativity and Jewish Culture for his novel "Tevye in the Promised Land." A wide selection of his books are available at Amazon. The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not represent the views of The Jewish Press
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