web analytics
October 25, 2014 / 1 Heshvan, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Meir Panim with Soldiers 5774 Roundup: Year of Relief and Service for Israel’s Needy

Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

The Dangers Of Following After One’s Desires

Just as there are strictures concerning what we eat in order to protect our physical health, so must caution be exercised when imbibing ethical and spiritual knowledge.
Rabbi Efraim Buchwald

Rabbi Efraim Buchwald

In the Book of Numbers (15:37-41) we read the well-known third and final paragraph of the Shemah prayer, regarding the mitzvah of tzitzit, the fringes required to be placed on all four-cornered men’s garments.

The Almighty admonishes His people against following the desires of their hearts and their eyes, which lead them astray, so that they may remember and do all of His commandments and be holy unto Him (15:39-40).

The commandment to remember and perform all of God’s mitzvot is what drives the Jewish obsession with learning and education. The Rambam writes (Laws of Torah Study 1:8) that every Jew, whether rich or poor, healthy or ailing, young or weakened by old age, is required to learn Torah.

Rabbi Yaakov Philber, in his important volume Hemdat Yamim, notes that there is a longstanding debate among the classical Jewish philosophers regarding the requirement to study Torah and pursue education. Does the requirement apply to the study of Torah and Judaism exclusively, or does it also include secular education? It is a debate that continues to rage to this day.

All agree, however, that only those secular studies that enhance Torah study should be pursued. Secular studies that are destructive may not be studied. (Some authorities maintain that it is important to know what the heretics and our enemies say, in order to respond properly to skeptics when necessary.)

Due to the dangers that abound in being exposed to destructive ideas and philosophies, the Torah sets boundaries and demands that Jews not follow “the desires of their hearts and eyes.”

These limitations set by the Torah fly in the face of much of contemporary opinion and values. Effective education, declare many experts, must be “open” and “open-minded,” requiring the legitimization of virtually all speech and study, even that which is harmful and dangerous.

They further believe that those who honestly seek truth must allow for an uncompromised free exchange of ideas in the media, in universities, in all places of study and debate.

Judaism also recognizes and values the benefits that accrue from open-mindedness and honest intellectual inquiry. Yet Jewish law sets limits. Just as there are strictures concerning what we eat in order to protect our physical health, so must caution be exercised when imbibing ethical and spiritual knowledge. In fact, many Torah rules are purposely designed to “limit” our physical and intellectual activities. The laws of lashon hara restrict wanton speech and the laws of forbidden marital relationships restrict certain sexual activities.

There’s a famous quip, attributed to a several sources but most often to the physicist Richard Feynman (1918-1988), that goes: “Keep an open mind – but not so open that your brain falls out.” This bit of advice is not being widely heeded in contemporary society.

Just a few weeks ago the media focused on the mass killing that occurred near the campus of the University of California Santa Barbara. The young gunman authored a long “manifesto,” spelling out his grievances toward the women on campus who rejected him socially.

This attack touched off an anguished conversation regarding the ways in which women are perceived sexually, as well as the violence frequently perpetrated against them. Talk of misogyny captured the airwaves, with both men and women urging authorities to consider the implications of the deadly rampage and its impact on society.

Yet the issue is greater than male attitudes toward women. What we see today is the product of seeds that were sown over the past thirty or forty years. Should we really be surprised by the contemporary lack of morality and decency when more than 85 percent of American entertainment features violence and sex? (Much of this change in values actually took place long before the Internet pushed the envelope in a way that was unimaginable just a few years ago.)

About the Author: Rabbi Ephraim Z. Buchwald is director of the National Jewish Outreach Program.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “The Dangers Of Following After One’s Desires”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Do you know where your vegetables grow?
Not So Kosher Shemittah L’Mehadrin
Latest Indepth Stories
Eller-102414-Cart

I had to hire a babysitter so that I could go shopping or have someone come with me to push Caroline in her wheelchair.

Bills to restore the balance of power in Israel will be fought by the not-so-judicial left.

Widespread agreement in Israel opposing Palestinian diplomatic warfare, commonly called “lawfare.”

Chaye Zisel Braun

Arab terrorism against Jews and the State of Israel is not something we should be “calm” about.

Peace Now Chairman Yariv Oppenheimer

The Israeli left, led by tenured academics, endorses pretty much anything harmful to its own country

We were devastated: The exploitation of our father’s murder as a vehicle for political commentary.

Judea and Samaria (Yesha) have been governed by the IDF and not officially under Israeli sovereignty

While not all criticism of Israel stemmed from anti-Semitism, Podhoretz contends the level of animosity towards Israel rises exponentially the farther left one moved along the spectrum.

n past decades, Oman has struck a diplomatic balance between Saudi Arabia, the West, and Iran.

The Torah scroll which my family donated will ride aboard the USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier

The Jewish Press endorses the reelection of Gov. Andrew Cuomo. His record as governor these past four years offers eloquent testimony to the experience and vision he has to lead the Empire State for the next four years.

I think Seth Lipsky is amazing, but it just drives home the point that newspapers have a lot of moving parts.

Myth #1: It is easy to be a B’nai Noach. It is extraordinarily hard to be a B’nai Noach.

The question of anti-Semitism in Europe today is truly tied to the issue of immigration.

Polls indicate that the Palestinians are much more against a two state solution than the Israelis.

More Articles from Rabbi Ephraim Buchwald
Rabbi Efraim Buchwald

Set limits! Limits must be established and must be enforced – one may not follow the desires of one’s heart and one’s eyes.

Rabbi Ephraim Buchwald

With all the well-earned accolades and fanfare that surrounded last week’s monumental Siyum HaShas, one would expect to find numerous direct references in the Torah mandating the study of Torah. It therefore comes as a great surprise that there is not one direct statement in the Torah commanding its study.

The night of December 8, 2008, was exceptionally cold, but those who attended a special reception for Sam Domb at Abigael’s on Broadway in Manhattan felt only the warmth of this indefatigable man’s love for the Jewish people.

It seems everyone is in a mighty tizzy about young Jews who fail to identify with Israel and don’t much care to visit there. How do we inspire these young folks to develop some feelings for the Holy Land, and attract them to visit Israel?

The whole world seemed to be celebrating the composer Steve Reich’s 70th birthday in October (October 3, to be precise). The New York Times ranked him “among the greatest composers of the century.” The New Yorke rsaid he was”the most original musical thinker of our time.” The Village Voice declared him “America’s greatest living composer.” The Guardian (London) summed it all up by stating, “There’s just a handful of living composers who can legitimately claim to have altered the direction of musical history, and Steve Reich is one of them.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/the-dangers-of-following-after-ones-desires/2014/06/19/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: