On Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we slowly chant the venerable Psalm, L’Dovid Mizmor. The saying of this Psalm is considered a big segula for livelihood. In this kapital, Dovid HaMelech says, “Lift up your head, O gates.” The baalei mussar homiletically explain this verse to mean “Elevate the gates of your head.” The Sefer Yetzira elaborates that we have seven gateways in our head, namely our two eyes, two nostrils, two ears and our mouth. If we succeed in elevating them, then the verse concludes “V’hinasu pischei olam,” this will generate for us the lifting of the eternal portals in the World to Come. This is also one meaning behind the Torah mandate to make sure to place for ourselves judges and controllers for all of our gateways. As we get ready for the Day of Judgment, we should make sure that we are constantly judging correctly what to do with the seven orifices of our head.
Let’s start with the eyes. Perhaps never before did the yetzer hara wield such power in getting people to fail at the mission of shmiras einayim, guarding the eyes. With the click of a mouse, any computer, smartphone or tablet can transport a person to Sodom v’Amora. Although Eretz Mitzrayim, the land of Egypt was known to be steeped in promiscuity, any laptop rivals its potential for gross immorality – immediately available. We must remember that every day we say [in Shema Yisrael], that we should not “stray after our heart and our eyes.” The posuk then says something strange: “…which you have a tendency to turn to.” The posuk is telling us not to say, “I have no problem with this.” Everyone is attracted by the temptations of the flesh and everyone needs to take precaution!
In Elul, our mission is Ani l’Dodi, I want to be close to my Beloved (Hashem). The verse tells us categorically, “There should not be seen by you naked flesh, and then Hashem will turn away from you.” We are known as Am Kedoshecha, Your Holy Nation. How does one achieve holiness? The Rambam states, “Wherever one exercises care against gazing at sinful sights, there you will find holiness.”
One of the great challenges of our generation is protecting the gateways of our eyes. This is oh, so important, but it’s only the beginning of our work with our eyes. We should use them to gaze at the Chanukah candles the first half an hour after we light them. We should look at the Shabbos candles while we make Kiddush. We should stare at the schach of the sukkah and think of the Clouds of Glory. We should take a look at the moon during Kiddush Levana and know that it’s an opportunity to be mekabel the Shechinah.We should gaze lovingly at our wives and compliment them.It’s a good idea to do that with our mothers as well.
We should daven from a siddur and bentch from a bentcher. Firstly, because we are taught that the letters make us wiser and facilitate better concentration than if we would pray by heart. Rav Pam, zt”l, further advises that one should hold their finger on the place, for that helps one to zoom in on every word. It is well known that Rav Schach, zt”l, attributed his longevity to the fact that he always bentched from a bentcher. Furthermore, when we daven from a siddur and bentch from a bentcher, our eyes are part of the mitzvah, whereas if we bentch and daven by heart, our eyes don’t take part in these venerable pursuits.
Our eyes can also be trained to be on the lookout for how we can help our spouse and our fellow man. And then, of course, there is the greatest excellence of the eyes and that is when we gaze at the holy words of Torah and drink them in thirstily. In the process, we can also gaze lovingly at our Rebbe and fulfill the directive of “Your eyes should gaze at your teacher.”
We will have to save the other orifices of the head for next week. In the meantime, as we work on improving all of our portals, may Hashem bless us with long life, good health, and everything wonderful.