“Do not perform the practice of the land of Egypt in which you dwelled…” (Vayikra 18:3)
The Ramban writes that since the Egyptians were deeply immersed in various forms of immoral behavior, the Torah strongly cautions us against following their practices. Although it’s difficult to believe anyone would consider engaging in these abominable forms of depravity, Hashem, the creator of man, knows his inclinations and frailties.
(Thus, the Talmud tells us [Sotah 2a] that one who sees a sotah in her disgrace should vow to abstain from wine for it leads to immorality.)
HaRav Elazar Menachem Man Shach asks: Can an intelligent person who is devoted to Hashem sink so low that he can be compared to a child who doesn’t know to flee from fire? Wouldn’t he be acutely aware of the danger of following the Egyptians’ abhorrent behaviors?
Rav Shach answers these questions by noting that the human body always needs nourishment and sleep. Some people can go without sleep for a night or two, others can subsist on less food, but eventually every person reaches a point at which he needs to replenish his body with food or sleep. The same is true of one’s soul, Rav Shach says. Every person, without exception, needs to constantly fill his soul with inspiration and encouragement.
On the words, “If you listen to My commandments that I command you today” (Devarim 11:13), Rashi writes that “the commandments should be new to you as though you just heard them today.” Every day, the soul needs new spiritual nourishment to maintain its devotion to Torah and mitzvos.
Every day, we recite Krias Shema and accept anew the rule of Heaven (ol malchus Shamayim) even though we already did so the day before. And although we accepted the rule of Heaven in the morning, we do so again in the evening.
The Torah, too, provides an infinite resource of spiritual sustenance for man, as Iyov 11:9 states: “Its measure is longer than the earth and wider than the sea.”
Rav Saadya Gaon writes that a person who has achieved a level of perfection gains a better grasp of the greatness of Hashem each day and consequently does teshuvah every day as he realizes that his appreciation of Hashem the previous day was inadequate.
A young man who grew up in a religious family developed an interest in the world of art. Unfortunately, the people with whom he shared this interest, and with whom he associated, were of low moral character, and many would consider some of their activities depraved. Certainly, their values were antithetical to what he had learned in yeshiva.
The young man’s personal conduct slowly began to deteriorate as practices that had at one time been abhorrent to him became acceptable. Eventually he was at the point of marrying a woman out of the faith.
His mother, a very upright person deeply committed to Torah and mitzvos, was distraught. Her world was destroyed and she walked around in a daze. All her efforts to change the situation were to no avail.
The great tzaddik of Kapishnitz was still living at that time, and the mother felt that perhaps he would be able to help her. After many attempts, she finally found herself in the study of the Kapishnitzer Rebbe. As soon as she opened her mouth to speak, she choked up and began to cry bitterly.
The Kapishnitzer Rebbe, known for his great ahavas Yisrael, listened to the mother pouring out her heart and was deeply moved. He was unable to calm her down until he promised her that her son would abandon his current lifestyle and return to the fold very soon.
And so it was. Within a short amount of time, the son unexpectedly came home. He related that he had been overwhelmed by thoughts of teshuvah and had a sudden desire to return to his roots. Everyone who heard about this startling development was amazed and believed the Rebbe had wrought a great miracle.
But when someone attributed ruach hakodesh to the Rebbe for seeing the future, the Kapishnitzer saod, “It was not me, and not even a part of me. I had no idea or any inkling that the son would do teshuvah. But when I saw the mother’s deep pain, I decided that I would make this promise just to calm her down so that she wouldn’t grieve so strongly.
“However, later I realized that a chillul Hashem would result if my promise didn’t prove true. I therefore pulled myself together and spent time every day praying, begging and crying to Hashem to have mercy on the young man and place thoughts of teshuvah in his mind so that the Name of Heaven shouldn’t be desecrated. Hashem, in His great mercy and compassion, heard my prayers.”