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Before making Aliyah to Israel, Tzvi Fishman was a Hollywood screenwriter. He has co-authored 4 books with Rabbi David Samson, based on the teachings of Rabbi Kook, Eretz Yisrael, Art of T'shuva, War and Peace, and Torat Eretz Yisrael.
Regarding Madonna’s scheduled visit to Israel for Rosh Hashanah with other Hollywood stars, the question was asked, “What about celebrities like Madonna learning Kabbalah?”
One time, after watching a monkey in a traveling circus perform all kinds of tricks, a man in the audience made a bet with the trainer of the monkey that he couldn’t teach the monkey to drive a car. They agreed to meet in a month, and sure enough, the monkey took the keys from the hand of the trainer, got in the car, started the engine, and began to drive off. The man who had made the wager watched in amazement. Coming to an intersection, the monkey stopped at the red light, waited for the light to turn green, then continued to drive along the busy city street. Everything was well and dandy until the car passed a sidewalk fruit stand. Seeing a pile of bright yellow bananas, the monkey jumped out of the window of the car and ran to the irresistible food. The driverless car proceeded to speed down the street toward an approaching intersection. The result was a four car crash, killing several people. The monkey had a wonderful time eating the bananas he stole.
As for the trainer, he grabbed the talented monkey, snatched a bunch of bananas for himself, and raced away down an alley, taking his monkey to another circus in a different town.
A reader inquired where to start on his path of t’shuva. The legendary Kabbalist, Rabbi Yaacov Abuchatzera from Morocco, states that a person should first strive to cleanse himself from the stains of sexual transgression. In his commentary to the Torah portion, “Bechukotai,” he writes:
“A person who comes to serve G-d should first rectify any blemish to the Brit in the proper fashion, and afterward begin to serve G-d…. When the Brit is blemished and has not been rectified, everything is canceled and considered naught.”
Wake up, my friends. The clock is ticking. The Day of Judgment is just moments away.
We have explained on many occasions that sexual transgressions most damage the Brit, or Covenant, between G-d and the Jewish People. The Brit of sexual purity that was sealed in the flesh of our forefather Avraham is the foundation of the Jewish Nation. Living our lives in a holy fashion is what distinguishes us from the other nations of the world. Therefore, Rabbi Abuchatzera explains that G-d warns us in the most emphatic matter regarding the sufferings that will come upon us if we blemish this part of our lives:
“Even if you will do all of the mitzvot, I will consider that you have not done them. Even if you will observe My statutes with love, I proclaim that you have despised My statutes. And even if you will perform My judgments with great joy, I proclaim that you have abhorred them. All of this is because you violated My Brit and have not rectified it. For this reason, everything you do is considered canceled and as naught.... Therefore, whoever desires to do t’shuva, let him first rectify blemishes to the Brit, and after that, the things he does to please G-d will succeed.”
Readers who are interested in understanding this subject in more depth are encouraged to read the opening chapters of the book, “Secret of the Brit,” which can be found online at www.jewishsexuality.com. But even without learning the Kabbalistic secrets surrounding the Brit of sexual purity, this message comes across loud and clear in the Torah portion we read this past Shabbat:
“When you go out to encamp against your enemies, you should keep from every evil thing. If there be a man among you that is not pure by reason of impurity of a seminal emission that chances by night, he shall go abroad out of the camp…. For the L-rd 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 see no unclean thing in you and turn away from you (Devarim, 10-16).
All of our security and well being, both in a national, military sense, and in the camp of our homes, depends on our sexual purity. The Talmud explains that the meaning of “you shall keep from every evil thing” means that you should not gaze upon the beauty of a woman, because a man shouldn’t have sexual thoughts in the day and come to seminal impurity at night,” (Avodah Zara 20A).
Our camps are to be holy. Sexual transgressions cause the Shechnah, the Divine Presence, to flee. Without the protection that the Shechinah affords, our country and our homes are vulnerable to all sorts of misfortune, G-d forbid, whether it be enemy missiles, traffic deaths, or health, livelihood, and marital problems at home.
Of course, most people hear these verses during the Torah reading in shul and don’t think twice about them. “That was back then,” they think. Or “It’s something for the army to worry about.” They don’t realize the Torah is also speaking about our homes, warning us that our homes must be free of any unclean thing, and that includes such things as televisions, and computers that don’t have reliable filters on their Internet server to prevent pornography from entering the home. Without such a filter, a computer is an “unclean thing.” Say what you will say, the fact is that men are men, and boys will be boys, and only the most holy Tzaddik will not fall prey to the temptation of the Internet, with all of the seductions of Midian and Amalek just an easy click away. Without a reliable filter that blocks out erotic images and websites, your computer is an open, flowing sewer that brings pornography into the house, causing the Shechinah to flee.
The Day of Judgment is only a short time away. Don’t let it come without having downloaded a filter onto your computer. Don’t fool yourselves, saying that you trust yourselves, or your husbands, or your children. Don’t let your camp be unholy. For the sake of your family, and for the well being of the Jewish People as a whole. “Remember what Amalek did to you (אשר קרך בדרך) causing you to have a seminal emission on the way” (See Rashi, Devarim, 25:17). Amalek isn’t just some enemy of the past. He is lurking in our computers, just waiting to pounce and draw us into his web. And we are to remember and guard against his evils every day, in every way that we can, including blotting Amalek out of our homes.
Take it from Rabbi Yaacov Abuchatzera. Take it from the Torah. Wake up, my friends. The clock is ticking. The Day of Judgment is just moments away.
Continuing our magical mystery tour of t’shuva, let’s have a look at what Rabbi Nachman of Breslev teaches about the month of Elul and t’shuva. Try to put on an imaginary pair 3-D “t’shuva glasses” and see the spiritual powerhouse in the days of Elul.
The month of Elul is a rope ladder that G-d lowers down to us to rescue us from our fallen state. But it is our task to grab a hold of the ladder and climb back up.
The dominant spiritual theme of the month of Elul is the “tikun habrit,” the rectification for the abuse of the sexual covenant. A person who achieves this will find his true partner in life, a partner who will help him in his aspirations rather than fight against him constantly.
Elul is an especially favorable time to attain “Da’at,” the knowledge of G-d. A person can come to know and understand what he did not know before. New clothes are fashioned for his soul, and he is released from all of his troubles.
Elul is the time to circumcise the foreskin of the heart. Only then does a person have the sensitivity to feel real pain in his heart over the sins he has committed. His sensitivity will become so acute that the very hearts of all of the drops of seminal seed he cast away will also feel the pain, no matter where they may have fallen. They will all rise up in a great commotion and also return to G-d.
Elul is the time most suited for t’shuvah, the return to G-d. It is a period of Divine favor because it was at this time that Moshe went up to receive the second tablets of law and opened a wide path to G-d. The key to this path is to realize that G-d is present in every place and every situation. No matter how far you may have fallen, G-d is with you there just as much as He is present in the heights of the universe…. His dominion extends over everything.
To make amends for one’s sins and rebuild what was damaged, the role of the Tzaddik is of paramount importance. Anyone who wants to attain the ultimate good must make every conceivable effort to draw close to the true Tzaddik and his followers. He must pour out his heart before the Tzaddik and confess his past deeds. Then all of his sins will be forgiven.
Even when a person knows he has achieved perfect repentance, he must still make amends for his earlier repentance. For what he has achieved then was good only in proportion to the perception of G-dliness he had at the time. But now that he has advanced, compared with his present perception, the earlier perception turns out to have been grossly materialistic.
When a person wants to return to G-d, he must become expert in halachah, Jewish Law, (halachah literally means “going).
Even if a person falls into the lowest pit of hell, G-d forbid, he must not despair in any way, regardless of his condition. He should remain firm and search for G-d even there, pleading with Him and begging Him to help in whatever way. For even in the lowest pit of hell, G-d is present, and even from there it is possible to be attached to Him.
No matter how greatly a person may have sinned, as long as he is still called by the name of Israel, he is still a Jew in spite of his sins, and the radiance of the root of his soul can be transmitted to him wherever he may be by means of the study of Torah. Then he will return to G-d.
When those who were far from holiness draw closer – whether they are proselytes who convert, or Jews returning to their roots – G-d’s glory is exalted through their drawing closer, and His Name is glorified in the upper and lower worlds. Glory is raised to its root, and through this shalom spreads over the whole world.
When those who were far away from holiness are roused to return to the light of the Torah, they may experience tremendous obstacles. It takes enormous effort to strip themselves of their “filthy garments.” These “filthy garments” are as difficult a barrier as a river which is impossible to cross. Do not be discouraged if you find yourself confronted by all kinds of obstacles. This is inevitable. It takes great effort to strip off these “filthy garments” – the sins of the past. At times the experience is very bitter. But in the end all of the barriers which separate you from holiness will disappear.
You must be “like a strong man running his course” (Tehiilim, 19:6), because even if you have succeeded in repenting and making amends for the damage you did, you must still make up for the good deeds which you could have done but didn’t all the time you were rebelling against G-d. You must be extra enthusiastic and run extra fast in order to make up for what you failed to do then.
A person must take pity on himself and try to repent of his sins and pray to G-d to help him find a spiritual leader who will show him true love, enlighten him with wisdom, and draw him from his sins. There is no love greater than this.
The only way to attain complete t’shuva is by passing through all the places one had been before his t’shuva. When he passes through them and encounters the very same temptations that he experienced before, he must turn his head aside and control his inclination without repeating what he did in the past. This is the essence of perfect t’shuva. There is no other way.
Repentance helps for every conceivable sin, even the most serious of all, the deliberate emission of semen in vain, or other forms of grave immorality. When the Zohar says that t’shuva does not help in the case of a person who wastes his seed, the meaning is not what it appears on the surface. The truth is as our Sages have said, “There is nothing that stands in the way of t’shuva.” But perfect t’shuva can only be attained with the help of the true Tzaddikim.
[From the book “Advice,” See chapters on the Month of Elul, and on T’shuva. Translations by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan.]