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      Hollywood to the Holy Land
      by Tzvi Fishman
      Tzvi Fishman was awarded the Israel Ministry of Education Prize for Jewish Creativity and Culture

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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.


      Iyar 21, 5767, 5/9/2007

      Ladies, Beware!

      You won’t see women wearing bikinis on the streets of Jerusalem, but you’re likely to see everything else. I don’t know what’s going on in Tel Aviv, but I imagine it’s worse. This week’s sweltering hot spell seems to have made lots of people lose their senses – the women who wear immodest attire in public, and the men who look at them. Apparently the excessive heat on the brains of these women has caused them to forget that they’re Jews. Jewish women are modest. Jewish women have a keen sense of shame. Jewish women don’t parade their bodies on the street like the hookers in New Orleans.
      Jewish women are modest. Jewish women have a keen sense of shame. Jewish women don’t parade their bodies on the street like the hookers in New Orleans.

      I realize that my ranting does not have widespread effect. Here and there, a woman is moved to realize the error of her ways, and that is important by itself. Since my pamphlet regarding the evacuation from Gush Katif was widely distributed, I have noticed an improvement in religious Zionist circles, but without a united call for greater modesty on the part of all of the rabbis and educators in the country, a dramatic change is not to be expected.

      Nonetheless, we cannot be silent and pretend that the situation is perfectly all right, saying that’s just the way it is in modern times. For as we have noted on several occasions, modesty is the foundation of our nation, and the key to our national health and security, as the Torah affirms:

      "When thou goest out to encamp against thy enemies, then keep thee from every evil thing. If there be among you any man that is not clean by reason of an impure emission of semen at night, then he shall go abroad outside of the camp, he shall not come within the camp," (Devarim, 23:10-11).

      "For the L-rd thy G-d walks in the midst of thy camp, to deliver thee, and to give up thy enemies before thee; therefore shall thy camp be holy, that He see no unclean thing in thee and turn away from thee," (Devarim, 23:15).

      Immodest dress is unholy. Exposing parts of the body that should be covered is considered an unclean thing. It causes men to have sexual thoughts and fantasies which can lead to "wet dreams" and other unholy behavior.  Lest habit has dulled our senses, and readers think that I am making a mountain out of a molehill, let’s take a look at the plea of the holy Kabbalist, Rabbi Daniel Frish, author of the superb commentary on the Zohar, "Matok M’Dvash." He called his apeal to the Daughters of Israel, "A Cry From The Heart:"

      "It is time to seriously examine the terrible breach brought about by clothes that hug the body in a provocative manner. When we contemplate to the depth of the matter, we must know that every time a woman goes out wearing a tight-fitting garment – even without intending to cause damage, but merely to appear more attractive – behold, she returns home burdened with thousands of serious transgressions, may the Almighty have mercy!

      "Each time a woman goes out to the street in immodest attire, she transgresses six prohibitions of the Torah and five positive commandments.

      "With each man that she causes to gaze at her with a lustful glance, she transgresses the prohibition, ‘Do not put a stumbling block before a blind man’ (Vayikra, 19:14). Furthermore, she brings upon herself the same punishment that he will face in the future, as the holy Rashi explains on the verse, ‘He will bear her iniquity,’ that whomever causes his fellow to sin, is punished in his place (Bamidbar, 30:19).

      "In his book, ‘Letter of T’shuva,’ Rabbanu Yona also makes this point, stating that a man who gazes at a woman lustfully, whether at her face or her hand, brings the punishment of Gehinom upon himself. And she receives the punishment that she caused to each and every man who gazed at her, because she caused them to stumble by her not behaving in a modest fashion.

      "It is further stated in the book, ‘Shomer Emunim,’ in the name of the Sages of old, that when a woman goes about on the street dressed in an immodest fashion, she is accompanied by tens of thousands of evil forces and husks of impurity (klipot,) may the Almighty save us. These impure forces enter into the hearts of the men on the street, and tempt and bewilder these men into gazing at her and succumbing to lustful thoughts.

      "Therefore, a woman must realize that when she goes out in immodest attire, she ‘sins and brings the multitude to sin.’ In addition, she also causes other woman and young girls who learn from her example to sin, in that they are influenced to dress in the same fashion. Her immodesty causes others to treat the commandment of modesty in a flippant manner, bringing others to trespass. This is especially true if she is a woman of importance, or a mother, or grandmother, who set an example for daughters and granddaughters - how much greater the responsibility. Concerning this, our Sages have said: ‘Yeravam sinned and caused the public to sin; thus the sin of the multitudes is attributed to him’ (Avot, 5:21). Furthermore, they taught: ‘Anyone who causes a multitude to sin is not afforded repentance’ (Ibid).

      "Therefore, the immodest woman plays a hand in the spiritual decline of every woman she influences, not only in regards to the woman who learned from her, but also from the woman who learns from the second woman, and there on down the chain. As long as this matter is not corrected, and the plague of immodesty not stemmed, the woman who influences others has a part in the whole.

      "She also causes the standard of modesty to crumble, and causes a weakening of Judaism, for she adds to the spreading of this errant fashion. When one commandment is taken lightly, the entire Torah is weakened, not only in her eyes, but in the eyes of her generation and the generations that follow. All of this comes in the wake of the woman who leaves her home wearing immodest clothes. How staggering are the consequences of this matter!
      (From the book, "The Crown of Modesty," Pg. 259)

      Therefore, Ladies, beware. The beauty of a Jewish woman derives from her modesty, not from the shape of her figure.

      Iyar 19, 5767, 5/7/2007

      Don't Throw Out the Baby

      A reader disheartened by the moral decline of the nation in Israel suggested that perhaps, in retrospect, Rav Kook was wrong in his embrace of Zionism and its non-religious adherents. It may be that he is projecting his own disillusionment onto Rabbi Kook, or that his comment stems from a lack of familiarity with Rabbi Kook’s great corpus of writings.
      Therefore my confused and cynical friends in the exile, read these words of Rabbi Kook again and again and again. Be assured that the ship has a Captain, and He knows the course of the journey. Trust in Him to navigate the way through the raging seas and bring us to the harbor of our awaited destination. Don’t miss the boat. Hurry and hop aboard.

      Perhaps more than anyone in his time, Rabbi Kook saw the Hand of G-d behind the rise of the Zionist movement, which he viewed as the vehicle of the beginning of Redemption in our time. Yet he was also acutely aware of its shortcomings. Two decades before the establishment of the State of Israel, he wrote a sobering vision of the future that rings frighteningly true for today:

      "In the future, if our national aspiration succeeds, and our efforts bring us to be gathered into a political state in the Land of Israel, if we do not take pains before that time to fortify the position of religion and faith, so that it will be the common property of all Jews, then terrible and frightening will be our national state, for the scandals and confusion will proliferate due to fraternal hatred. This is likely to come about since every power is strengthened by the reinforcement of the national living spirit. And if a spirit of heroism and military power accompanies this, as natural to an independent state, will there not be great clashes as a result of the extreme opposition of ideas and the deeds that spring from them, when the central beam that unites the whole nation, the spiritual and religious foundation, is lacking? Can not such conflicts destroy even a settled and mighty nation through civil war?" (See the book, "Selected Letters," Edited by Tzvi Feldman, Letter 37).

      Regarding the concept of freedom and how the subjugation to foreign cultures imbues a Jew with a slave mentality, Rabbi Kook also foresaw the likelihood that the sacred treasures of the Jewish People would be contaminated by the foreign ideas of the secularists:

      "During the period of transition which leads us to Redemption, slumbering forces awaken. Waves of life roar mightily. At this time of agitation, that which is lowly, both physically and spiritually, awakens, as do the most noble of positive forces. Hence, great caution is required. The pioneers of Redemption, the entire generation that is meriting to witness the first bud of the sprouting of salvation, will necessarily contain many thoughts, images, and teachings which tend to destroy, defile, and annihilate all glory and strength in Israel. Have not educators and leaders risen in our midst who stand at the helm of education and leadership and offer our children to Molech, who inoculate them with every foreign thought and insipid idea, because they prefer alien shoots taken not from the fields of Israel, but from the vines of Sodom and Gemorrah? What has led us to the black depth of brotherly hatred which threatens to destroy and undermine all that has been accomplished through generations of superhuman toil and self-sacrifice? It is the absorption of the chametz of alien spirituality which is a hindrance at the time that the flourishing of our Redemption is progressing. What has caused the blindness preventing us from looking heavenward, from seeing how the Rock of Israel leads us on wings of eagles to the heights of Redemption? We must awaken and rise above the lowly bondage to all that is alien, be it expressed in foreign languages, or be it expressed in our own tongue but with an alien, poisonous spirit" ("Celebration of the Soul," Pg. 145. Translated and edited by Pesach Yaffe).

      Rabbi Kook understood clearly that problems would develop during the course of the nation’s revival in Israel. These are the difficult "teenage" years that we are experiencing now. He emphasized that even though the nation did not recognize the Divine spirit fueling the revival of the Jewish People in Israel, this was indeed the "birthpangs of Mashiach," the harbinger of the awaited Redemption:

      "The nation develops with all of its powers and essence without yet recognizing the depth of the higher spirit that is the foundation of its revival. Its eye is on the earth; to the heavens it does not yet look. The Name of Heaven is not constantly on her lips, she pursues brawn and strength, but truly all is holy and godly" (Orot, Orot HaTechiya, 32).
      Just like with the education of a child, patience is the key. When a rebellious son gets into trouble, a wise, loving parent doesn’t disown him and kick him out of the house. The wise and loving parent patiently suffers through his child’s period of turmoil until he matures and settles down.

      To the skeptics, the discouraged, and those filled with doubt that this was truly the beginnings of the yearned for Redemption, Rav Kook called out: "Be strong! Do not be afraid! The light of Mashiach shines, eternal Redemption appears from all cracks, from the darkness of evil and from the vulgar, despised and ineffectual atheism. A supernal light will come that will redeem Israel and will uplift with honor a nation that knows its G-d" (Orot HaTechiya, 14).

      Therefore, to our readers who think that living in the lands of the gentiles is better than living in the Land of the Jews, so long as the Hellenists are running the show here, patience - sovlenut. Don’t throw out the baby with the dirty water in the tub. Try to see this unfolding process from an overall perspective, as a developing Redemption, with temper tantrums and dirty diapers along the way, just like the growth of a child. As Rabbi Kook assures us:

      "A covenant was made with the Congregation of Israel that it would never become totally impure. Yes, impurity can affect it, causing imperfections to occur, but impurity can never sever it totally from its source of Divine life. The national spirit that is awakened now in the desire for Jewish nationhood, many of whose proponents say they have no need of the Divine spirit and would opt to present the nation on a basis of impurity and self-destruction – they themselves do not know what they want. So connected is the national spirit of Israel with the spirit of G-d that even if one should say that he has no need of the spirit of the L-rd, as soon as he states a desire for Israeli nationhood, the spirit of G-d rests in the innermost point of his aspiration, even against his will. An individual can separate himself from the Source of life, not so the entire Jewish nation. Therefore all the national assets, which are beloved to the nation on account of its national spirit, all are invested with the spirit of G-d: her Land, her language, her history, her customs. If there come a time when people speak only of the spirit of the nation, and attempt to negate the spirit of G-d from all of these assets and from the national spirit – what should the righteous of the generation do? To rebel against the spirit of nationhood, even verbally, and to reject its assets, this is something impossible, for the spirit of the L-rd and the national spirit of Israel are one. Rather, the righteous must work hard to reveal the light and the holiness in the national spirit, to reveal the light of G-d in all of these, until all of those who cling to the national spirit and its assets will find themselves automatically standing, ensconced, rooted, and living in the Divine holy life" (Orot HaTechiya, 9. See the English translation of "Orot" by Bezalel Naor).

      Therefore my confused and cynical friends in the exile, read these words of Rabbi Kook again and again and again. Be assured that the ship has a Captain, and He knows the course of the journey. Trust in Him to navigate the way through the raging seas and bring us to the harbor of our awaited destination. Don’t miss the boat. Hurry and hop aboard.

      Iyar 18, 5767, 5/6/2007


      When the "Hitnatkut" or Evacuation Plan from Gush Katif was first announced, the Kabbalist, Rabbi Eliahu Leon Levi, proclaimed that if the people of Israel did not turn away from sexual transgression, the settlements on the chopping block would fall. The evil decree, he said, was because of the plague of immodesty in the Holy Land, and that the communities of Gush Katif had been chosen because Hashem judges the righteous with a more exact measure. He said that these brave people who held up the banner of settlement in the Land must also hold up the banner of holiness and lead the way in settling the Land in a holy fashion.

      A home in Neve Dekalim
      Yishai Fleisher

      In a previous blog, I mentioned that in fighting against the evacuation, I produced a series of strident posters and made a several powerful videos that were distributed all over the country. In addition, I wrote a pamphlet based on Rabbi Levi’s warnings, and mailed thousands of copies to rabbis and to settlements all over Yesha, and to every home in the threatened communities in the Shomron and Gush Katif. Because the plague of immodesty is still with us, I am printing the pamphlet here, to further our understanding of the connection between sexual holiness and the settlement of our Land.

      The Rambam writes that if a tragedy befalls the community and the people do not undertake a personal accounting and course of repentance to atone for their erring deeds that brought the evil decree upon them, that this is a cruel thoughtlessness that perpetuates continued wrongdoing and invites further tragedies in the future, G-d forbid (Laws of Fasts, 1:3).

      I am sorry to say this, but I attended a long list of protests, demonstrations and mass prayers in the months of campaigning against the evacuation, and yet I never felt that we ever looked at ourselves for the root of our troubles. Always, we blamed others – the evil government and its corrupt and opportunist leaders, they were the bad guys. We were the innocent tzaddikim. We prayed to be saved from the evildoers in power. Except for Rabbi Leon, and a few Kabbalists who spoke in Gush Katif about the need for greater modesty, no one spoke about t'shuva. No one thought to mend their ways. And no one sees a need to mend their ways today. That is the greatest tragedy – that we have not learned from the blow that we suffered.

      Everyone knows that the next wave of missiles is on the way. And everyone senses that not Ehud, nor Bibi, nor the Israeli Army or the Air Force will save us. We just sit around and wait passively for the next round of concessions and katushot, and nobody thinks about changing his ways. So here’s what I wrote then, and it is just as true today....
      Everyone knows that the next wave of missiles is on the way. And everyone senses that not Ehud, nor Bibi, nor the Israeli Army or the Air Force will save us. We just sit around and wait passively for the next round of concessions and katushot, and nobody thinks about changing his ways.

      Dear Brothers,

      In this painful hour, when our homeland is burning under our feet, and the Shechinah is crying in anguish from all the treacherous talk of evacuation from Gush Katif and settlements in Samaria, who can address the great challenges which face us? Yet who can keep silent?

      Together we have flocked to the streets to demonstrate again and again in order to rescind the evil decree. We have covered the land with posters and gone door-to-door all over the country to present our case and the justice of our cause. We have lobbied in the Knesset and exhausted every judicial and legislative means in our battle. And in mass prayer gatherings, we have pleaded to our Father in Heaven to have mercy on His Land, on His People, and on His Name which is called upon us.And yet the evil decree is still hovers over our heads.

      Our Sages have taught that when sufferings fall on a person, he should examine his deeds. In the words of "Mesillat Yesharim," he should enter into an accounting.

      It is no secret that a lack of modesty fills the streets all over our country. Women’s fashions, imported from Europe, cause the eye to blush. In addition, one can hardly walk to a kiosk without being confronted by some lustful image on the cover of a magazine. Not to mention the evil influences of television, the movies, and the Internet, may G-d have mercy. Even worse, recent waves of Aliyah from Russia have brought a staggering number of gentile women to the Holy Land. Literally, thousands of them work as prostitutes. Every day, round the clock, our brothers fall prey to the lures of sexual transgression, giving Jewish vitality and power to impure, foreign realms called the Other Side – as the Torah warns, "Do not give your offspring to Molech."

      A plague of immodesty and sexual immorality has invaded the Holy Land’s borders like locusts. This sad state of affairs is known to all. But what is the connection to the settlements of Gush Katif and Yesha? How are they to blame? Why has the decree fallen on them? Certainly, the situation is far worse in Tel Aviv and on the kibbutzim where not even the most basic laws of modesty and family purity are maintained?

      Our Sages teach us that HaKodesh Baruch Hu is exacting with His tzaddikim. He judges His tzaddikim to a hair’s breath. Who are greater tzaddikim than the settlers, who put their lives in danger every day in order to perform the great mitzvah of settling the Land – a mitzvah which weighs equally to all of the mitzvot in the Torah? Rabbi Kook wrote that whoever is closer to the settlement of the Land is closer to perfection and blessing. Yet it is precisely these brave, idealistic, G-d-fearing Jews who have settled the Biblical hilltops of Yesha and the sand dunes of Gush Katif who have the mission to raise the banner of Redemption by being a Holy People in the Holy Land. They are the tzaddikim who must stand in the breach to bring merit to the nation. Therefore, at a time when our communities our under the knife of the Accuser, we, the people who have led the way in settling the Biblical hillsides and valleys of Yesha, are called to a true accounting.

      Dear brothers, in the area of modesty, there is certainly room to improve. Our Sages have warned us of the dangers of mixed gatherings where men and women mingle together, whether at weddings, community meetings, demonstrations and the like. They have warned us regarding the seemingly casual conversations between men and women. And they have warned us about the importance of not gazing at women. And look at our homes - giant screen TVs in our living rooms and cable satellite dishes on our red, sunbaked roofs. As the time of Redemption approaches, it is not enough to be a Holy People in theory – we must also be holy in deed, in our day-to-day lives, in and outside of our homes. The teaching of our Sages that "There is no tzaddik who does good and does not sin," is specifically in this area of our lives. We are the nation of G-d, and we are called upon to "Be Holy!"

      We are in the sixth millineum of our history, which represents the sixth sefirah – the "yesod." The sefirah of the "yesod" is integrally connected with the Brit, or Covenant, of sexual purity. Kabbalists explain that the greatest test in this time of Redemption is in the realm of safeguarding this Brit of sexual purity, the very foundation of our nation. As we approach the time of Redemption, the evil inclination wages a fierce war to prevent the nation of Israel from reaching its goal of establishing the Kingdom of G-d on earth. This battle is manifest in the immodesty we see everywhere we look. It is the same war that Amalek and Midian waged on the Jews upon our first entry into the Land. This same spirit of Midian, dressed in the guise of the modern cultures of the West, aims to sever our connection to the Holy One of Israel, G-d forbid.

      Hasidic masters have long warned that the spirit of Mashiach is a zealous holy fire that will not tolerate any place where there is even a blemish of licentiousness. Rabbi Nachman of Breslev taught that even in a place where there isn’t actually sexual transgression, but only lesser levels of immodesty, the spirit of Mashiach still takes vengeance over this. For in establishing the holiness and purity demanded in the time of Redemption, the spirit of Mashiach will not overlook even a slight blemish in the sexual holiness of the Jewish People.

      It is known that the basis of the brit between Avraham Avinu and Hashem over the Land of Israel depends of safeguarding the brit (Bereshit, 17:8-10). Because this brit is the foundation of the Jewish Nation it is called the "yesod," which means foundation. This brit is not merely to perform the mitzvah of circumcision on our children, but also to guard the rules of sexual holiness throughout our lives. This is the reason that the Covenant between the Jewish People and G-d was stamped on the sexual organ – to emphasize that this part of our lives is to be sacrosanct to G-d.

      The Zohar and masters of the secrets of Torah in every generation have taught that all of the Torah, and all of the tikun-rectification of the world depends on tikun habrit, the rectification of sexual wrongdoing, for the marital union is the foundation of all existence.

      The Zohar emphasizes again and again, perhaps more than any other theme, the importance of safeguarding the brit of sexual purity. It stresses that transgressions involving sexual conduct and purity bring disaster on the individual and the nation. The Torah itself explicitly states in portion "Achre Mot" that the punishment for sexual transgression is exile from our Land, G-d forbid.

      The holy book, "Reshit Chochmah," teaches that the tribes transgressed all of the Torah, but that exile was not decreed until they violated the laws of sexual purity. Dear brothers, the connection is not accidental. As the day of the evacuation approaches, are we not facing the threat of exile from our borders? Are we not facing the uprooting of settlements, as if we are being vomited out of our homes?

      Can anything be clearer than this?

      Certainly demonstrations and all other expressions of protest are important, and must continue, but if we ignore the very foundation of our existence as a nation, our efforts will be in vain, and the evil forecasts of our Sages are liable to come to pass, may G-d have mercy.

      But there is no room for despair. Our Sages teach that even if a sword is set on a person’s throat, he should not give in to despair. The verse teaches that salvation comes precisely out of the most difficult moments, as it says, "It is a time of trial for Yaacov, and from it, the salvation will come." The "Hitnatkut" has come to bring us to a higher level of Divine service, and to a renewed connection to our Land, and to the Covenant of our Forefathers. If we can rise to this higher level, to this new phase in the unfolding process of Redemption, then the dreaded evacuation will become a springboard for repentance, sanctification, and improvement. Only through a deep and sincere examination of our ways and a commitment to a holier life, can we cancel the decree and save our threatened communities. In this way the "whipping stick" of the evacuation can be turned into a blessing for us, for the nation, and for the world.

      Here we can only offer some brief guide lines, collected from the teachings of our Sages, concerning tikun habrit, the rectification of sexual wrongdoing.

      First, the subject has to be studied and taught. Rabbis and teachers have to discuss the problem with their communities and students. With the dangers facing our settlements, it is "A time to act for G-d." It is not enough to learn the laws of modesty and family purity two weeks before a person marries – these laws, in order to be safeguarded, must be learned every year. Fortunately, there are many books on the subject, both for young people and married couples. While we diligently learn about all other aspects of our Torah, it can not be that these matters, the very foundations of Judaism, are left ignored. The main thing is that this new awareness and learning lead us to a deep and serious t’shuva that paves the way for a real change in our lives.

      To help in the t’shuva process, masters of the secrets of Torah have composed many tikunim, and special prayers, that have the power to erase the blemishes caused through our misdeeds. The "Tikun Clalli" of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, and the "Tikun Yeshuat Eliahu" of the Kabbalist, Rabbi Eliahu Leon Levi, are examples. These prayers, when recited with deep heartfelt intent, have the power to set a baal t’shuva on a happier healthier path and to cancel harsh decrees.

      There are many important aids to tikun habrit including mikvah, guarding the eyes, increased Torah study and the giving of charity. A personal relationship with a holy Torah scholar who is learned in these matters is also a key. But the main thing is a new level of the fear and love of G-d, and a change in behavior that elevates a person out of the lusts and impurities that surrounded his life in the past.

      Because the sexual urge is the strongest yetzer, everyone is liable to make mistakes. Therefore, a person who wants to redress past mistakes and make a new beginning does well to adopt a more careful, sanctified orientation toward marital relations. In his book, "Yeshuot Eliahu – Tikunei Yesod," Rabbi Eliahu Leon Levi, lists important guidelines that are stressed in Kabbalistic writings and go often overlooked. At first glance, these may seem to impinge on the emotional expression and joy that are an integral part of the marriage relationship. In fact, the opposite is true. It is these extra precautions that bring a new love, mutual respect and happiness to marriage, along with the blessings of better health, livelihood, and the well being of the children.

      May G-d grant us the wisdom to see the shortcomings in our ways and grant us the strength and Divine assistance to correct them, for the sake of our holy communities, our holy nation, and our Holy Land.

      Iyar 16, 5767, 5/4/2007


      First, we would like to remind readers that the polling station is still open at http://www.jewishsexuality.com regarding the question whether the Internet is the proper medium for educational articles about Jewish sexuality. In the meantime, we will continue with an investigation of the past week’s Torah reading in the light of some secrets from the Zohar. In so doing, we will try to understand some of the deep esoteric causes of the expulsion from Gush Katif and shed light on some of the dangers we face as a nation.
      I know that these are difficult concepts to grasp, but as we saw at the conclusion of the Torah portion, "Achre Mot," the punishment for sexual transgression is being vomited out of the Land.

      Since the holiday of Lag BaOmer is approaching, when we will be honoring the memory of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, author of the holy Zohar, it is an appropriate time to take a look at a few of his teachings. Readers who are interested in delving more deeply into the Zohar are invited to read the chapter, "Flow of Blessing" of the book, "Secret of the Brit," and to study the section, "Zohar Passages," both of which can be found online at www.jewishsexuality.com.

      The following material is based on a class delivered last night by the elder Kabbalist, Rabbi Eliahu Leon Levi, at the tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai in Meron, where the Rabbi and some 70 students gathered at midnight to usher in the Lag BaOmer holiday which officially starts this Motzei Shabbat.

      As we noted in a previous blog, the Torah portion of "Achre Mot" concludes with a long list of forbidden sexual relationships. In the middle of the list is a verse that appears out of place. "And thou shall not let any of thy seed to be passed to Molech" (Vayikra, 18:21). What is this injunction against sacrificing one’s offspring to the idol worship of Molech doing in the middle of a list of forbidden sexual relations? Rabbi Leon explained that according to the Kabbalah, when a Jewish man has sexual relations with a non-Jewish woman, this is considered passing one’s seed to Molech, a synonym for the realm of unholiness. According to the secrets of Torah, every prohibited sexual relationship, and every forbidden sexual union, is considered passing one’s seed to this impure realm, like the actual passing of one’s children to Molech (See the book, "Sod HaHashmal, Vol.1, "Achre Mot" by the Jerusalem Kabbalist, Rabbi Yekutiel Zalman Zeev).

      Rabbi Leon said that when a Jew conducts marital relations in the holy proscribed manner, he and his wife give strength to the Shechinah, increasing holiness in the world. However, should a Jew commit a sexual transgression, he gives his strength to the evil realm of Molech, magnifying the force of evil.

      Elsewhere in the Zohar, Rabbi Shimon equates sexual relations with non-Jews as worshipping idols. Here, and in the other teachings of the Zohar that we shall quote, we clearly see that guarding the Brit, or Covenant, is not merely referring the commandment of circumcision, but also to the general obligation to safeguard the laws of sexual holiness:

      "Whoever cleaves to a woman of any of the idolatrous nations becomes defiled. The child born from such an attachment receives a defiled spirit. It may be asked, if the child is from a Jewish father, why should he receive a defiled spirit? Behold, at the very start, his father polluted himself when he attached himself to that impure woman. Since the father became impure from this impure woman, all the more so, the child born from her will receive an impure spirit. Not only this, but he transgresses the Torah commandment, as is written, ‘For thou shall not bow down to another god; for the L-rd, whose Name is Zealous, is a zealous G-d…’ (Shemot, 34:14). He is zealous over the holy Brit" (Zohar, Bereshit 131b).

      Elsewhere, Rabbi Shimon teaches that sexual relations with non-Jews drives the Shechinah from the world, causing prayers to go unanswered, something we experienced with our prayers for Gush Katif:

      "The man who has sexual relations with a gentile woman enters the holy Brit and the sign that upholds the world into a foreign realm, as is written, ‘For Yehuda has profaned the holiness of the L-rd whom he loved, and has taken to himself the daughter of a strange god’ (Malachi, 2:11). For we have learned that the Holy One Blessed Be He has no zealousness, except for His zealousness over the holy Brit, for this Brit is the secret of the Sacred Name and the secret of faith. As is written, ‘And the people began to commit harlotry with the daughters of Moav’ (Bamidbar, 25:1), then, immediately afterward, ‘And the anger of the L-rd was kindled against Israel.’" (Zohar, Shemot 3b).

      Widespread sexual immorality brings about a kindling of the anger of G-d. The Zohar emphasizes that it was through the Brit with Avraham Avinu that Israel made its initial attachment to with the Holy One Blessed Be He, through the act of circumcision and the Covenant to safeguard our lives in sexual purity. Judaism is founded upon this Covenant. This is our connection to the Shechinah. Thus, Rabbi Shimon explains, a Jew who is false to this Brit is false to our Covenant with G-d. What is the essence of this betrayal? Not to blemish the Brit by bringing it into a foreign domain, as is written, ‘For Yehuda has profaned the holiness of the L-rd whom he loved, and has taken to himself the daughter of a strange god’" (Zohar, Shemot 37b).

      These esoteric understandings are especially disturbing when we remember that during the waves of mass immigration to Israel from Russia in the past two decades, tens of thousands of non-Jewish women were brought to the country, and a staggering number of them are working as prostitutes around the clock. When Jewish men transgress with these women, they give their spiritual strength to a foreign realm. Rabbi Leon teaches that according to Kabbalistic formulas, this weakens Israel’s sovereignty over the Land of Israel and allows non-Jews to rule here, G-d forbid. This, he explains, was a major part of the inner spiritual cause of the evacuation of Gush Katif, which brought about the surrendering of portions of Eretz Yisrael to the foreign realm of our enemies. Not that the settlers committed sexual relations with non-Jews, G-d forbid. Rather, the sad state of immodesty and sexual transgression throughout the nation brought an evil decree of expulsion upon us all, and the lot fell upon the communities of Gush Katif and the Shomron. In a similar way, our Sages teach us that Divine punishment afflicted on the righteous atones for the overall sins of the nation.

      Rabbi Leon told the large crowd that assembled around him in the inner chamber of the tomb that the Zohar emphasizes that all transgressions to the Brit, not just illicit relations with gentile women, are loathsome to G-d. At the beginning of the Torah portion, "Kedoshim," we find the admonishing command, "Do not turn aside after their gods, nor make for yourselves molten gods" (Vayikra, 19:4) In honor of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, once again, let’s take a look at the Zohar’s illuminating explanation of this:

      "We have learned (Avodah Zara, 20b) that it is forbidden for a man to gaze upon the beauty of a woman, so that he should not come to have evil thoughts and thus be incited to something worse. For this reason, when Rabbi Shimon had to walk through the town followed by his disciples, whenever he came to a place that beautiful women were apt to be found, he would lower his eyes and say to his companions, ‘Do not turn aside!’ For whoever gazes at the beauty of a woman by day will have sinful thoughts at night. And if these evil thoughts overcome him, he transgresses the commandment, ‘Thou shall not make for yourselves molten gods.’ Furthermore, if he has marital relations with his wife while thinking about these evil images, the children born from such union are called ‘molten gods.’ For this reason, it is written, ‘Do not turn astray after their gods, nor make for yourselves molten gods’" (Zohar, Vayikra 84a).

      Rabbi Leon chose to speak last night about the tragedy that befell Gush Katif because the situation that brought about the decree of expulsion are still very much with us. Time and again in the Zohar, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai warns of the tragedies that transgressions to the Brit bring on the individual and the Jewish Nation as a whole. What is vital to understand is that this underlying spiritual malaise was a major invisible factor in bringing about the tragedy of the evacuation. This spiritual betrayal to the Brit was played out in the physical world through the treacherous actions of the government and its adulterous pacts with foreign regimes, but the underlying cause was a spiritual betrayal that must be understood and corrected, as well as correcting the timid, exile mentality of our political leaders.

      I know that these are difficult concepts to grasp, but as we saw at the conclusion of the Torah portion, "Achre Mot," the punishment for sexual transgression is being vomited out of the Land. Let's be honest. What was the evacuation of the settlements of Gush Katif and the Shomrom if not being spit out from our communities and homes?

      With G-d’s help, in an upcoming blog, we will write in more detail about the connection between our settlement of Eretz Yisrael, the evacuation of Gush Katif, and the Covenant of the Brit. In the meantime, may we all take these matters to heart and strive to heed the Torah’s command to "Be holy!" and thus nullify any Divine anger, and enemy missiles, that may still be hovering over our heads, G-d forbid. Happy Lag BaOmer!

      Iyar 14, 5767, 5/2/2007

      Jewish Sexuality Poll

      Some readers have expressed concern that an open forum like this blog on Arutz 7 is not the proper place for articles on Jewish sexuality, while other readers have expressed appreciation and encouragement. In order to gage the leanings of the silent majority, we are initiating a poll dealing with this important question. First, we shall present the two sides of the argument, then set forth the questions in the poll, which is posted at: www.JewishSexuality.com

      The opinion that maintains that educational articles about Jewish sexuality are not fitting for an open forum like this blog on Arutz 7 can be summarized as follows:

      First, just thinking about sexual matters is a transgression in itself, if it arouses erotic thoughts. Even though the articles are educational and founded on Torah study, they conjure up sexual images in the mind, and this has a negative spiritual influence.

      Second, because an open forum on a popular website like Arutz 7 attracts all sorts of people and ages, there is a very real danger that young, unmarried people will be exposed to sexual matters that can harm their spiritual and emotional development.

      Third, from time immemorial, traditional Orthodox Judaism has treated this subject with great modesty. The discussion of sexual matters has been conducted in private, between rabbi and student, or between an Orthodox woman counselor and a young women about to get married. This practice is based on a Mishna which states that the matter of forbidden sexuality relations should not be taught to three students at the same time (Chagiga, 2:1). This is to insure that the subject be learned precisely. The Gemara explains that if two of the students should talk to each other during the lesson, they might not hear the teacher’s words exactly. Since the sexual urge is so strong, tempting people into error, if a student doesn’t pay careful attention to the teacher, he might come away thinking that a forbidden relationship is permitted and thus transgress the law.

      Fourth, regarding masturbation, because the punishment for this transgression is so severe, if a person learns in depth about the severity of his doings, he may fall into depression, believing he can never escape the powerful pull of temptation, and the resulting feeling of doom and despair could lead him on to further sin and to the abandonment of Torah altogether.

      Fifth, since the deeper understandings of sexual transgression belong to the secrets of Torah, a majority of people will not comprehend the matters anyway.

      In contrast to the above reasons against an open forum, the opinion that maintains that educational articles about Jewish sexuality are fitting for an open forum like this blog on Arutz 7 can be summarized as follows:

      First, since the subject is not widely taught in the yeshiva world, there exists a great deal of ignorance regarding Jewish sexuality, and people can easily fall into wrongdoing. Therefore, these matters must be publicized.

      Second, because of the widespread permissiveness and promiscuity of our time, a counterbalancing widespread effort is needed to inform the Jewish public of the seriousness of sexual transgression and of paths of correction.

      Third, because of the widespread viewing of pornography over the Internet, corrective educational material must be made available over the Internet so that people can discover ways to overcome negative habits and sexual transgression.

      Fourth, because of the widespread exposure to sexual material in magazines, movies, TV, the Internet, schools, and the like, young people today already know about "the birds and the bees." Therefore, exposing young people to the guidelines of the Torah is a positive factor in their spiritual and moral development.

      Regarding the need to publicly educate the world Jewry about the breach of modesty that erupted in his time, the great Torah giant, the Chofetz Chaim, wrote a letter, calling on rabbis of every community to speak out publicly on this issue:

      "It is known to everyone that when a fire bursts out in the vineyard of the king, a proclamation goes forth from the ministers of the king to the inhabitants of the city, saying: ‘Everyone be strong to extinguish the fire in any way you can, for the vineyard of the king is burning, and if you are lazy in this matter, know that you will be held responsible with your lives, and you will be labeled rebels, because you did not take heed for his honor. And if you take courage, as is fitting, and put out the fire, then everyone shall receive his reward and honor according to his efforts.’ So too in this matter, for it is known that all of Israel is considered the vineyard of the L-rd, as is written, ‘For the house of Israel is the vineyard of the L-rd of Hosts.’

      "And due to our many sins, a great blaze has erupted in His vineyard in several places because of this terrible fashion. For the power of impurity has considerably strengthened because of this. As our Sages have said on the verse, ‘And you shall guard yourselves from every evil thing’ (Devarim, 23:10), that a man should not have sexual thoughts during the day and come to pollute himself at night (Ketubot 46A). For if this should occur, all of the blessing and Divine flow to this man’s deeds will be cut off, and because of this he will be surrounded by evil tribulations, as is written in the holy books of wisdom.

      "Therefore, every man has the obligation to extinguish this terrible fire, and to rectify the situation in his home so that everything will be according to the law, and not to allow licentiousness, G-d forbid. And in doing so, he will merit to have upright and exalted holy children.

      "And more than anyone else, this obligation falls on the rabbis and on all those who are zealous to fulfill G-d’s words, that in every city and village, the importance of this matter must be publicly explained, in that it directly effects our survival and our success, both physically and spiritually, in this world and the next. Thus will the verse be fulfilled, ‘And your camp shall be holy.’"

      When the esteemed Torah scholar and halachic authority, Rabbi Aharon Cutler, was asked if lecturing in public about modesty wasn’t an infringement of modesty itself, he answered: "Here I want to awaken you to a painful and shocking matter about which many people err. There are many people whom refrain from speaking about these things under the pretext of modesty. May Heaven help us! In such a fallen and licentious generation as ours, where everything is exposed without shame in the open - to speak about holiness and modesty – this is considered an affront to modesty?! Can there be a greater deception on the part of the evil inclination than this?! On the contrary, it is an absolute obligation to speak about these matters in public!"

      In response to the claim that it is best not to speak openly about the seriousness of sexual trangression, since it will only lead people to depression, despair, and further sin, the elder Kabbalist, Rabbi Eliahu Leon Levi, says the situation is like seeing a person about to fall off a cliff. "Do you reach out to save him, or let him fall to his death?" he asks. "In the matter of sexual transgression, it is not knowledge that kills, it is the lack of it. When a person is offered a ladder to escape from the pit he has fallen into, he is happy, not depressed."

      THE POLL
      The poll is located on the homepage of www.JewishSexuality.com

      The poll’s questions are:
      Articles about Jewish sexuality such as those on this site have a: 
      * positive educational value in an open forum on the Internet. The word must get out to broad audiences. 
      * positive educational value, but should be limited to sites like jewishsexuality.com – and not on Arutz Sheva.
      * positive educational value, but only in private discussions/closed classes.
      * negative influence and should not be made available over the Internet.

      Participants in the poll are requested to vote only once.
      The poll will be open until May 10, 2007 at midnight in Israel.
      Thank you for your participation.