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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.

       

      Tammuz 13, 5769, 7/5/2009

      Gone Fishin'


      I'm off on a little vacation, taking my wife and leaving the "sheretz" at home. L'hitraot!




      Tammuz 10, 5769, 7/2/2009

      Arutz 7 – The Next Best Thing to Being There


      Yesterday, we saw that a Jew can only achieve optimum spiritual and mental health in the Land of Israel, though the higher attachment to Clal Yisrael and to Hashem that the Land of Israel affords.

      In the continuation of his essay, Rabbi Kook explains:

      "Revelations of holiness, on whatever level, are clean in Eretz Yisrael, according to their value; while outside the Land of Israel, they are mixed with abundant dross and Kleipot."

      In an earlier essay in the book, “Orot,” Rabbi Kook explains that there exists a general universal kedusha (holiness) outside the Land of Israel which sustains the rest of the world (“Orot,” 1:3). The environment there, however, is spiritually polluted, and even halachically impure (Shabbat 14B; Nazir 54B, Tosefot beginning, “Eretz…”).

      Someone on a high spiritual level can actually experience the spiritual pollution as well.

      When kedusha (holiness) descends into the world in Chutz L'Aretz (outside the Land of Israel) it is immediately attacked by the impure “kleipot” and forces of evil which reign there. The Hebrew word  סיגים which Rabbi Kook uses, refers to the dross that forms on the surface of molten metal. “Kleipot” is a Kabbalistic concept, translated as shells or husks. It refers to shells of impurity and evil which surround and imprison sparks of exiled holiness. The nations of the world are the “kleipot” of the Nation of Israel, just as “Chutz L'Aretz” is the kleipah of Eretz Yisrael. “Kleipot” such as the lower celestial beings which Hashem has set to rule over the gentile nations create barriers to holiness. Forces of evil are given free reign, creating the impure cultures, religions, and governments which dominate world history.

      America's stars - Spiritual and moral pollution

      For example, what is the cultural world of America? Mickey Mouse, George Washington, Billy Graham, baseball, Christmas trees, Barbie dolls, comic books, Hollywood, Wall Street, slam dunks, marijuana, abortions, and Aids. Where is there holiness? Where is there something Jewish?

      Outside of the Land of Israel, holiness is mixed up with polluted forces. The result is mixed dating, mixed marriages, and a mixed-up orientation to Torah. The Gemara says that because a Torah scholar in Chutz L'Aretz lives in a place of darkness, he speaks dark confused words (Pesachim 34B).  In the Diaspora, one cannot be sure whether inspiration is true or false. For this reason, the Gaon of Vilna refused to receive the celestial messengers who visited him. Divine emanations outside the Land of Israel are polluted, not because they descend in that manner from heaven, but because they become contaminated upon contact with the dross and kleipot in the air of the nations. And even if they were to be pure, the thinking and imaginative faculties of a Jew in Chutz L'Aretz are not pure enough to receive them. Thus, Avraham Avinu is commanded to leave Haran and journey to Eretz Yisrael; Moshe Rabainu is commanded to bring the Jews up from Egypt to the Promised Land; and the celestial “Magid” tells the “Beit Yosef” to go to the Holy Land before their Divine conversation can continue, as we saw in yesterday’s blog.

      "However, according to the magnitude of an individual's yearning for and connection to Eretz Yisrael, his contemplations become clear due to the foundation of the air of Eretz Yisrael which hovers over everyone who desires to see her."

      What is "the foundation of the air of Eretz Yisrael which hovers over everyone who desires to see her"? This is a concept which Rabbi Kook explains in greater depth in essay six of “Orot.” The special "air of Eretz Yisrael" refers to a Gemara which states that "the air in Eretz Yisrael causes wisdom" (Baba Batra 158B). Not only is the Land of Israel holy - the air is holy too. The atmosphere of Israel is pure, without the polluted kleipot and polluted husks of the galut (exile). In Eretz Yisrael, the connection between the individual Jew and Hashem is direct, as the Torah testifies: "The eyes of the Lord are upon it from the beginning of the year till the end" (Devarim, 11:12). The purity of this direct attachment brings wisdom. And the beginning of this wisdom is to understand that life outside of the Land of Israel is detrimental to the spiritual health of a Jew.

      One might wonder - if the air in Israel grants wisdom, why are not all Israelis bursting with Torah? Mainly because the Redemption of the Jewish People from the political, cultural, mental, and spiritual bondage of 2000 years of exile amongst the gentiles is a slow, gradual process requiring patience and diligent work. We should remember that in the days of Ezra, the return of the Jews to Israel was plagued with intermarriage and spiritual decline (Ezra, 9:1-2). Only gradually did the returning exiles form into a flourishing Torah society. As the prophecy of Redemption in the book of Ezekiel implies, the spiritual cleansing from the impurities of galut is a process of T’shuva (repentance) which can take generations to complete (Ezekiel, 36: 24-28).

      However, one should not underestimate the wisdom of Israel's population, even today. Not only is Israel the Torah center of the world, every ordinary citizen comprehends that the Jewish People need their own sovereign nation and Land. This national awareness is a great understanding. It is a wisdom which elevates a man above his private life to the recognition that he is more than his passing, individual existence, who lives to satisfy his personal pleasures and wants. For this reason, even people on the extreme political left in Israel are prepared to give their lives defending the country.

      The wisdom which the air of Israel affords is not only limited to the Jews who live in Israel, but, as Rabbi Kook tells us, it "hovers over everyone who yearns to see her." You do not have to be in Israel to be graced by its wisdom. Every Jew who yearns to live there has a share in its secret treasures (Ketubot 75A, beginning, “But of Zion…” see Rashi there). By yearning to be united with the soil of Eretz Yisrael, a person attaches himself to the soul of Clal Yisrael (the entire community of Israel), and is uplifted in its magnified light. In his or her attachment to the Land, he is freed from all kleipot and lower celestial forces. His soul ceases to be a private Diaspora soul and is transformed into the transcending, Divine soul of the Nation.

      Next best thing to being there

      The meaning of yearning to see Eretz Yisrael is when a person truly longs to be there. If a Jew prays in the morning for the ingathering of the exiles, and does not think about Israel again until the next time he opens a prayer book, chances are that he is not really yearning (Kuzari, 2:24). If, on the other hand, his desire to live in Israel is an active, constant passion that he would act on if he could, then he merits to share in the Land's special blessings.

      This is certainly true of many INN readers who click on every day to see what is happening in Israel. Their bodies are physically in exile, but their minds are bathing electronically in the air of Jerusalem.

      Rabbi Kook tells us that the ability to share in the wisdom of Eretz Yisrael "hovers" over everyone who yearns to see her. The word "hovers" denotes something of a temporary nature, something which lacks permanence, something which comes and goes. A lifeline to Eretz Yisrael exists in galut, but it is not as permanent and lasting as being in Israel itself.

      Once, as a youth, Rabbi Kook was asked how he enjoyed learning in the famous Volozhin Yeshiva in Russia, under the tutelage of the “Netziv,” author of the "Emek Davar."

      "It is like being in Eretz Yisrael," Rabbi Kook answered. It is "like" being in Eretz Yisrael, because of the Rosh Yeshiva's ardent love for the Land of Israel - but it is not the real thing.

      Rabbi Kook ends his essay with a verse from the prophet Isaiah:

      "Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all you who love her" (Isaiah, 66:10).

      Rejoice over Jerusalem....

      Jerusalem is the meeting point between heaven and earth. It is the place of the Shekhina (the Divine Presence), and the eternal capital of Clal Yisrael. Not only those who reside in Jerusalem are able to experience her joy, but also all those who love her and seek her well-being with all of their hearts. The Jew who mourns over the destruction of Jerusalem, and over the exile of the nation from Eretz Yisrael, is the one who can participate in her great joy when her banished children return (Taanit 30B).

      Thus, if a Jew longs to be closer to G-d; if he wants to be faithful to his thoughts, his talents, his creativity, and full spiritual potential, the place to live is the Land of Israel, at home, ever close to Jerusalem, in the holy Land, absorbing the holy air of our Forefathers, rooted in the higher, Divine life of the Clal.

       







      Tammuz 9, 5769, 7/1/2009

      The Land of Prophecy


      “It is impossible for a Jew to be devoted and faithful to his contemplations, logical deductions, conceptualizations, and imaginations, when he is outside the Land of Israel, compared to the quality of their faithfulness in Eretz Yisrael.”

      Thus writes Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak HaCohen Kook in the fourth essay of the book, “Orot.” The essay continues:

      "Revelations of holiness, on whatever level, are clean in Eretz Yisrael, according to their value; while outside the Land of Israel, they are mixed with abundant dross and Kleipot.

      “However, according to the magnitude of an individual's yearning for and connection to Eretz Yisrael, his contemplations become clear due to the foundation of the air of Eretz Yisrael which hovers over everyone who desires to see her.

      "Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all you who love her."

      Over the next two blogs, we will try to explain Rabbi’s Kook’s essay, relying on the commentary that I was privileged to write with the distinguished Torah scholar, Rabbi David Samson, in our book, “Lights on Orot,” which examines Rabbi Kook’s teachings on Eretz Yisrael.

      Rabbi Kook begins by telling us that a Jew cannot be faithful to his thoughts, logic, ideas, and imagination outside the Land of Israel. When we understand the reasons for this, we can more readily comprehend why Eretz Yisrael is a vital foundation to the mental health of every Jew.

      There is a famous story concerning the Gaon of Vilna which is related by his student, Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin (Introduction to “Safra D’Zniuta”). “Magidim,” or Heavenly messengers, would regularly visit the Gaon, but he repeatedly refused to listen to them. He would not even glance at their heavenly form. When one of these messengers came to reveal Torah secrets to Rabbi Chaim's brother, Rabbi Shlomo Zalman, the Vilna Gaon commanded the Torah scholar not to receive him, or even glance at his celestial radiance. Rabbi Zalman asked why not - after all, the “Beit Yosef,” Rabbi Yosef Caro, author of the “Shulchan Aruch,” had a “Magid” who informed him of secrets from heaven. The Gaon of Vilna answered that, first of all, the “Beit Yosef” had lived several hundred years before, and secondly, he had made aliyah to Eretz Yisrael. The Gaon told Rabbi Zalman that outside of the Land of Israel, it is impossible to receive heavenly messengers without the polluted interference and Kleipot of Chutz L'Aretz (the Diaspora, lit. outside the Land). Heavenly information can only be properly received in its purity in Eretz Yisrael. This is why when a “Magid” first appeared to Rabbi Yosef Caro in Turkey, he told him to go to Eretz Yisrael if he wanted to continue their conversation (“Shlah HaKadosh” on Shavuot, Pg. 30).

      Similarly, when Hashem first appears to Avraham, He tells him to journey to the Land that He will show him - the Land uniquely created to afford a special connection to G-d. Only in Eretz Yisrael can Avram be transformed into Avraham in order to fulfill his potential of leading mankind to the true knowledge of G-d. Only in Eretz Yisrael can he produce the offspring who will become the foundation for a holy nation destined to bring the word of G-d to the world.

      Like a Chinaman in Brooklyn

      Hashem created the Jewish people and the Land of Israel for each other. He created Eretz Yisrael with the spiritual and material properties uniquely suited for the life of His holy nation (Kuzari, 2:12). Put a Chinaman in Paris, and he seems out of place. Take a Jew out of Israel, and put him in Egypt, Babylon, Rome, Spain, Germany, Russia, or Brooklyn - as much as he strives to fit in, he simply does not belong.

      We have mentioned on several occasions how the Ramban describes the very real differences between the spiritual environment of Eretz Yisrael and the Diaspora (Ramban on the Torah, Vayikra, 18:25). Outside of the Land of Israel, lesser celestial forces rule over the nations. The idol worship and hedonistic cultures they breed contaminate the environment. This spiritual pollution pervades the very air.

      spiritual pollution

      The world's preoccupation with sex, violence, money, adultery, robbery, Christianity, and murder all stem from the spiritual impurity found in the gentile lands. Outside of the Land of Israel, the physical world reigns supreme, cut off from the spirit. The quest for physical pleasure, fame, honor, and wealth all come to fill up the vacuum created by the distance from G-d.

      Therefore, Rabbi Kook tells us that it is impossible for a Jew to be faithful to his true creative, intellectual, imaginative life when he is outside of the Land of Israel. The spiritual and cultural pollution enters his psyche and distorts his world of perception.

      If, as Rabbi Kook asserts, a Jew cannot be true to his thoughts, intellect, ideas, and imagination outside of the Land of Israel - how are we to explain the magnitude of Jewish creativity and achievement in the Diaspora? Jews have excelled in all fields: in literature, song, comedy, theater, filmmaking, journalism, philosophy, law, science, medicine, government, banking, and the list goes on and on. The answer is that this outstanding creativity does not represent our unique Israeli creativity, but rather, as part of the general world inspiration which we share with all of mankind.

      Land of Prophecy

      What then is this true Israeli creativity in thought and idea? “Emunah,” the true Torah belief in G-d, and prophecy, and the ability to bring sanctity to both the spiritual and physical worlds. This is why Avraham had to journey to Eretz Yisrael to become a Jew. To become complete in his worship of G-d, he had to dwell in the Land of prophecy and faith (Kuzari, 2:14), where spirituality and physicality combine.

      Complete Jewish health and wholeness can be attained only in Eretz Yisrael. On the verse, "And Yaacov came Shalem to the city of Shechem" (Bereshit, 33:18), the Gaon of Vilna explains the word “Shalem” in its meaning of wholeness, and says that Yaacov was not complete until he came to Eretz Yisrael (“Kol HaTor,” 3:7).

      Rabbi Avraham Azuli was the Rabbi of Hevron some 400 years ago. In his book, “Chesed L'Avraham,” he writes that when a Jew comes to the Land of Israel, he receives a new soul. The soul of the exile leaves him, and he undergoes a spiritual transplant. The egocentric soul which characterized his private, individual life in the fractured world of galut (exile) is exchanged for the exalted soul of Clal Yisrael (the entire community of Israel). His aliyah to Israel is an aliyah of the soul. In the Land of Israel, he becomes attached to the Divine soul and life of the Nation. In Rabbi Azuli's terminology, Yaacov's wholeness came only upon receiving his new soul of Clal Yisrael upon returning to the Land of Israel. Only in his attachment to the Clal could he earn his new name and calling - Yisrael.

      Elsewhere in OROT, Rabbi Kook writes: "The general soul of Knesset Yisrael does not rest on the individual except in Eretz Yisrael, and the moment a person comes to Eretz Yisrael, his private soul is nullified before the great light of the general soul which enters him; and its exalted content exerts its influence whether he wants and recognizes its effect, or whether he does not want it, or is not aware of its value" (“Orot,” Orot Yisrael, 7:18).

      Just by his living in Israel, a Jew attaches himself to the higher life of the NATION. The more he recognizes his new spiritual status, and the more he strives to unite with the Clal, the greater his elevation will be. As Rabbi Kook writes: "Whoever has a greater love for the Land of Israel, and whoever exerts himself more ardently in the settlement of the Holy Land, he is blessed first, and he is closer to perfection" (“Hazone HaGeula,” Chapter One).

      Certainly, a Jew can be intelligent and imaginative in the Diaspora. But only on a personal, individual level. His creativity, no matter how gifted he may be, is limited to his own personal talents. In Israel, by attaching himself to the Nation, his intellectual and imaginative faculties are uplifted to the higher realm of the Clal, where the pure spring of Israeli inspiration flows freely. The unique Clal Yisrael talent which combines thoughts, logical reasonings, ideas, and imagination, is now open to him. This is prophecy, the special creative “segula” (treasure) of the Jewish People. It is the unique Israeli creativity which unites the spiritual and physical worlds by bringing the word of G-d down to earth.

      Only in Eretz Yisrael can the people of Israel be steeped in the Ruach HaKodesh (Divine Inspiration) which rests on the nation as a whole. As Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi in the “Kuzari” makes clear, Eretz Yisrael is the unique land of prophecy, and “Am Yisrael” is the nation of prophets (Kuzari, 4:17).

      Thus, when Rabbi Kook writes about Israel's creative potential, he is not only talking about art, poetry, music, or literature. He is referring to the inner creative power of Clal Yisrael which finds its highest expression in prophecy. This is a Jew's inheritance as a member of Clal Yisrael. Along with the genetic foundations of our bodies, we have spiritual genes as well. We are the children of prophets. The Hebrew letters which abound in our souls are our double-helixes of prophecy. Through his connection with Clal Yisrael, every Jew has the capability of experiencing G-d on an enhanced spiritual level - if not as a prophet, then on whatever level of “Ruach HaKodesh” which he or she can attain.

      Unlike Western cultures which exalt the individual ego and the unfettered reign of the id, a Jew is to find his life's deepest meaning by connecting his life to the eternal life of the Nation (“Orot HaTorah,” 13:7). Through his devotion to the higher life of his people, he attains his true individual calling. The Divine Inspiration which rests on the Clal opens his vistas toward the horizons of transcendental expression.

      With G-d’s help, we shall continue with the rest of Rabbi Kook’s essay tomorrow.







      Tammuz 8, 5769, 6/30/2009

      Women


      Some people mistakenly think that only men have to guard the commandment, “Thou shall not stray after your heart and your eyes.” This is a misconception. The obligation to sanctify one’s life, and come ever closer to G-d, applies equally to Jewish women and men.

      With these words, Rabbi Shmuel Eliahu, Chief Rabbi of the holy city of Tzfat, continued his class on the challenges of summer vacation. What follows is a paraphrase of his reminders for women to follow:

      Novels about illicit romances at a big no-no!

      NOVELS AND FILMS

      A Jewish woman, who is enjoined to be a holy member of the holy Jewish Nation, cannot read books or newspapers that portray the immoral sides of life in a favorable light. A woman has a heart just as a man does. She too has to guard the purity of her heart, which is the organ that directs her life endeavors. The commandment not to stray after the heart and the eyes applies to her as well. Thus a woman has to guard herself from watching movies that portray evil as good, and immoral relationships as acceptable standards of behavior.  For when a woman watches movies like these, or reads unwholesome novels, her physical health may appear to be unaffected, but her heart undergoes serious moral and spiritual damage. Her heart is no longer connected to G-d.

      "You shall not stray after your heart and your eyes."

      Thus it is forbidden for women to watch immodest movies, just as it is for men. By watching these movies, a woman will sink into a certain spiritual pollution that she may not recognize, but which will lead her further and further from G-d, until she engages in forbidden actions as well.

      G-d is at the beach as well.

      AT THE BEACH

      Concerning outings to the beach, there are those who ask if a woman can frequent a beach where there is a male lifeguard. Since he is considered preoccupied with safeguarding the security of the bathers in the water, he is not there to gaze at the women. Thus a woman can go to a beach where there is a male lifeguard on duty. Of course, there is always room to act as modestly as one can, by wearing a lightweight robe and a head covering, but this is not an obligation. All the same, a woman should observe a few general rules. She should not wear an immodest bathing suit (and also waste considerable money on a few strips of cloth, padding the bank account of immoral merchants). Furthermore, a woman should not wear an immodest bathing suit, even when only women are present. Also, a woman should not sit or sunbathe on the beach directly in front of the lifeguard, or in his line of sight.

      LEARNING TO SWIM

      This permission does not extend to taking a swimming class with a male instructor. Since close proximity, and even touching, is involved, swimming instruction should be sought from a woman.  

      LEARNING TO DRIVE

      The halachah differs concerning a driving instructor. In this case, although they are in close proximity, there is absolutely no need for the instructor to touch the student driver. While it is preferable to learn how to drive from a qualified woman instructor, there are many excellent male driving teachers with a reputation for behaving in the proper, modest fashion, who don’t talk about unnecessary matters, and who don’t touch their students, nor venture beyond the outskirts of the center of the city.

      AT THE BEAUTY PARLOR

      When it comes to a hair stylist, a woman must go to a woman and not to a man.

      SHAKING HANDS WITH MEN

      Another thing that needs reminding – except in the case of a physician during medical examination and treatment, it is forbidden for a man to touch a woman who is not his wife. It makes no difference if she is single or married, in her menstrual state or not. According to the Rambam, this is a prohibition from the Torah.  Therefore, in a situation of shaking hands, when a woman extends her hand to a man, or when a man extends his hand to a women, the other should refrain.  One should not worry that the other will feel affronted by not shaking hands, since today everyone knows (in Israel), both the religious or secular public, that a religious person is prevented from shaking hands with the opposite sex because of our beliefs, and there is no affront in this. The contrary is true – people who extend his or her hand to a religious man or woman, it is they who are causing the affront by not respecting the values and feelings of the other.

      "Nice to meet you!"

      Needless to say, all kinds of pats, hugs, and kisses between men and woman are forbidden, even if this is the custom between members of a family. All of these so-called gestures of politeness are the customs of the gentiles. If this type of behavior is found in any Jewish congregation, it should be stopped, since no blessing results from this at all.

      Families need to be reminded of this. A father can embrace and kiss his daughter, and a mother can embrace and kiss her son. Sisters and brothers can shake hands, but kissing and embracing is a foul and foolish practice. Any other type of contact between family members, aunts, uncles, cousins, half or adopted siblings, is prohibited (Shulchan Aruch, Aven HaEzer, 21:7).

      MODESTY IS THE KEY TO MARRIAGE

      The more a person adheres to the laws of modesty the better chance he or she has of marrying early and leading a happy family life. Modesty is beneficial in this world and in the world to come. Wherever modesty is lacking people get married late, or never at all, and divorce is rampant.

      May it be G-d’s will, that in the merit of educating our children in the ways of holiness and modesty, they will have the blessing of establishing wholesome, healthy, and happy homes, filled with faith and the reverence of G-d.           

       

       

       







      Tammuz 7, 5769, 6/29/2009

      Are Modern Orthodox Jews Really Orthodox?


      Of course they are. But like with everything in life, there can always be improvement, as the verse says, “There is not a righteous person on earth who does good and never sins.”

      One of the areas in need of improvement is summer vacation. Rabbi Shmuel Eliahu, Chief Rabbi of Tzfat, spoke about this in the weekly Torah class that he has been conducting since his father, former Israel Chief Rabbi, Rav Mordechai Eliahu, fell ill last year – may he have a complete and speedy recovery. What follows is a summary of his warnings, teachings, and advice.

      One of the mitzvahs that parents have is to educate their children and keep them from away from harmful influences. During the year, parents, to a very large measure, entrust this mitzvah to their children’s teachers and schools. But come summer vacation, the mitzvah falls back upon the parents in all of its force.

      Do you know what your children are watching?

      One of the ways a parent must guard his child from negative influences is by keeping him or her away from the television. Leaving the kids in front of the TV screen for hours on end is a sure-fire way to fry their brains and their morals, since television shows are permeated with, and glorify, all kinds of immorality, violence, and perverted, non-Jewish values. It is forbidden for a parent to leave a child in front of the television, and think that the resulting damage is not their responsibility.

      Regarding the Internet, the fact is that pornography receives more clicks than all other sites, and Jewish children (and their parents) are not immune from the temptations. Therefore, installing a filter is an obligation upon parents so that the junior surfers at home can’t get into forbidden sites. While Rabbi Eliahu recommends the filter, Internet Rimon, for people in Israel, there are many effective filters which can be downloaded, often free of charge, by doing a simple search for anti-pornography filters. And a good way of repenting for having entered immodest sites in the past is to warn friends of the danger and advice them to download filters too.

      A parent must remember that someone who looks at erotic material on the Internet is violating the Torah commandment, “Thou shall not stray after your hearts and your eyes which lead you astray.” A person may be Orthodox, yet his heart and eyes may be totally polluted by making light of this commandment.

      Judaism-Lite

      This is called “Dati-Lite.” A person can be is dati (Orthodox) in most aspects of his life, but when it comes to having a TV at home, or unlimited Internet access, or going to mixed swimming pools and beaches, he pretends that the Torah doesn’t forbid these spiritually polluted activities.

      The Rambam lists this transgression as one of the twenty-four things that stand in the way of repentance: “Someone who looks at sexually immoral images and tells himself that he isn’t doing anything wrong, saying, ‘Did I actually fornicate or caress her?’ He acts as if gazing at forbidden things is not a serious sin. Yet this brings a person to actually committing sexual wrongdoing.”

      Someone might protest, “Who can live like this? This means that you can’t even walk down a street where you might encounter women in immodest attire!” This is not so. If a man has no other way to get to his destination than to pass though an area where he knows women are to be found immodestly dressed, it is considered that he is acting under compulsion, having no other choice. If he averts his eyes and goes on his way, he is not considered a transgressor. But if there is another way to reach his destination, yet he choices to proceed via the route where immodesty is sure to be found, even if he averts his gaze from looking at the immodest women, he is considered a wicked person (Talmud, Baba Batra, 57B).

      It is obvious from this ruling that going to mixed beaches and swimming pools is forbidden. This applies to watching TV, surfing the Internet, or reading magazines where immodest imagery is prevalent. For no one is forcing him to watch TV, or click onto the web, or read the magazine or newspaper. Not going to mixed beaches and swimming pools is not just some super “Haredi” ultra-Orthodox over-precaution, but a clear ruling of the Talmud. On this, our Sages have stated, “Someone who gazes at a woman with the intention of deriving pleasure from the sight has no portion in the world to come.” But if he is on his way home, with no other route to take, and he sees a woman in immodest attire and turns his gaze away, he is not to be faulted for this.

      A G-d fearing person must also avoid attending concerts and other types of musical performances where there is mixed seating.  While music has the ability to raise the soul to the heights of spiritual inspiration and religious devotion, it can also lower a person the depths of immoral passions and unrestrained behavior.  The main thing is the intention behind the song and the intention of the musicians. Thus a parent must examine the nature of any upcoming concert before he lets his child attend what can turn out to be a sordid excuse for an orgy of unbridled emotions.

      Concerning summer camps where boys and girls have separate activities, but are housed in close proximity, this is certainly not conducive to holiness and should be avoided. But if the choice is between sending a child to such a camp, or to leave him free to go to mixed beaches, the option of unsupervised days at the beach is far worse.

      It may be luxurious, but is it Jewish?

      From the outset, everything should be judged in the light of holiness. This applies to choosing a resort for a vacation holiday as well. Is the dining room really kosher? Can a gueat really keep the laws of Shabbat? Does the swimming pool have separate hours for men and women? Are dress codes up to the standards of modesty, or relaxed because of the summer heat? Will his room overlook the swimming pool? For even if he doesn’t look at the women there, he is putting himself in a forbidden situation to begin with, as noted above.

      So before you make your vacation plans, do a little research before you make reservations. Remember, you can take a vacation from work or from school, but you can’t take a vacation from the commandments of the Torah.