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Life Lessons with Judy Simon
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.
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
AGAINST AN OPEN FORUM:
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 FAVOR OF AN OPEN FORUM:
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 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.