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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.
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!