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DEAR BROTHERS

By Tzvi Fishman
5/6/2007, 12:00 AM

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,

WE HAVE TRIED EVERYTHING
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.

LET US ENTER INTO AN ACCOUNTING
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.

THERE IS ROOM TO IMPROVE
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!"

SIXTH MILLENIUM
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.

COVENANT OF THE LAND
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?

IT ISN’T TOO LATE
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.

WHAT CAN WE DO?
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.