Yaacov Avinu, was so modest in guarding his eyes, he didn’t even realize that his wicked father-in-law switched his bride on his wedding night.
It rained in Israel. Really poured. Streams of water cascaded down the Hermon, rushed across the Golan, filled the banks of the Jorden River, and splashed happily into the Kinneret. Jerusalem got drenched. We even got to say the blessings over lightning and thunder. The fish were happy, the worms were thrilled, trees breathed a sigh of relief. But no one was happier than me.
For the first time since last Spring, I was able to go outside without wearing my reading glasses, which turn everything in my path into a fuzzy blur. The few women who braved the winds and stormy weather were all bundled up in winter coats. I didn’t see a single immodest sight. What incredible freedom! Finally, after months and months of summer hibernation, I could look around at the wonderful world that G-d created without getting my eyeballs zapped. Halleluyah!
I know that some readers think I exaggerate about the consequences of gazing at women. And others accuse me of being hung up on the issue. But I consider myself a man no different from any other.
I am just like every other man.
Knowing that the sexual inclination is so strong, G-d gave us the commandment, “Thou shall not turn astray after your hearts and after your eyes which lead you astray.” Our Sages have emphasized that guarding our eyes from looking at forbidden things, like immodest women in the street or erotic photos on the Internet, is the key to our holiness. The eyes are the windows of the soul. If we look at an unwholesome image, that impurity gets imprinted directly on our most inner holy essence. It turns out that gazing at forbidden images brings about far more spiritual damage than eating shrimp or pork.
Sexual holiness is the foundation of Am Yisrael. Our forefather, Yaacov Avinu, was so modest in guarding his eyes, he didn’t even realize that his wicked father-in-law switched his bride on his wedding night. How different his brother Esav! In this week’s Torah portion, we read how the brothers meet after a long separation. Certainly, as Esav comes to meet the one who stole his birthright, you would think that all of his focus is on Yaacov. But no, that’s not the case at all, as the Torah relates: “And he lifted up his eyes and saw the women (Bereshit, 33:5). The lusty Esav was a low-life skirt-chaser. The Kabbalist, Rabbi Leon Levi, explains that Esav couldn’t rise up to the spiritual heights of Yaacov precisely because he short-circuited his spiritual channels by looking at women. Recognizing that it was Yaacov’s great sexual purity that earned him his closeness to G-d, the angel of Esav sought to weaken Yaacov, and all of his future offspring, by striking him there, in the place of the Brit, as it says: “And when he saw that he could not prevail against him, he struck the hollow of his thigh” (Bereshit, 32:26). Ever since then, the struggle to control our sexual inclination has been the Achilles heel of the Jewish People, whether it be through the temptations of the Daughters of Midian, the age-old passion for the shicksa, or the equally nefarious dangers of the Internet. All come to blemish our holiness and sever our connection to G-d.
There are many unfortunate consequences for a Jew who follows after his eyes. Since many people look upon this lightly, let me share a Kabbalistic secret to help impress the gravity of this transgression in your minds. In the “Sefer Haredim,” in the Gate of Reincarnation, it is written that a person who habitually gazes at women to enjoy their beauty will be reincarnated as an impure bird called the “Roah,” which means “he saw.”
"Help! Get me out of here!"
Regarding this, the holy Torah giant and Kabbalist, Rabbi Aharon Rota, writes: “If you think to say, my brother, what is so bad about this? That if you will be reincarnated in a bird, you can fly around freely to this place and that, what’s so terrible in that? But you should know, my brother, that to be reincarnated in an impure thing, G-d forbid, is worse than the terrible fires of Gehinom. Furthermore, unlike a reincarnation in human form, when the person is unaware of his previous life, when a person is reincarnated in an impure bird, he is conscious all of the time that he was once a Jew with a pure and exalted soul, and that now he is doomed to the life of an impure and foul-smelling bird – how shameful and ignominious is his hell. All because he did not safeguard his eyes from looking at improper things” (“Taharat HaKodesh,” Chapter on Guarding One’s Eyes, Section 18).
But this isn’t all, my friends. The next time that you are tempted to take a second glance at an immodestly dressed woman, or to click on an erotic site on the Internet, remember that after the reincarnation in an impure bird, another reincarnation is needed in a less impure beast, then another reincarnation in a pure animal, each time experiencing the pain of death and mental suffering involved, until the cycle is completed, and only then does the person begin the time in Gehinom that has been apportioned to him for his sins.
Is it worth it?
All I can say is, too bad it doesn’t rain all the time.