I wrote this dvar Torah for the dynamic new “Torat Yisrael” Shabbat Page which is being distributed in Israel: www.TorahFromZion.com.
Unable to overcome the Jews with his curses, the wicked Bilaam came up with another nefarious plan at the end of last week’s portion “Balak.” Knowing that the G-d of the Jewish People hates promiscuity, Bilaam counseled Balak to send the daughters of Moab to tempt the Jews into sexual transgression. Angered by their brazen behavior, Hashem tells His servant, Moshe, “Take all the chiefs of the people and hang them up unto the L-rd in the face of the sun, that there may turn away the fierce anger of the L-rd from Israel” (Bamidbar, 25:4).
Rashi explains this to mean that the leaders should hang those Jews who trespassed with the daughters of Moab, but the Zohar understands the text in its literal light, that the leaders themselves should be hanged for having allowed the Jews to fall into such grave transgression: “The leaders of the people are deemed responsible in every generation for this transgression, if they know of it, yet are not jealous in stamping it out. For they are required to be zealous on G-d’s behalf against this transgression, for this is the Brit” (Zohar, Shemot, 3b).
This message was emphasized by the great Chofetz Chaim. In the year 1927, at a time of world depression and widespread persecution of the Jews, he wrote an appeal to the rabbis of world Jewry, exhorting them to speak out against breaches of immodesty, in order to stem the sufferings of the Jewish People:
"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’."
Attending a Brit during Parshat Pinchus
This outstanding quality of spiritual leadership was exemplified by Pinchus, for which he won the Brit of Shalom, for having appeased Hashem’s wrath against the Jews in zealously rising up against Zimri and his Midianite whore. Nonetheless, twenty-four thousand Jews from the tribe of Shimon died in the resulting plague. If one Jew transgressed, why were so many punished? Rabbi Eliahu Leon Levi explains that when Zimri took the Midianite woman, others followed by taking Midianite women into their homes. They said, “If our leader, Zimri, sins and gets away with it, then we will do the same.” But merely taking the gentile women into their homes and fantasizing about them brought about their deaths in the plague.
Rabbi Levy teaches that this same spiritual war is being waged against the Jewish People today by the nations of the world, with the goal of blemishing our adherence to the Brit, the very foundation of our holiness. In today’s battle, the Internet has taken the place of the daughters of Midian, bringing the same poisonous temptations into our homes. Rabbi Levy explains that, according to the Kabbalah, our eyes are connected to the highest spiritual worlds, and that by looking at forbidden images we bring a great impurity upon our souls. When this occurs on a national level, in homes throughout the country, our holy connection to Hashem is gravely blemished, cutting off blessing to the nation.
A research study conducted at the University of Haifa, regarding the viewing of Internet pornography by teenagers in Israel, revealed that 60% of the young people admitted they regularly visited porn sites. While there was no specific survey for the religious public, several rabbis in the religious Zionist community have warned that the plague has infiltrated our homes too.
Rabbi Elisha Aviner of Maaleh Adumim has written on several occasions that an intense campaign of education is needed to counteract this danger. Since there is a simple and inexpensive solution – the installation of a censorship filter that prevents entry into immoral websites – one must ask the question, why don’t all religious parents equip their computers with this readily available service?
Do you know what your children are viewing?
Perhaps this stems from a lack of awareness. Perhaps from an attitude of denial, as if to say, “This could never happen in our home.” Perhaps parents, no less than their teenage children, are victims of unhealthy viewing habits themselves. According to Rabbi Elisha Aviner, parents who have Internet in the house without a site-screening service are transgressing against their children.
So grave is the danger of Internet watching that Torah authorities have ruled that Internet surfing without an anti-porn filter is a violation of the Torah commandment not to put a stumbling block in front of a blind man. In addition, erotic pictures on the Internet, whether they appear in ads on the Yahoo home page, or in adult sites, cause a person to violate a long list of Torah commandments, including:
“Be holy, because I the L-rd your G-d am holy.”
“Do not stray after your heart and your eyes.”
“You must sanctify your camp and let no immoral matter be seen there.”
“You must guard yourselves from every evil thing.”
“Do not turn astray after their gods.”
“Do not bring an abomination into your home.”
"Thou shalt not follow after your heart and your eyes which lead you astray."
Today, the strategy of Bilaam has turned into the multi-billion dollar industry of Internet pornography today. Every time a person sits down at the computer, thousands of tempting Midianite women are just a click away.
Recognizing the terrible danger of unsupervised Internet viewing has extra significance now, Rabbi Levy says, at the time when Israel is surrounded in all directions by an arsenal of lethal missiles, emphasizing that victory over our enemies is achieved, not only by our tanks and war planes, but through our connection to Hashem. The holiness of Israel is what overcomes our enemies, not just our physical prowess, as the Torah attests: “For the L-rd your G-d walks in the midst of your camp to save you and to give up your enemies from before you; therefore keep your camp holy, that He see no unclean thing in you and turn away from you" (Devarim, 23:15).
Each of us can play a part in this national sanctification and defense by making sure that the impurity of the nations of the world does not seep into our homes through the Internet. We who don’t have same exalted zealousness that Pinchas had, where will we summon the strength to overcome the temptation? For us, Divine assistance comes in the form of an anti-pornography filter. There are many on the market. Many can be downloaded for free. In our home, we have three for safe measure: Eye-Saver of Bezeq; K9 Web Protection; and the new Israeli Internet Rimon, which can be found at www.neto.net.il.
Therefore, if you want to help win the battle against our enemies - and save yourselves and your children – then follow the example of Pinchas, be zealous, and install a filter as soon as you can.