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The King and I - Peres Meets Obama

By Tzvi Fishman
5/6/2009, 12:00 AM
"In Israel, we open watermelons with a karate chop down the center."

People often ask me why I don’t write about the political situation? The answer is that most of my readers live in the Diaspora. Outside of those generous souls who donate money to worthwhile Israeli organizations and projects, most Diaspora Jews have absolutely no influence on things in Israel, so what would be the purpose of my writing about politics? As far as my Arutz-7 Israeli readers are concerned, they are wise enough to figure out what’s going on without me telling them. So I try to write about things that can have an influence – like waking Diaspora Jews up to the vapidity of Jewish life in the exile, and to the dangers of imitating the ways of the gentiles, especially in sexual matters.

Today was the 27th day of the Omer. I know there are readers who like to believe that Judaism is merely the rote practicing of commandments which lack any inner depth, but the truth is that, just like a Jew has a soul, the Torah has a soul too, and this is its inner dimension, known as the secrets of Torah, or the Kabbalah. In Israel, when you open a prayer book to the pages of Sefirat HaOmer, next to each day of the counting are the names of two Kabbalistic Sefirot, or channels of spiritual expression that bring Hashem’s multi-faceted blessings to the world. Because these heavenly Sefirot parallel our character traits, our Sages teach us that during the 49 days of the counting from Pesach to Shavuot, we are to work on improving and sanctifying each of these traits so that we will be prepared to receive the Torah on the holiday which marks our acceptance of the Torah. Today the Sefirot we are to work on are “Yesod” of “Nezach.” Without going in to detail, “Yesod” is associated with sexual holiness, and “Nezach” is associated with overcoming the evil inclination. So today, we are to concentrate on strengthening ourselves in the battle that has been raging ever since the Snake first tempted Adam and Eve. When they failed the test, the task was given to the Nation of Israel, symbolized by the covenant of circumcision, to teach the world the importance of sexual purity.

At the end of last week’s Torah reading, Achre Mot, the many prohibitions concerning forbidden sexual relationships are enumerated. These include sexual relations with non-Jews and intermarriage, the different incestuous family relations, the prohibition of being with a woman who has not purified herself from the impurity of menstruation (known as “niddah”), adultery, the abomination of homosexuality, and sexual relations with animals. The Torah portion concludes: “Do not make yourselves impure through them; I am Hashem, you G-d” (Vayikra, 18:30). Rashi explains this to mean: “But if you make yourselves impure, then I am not your G-d, and you become unfit to be My followers, for what benefit do I have from you when you deserve annihilation?”

Thus, the Torah and our Sages stress the upmost importance in guarding the laws of sexual purity. The Torah warns that for violating these laws, the Jewish People will be vomited out of the Land of Israel, for the Land of Israel is a Holy Land that will not tolerate transgressors against the Covenant.

The next Torah portion, Kedoshim, commences with this same holy call to the Jews: “The L-rd spoke to Moses, saying, Speak to the entire assembly of the Children of Israel and say to them, YOU SHALL BE HOLY, for I, the L-rd your G-d am holy” (Vayikra, 19:1). Rashi explains that the command to be holy means to be removed from sexual sin. The Ramban adds that a Jew should not only guard himself against forbidden sexual relations, he should even sanctify himself in all matters that are permitted to him:

“The Torah has admonished us against immorality and eating forbidden foods, but permitted sexual relations between man and wife, and the eating of kosher meat and wine. If so, a man of desire could consider this to be a permission to be passionately addicted to sexual intercourse with his wife, and be a drunk and gluttonous eater, and thus he will become a sordid individual with the permission of the Torah! Therefore, after having listed the matters which G-d prohibited altogether, the Torah followed them up with the general command (to be holy) that we practice moderation even in matters which are permitted: (for instance) one should minimize sexual relations with one’s wife, as the Rabbis have stated, ‘So that Torah scholars should not be found with their wives like roosters,’ and he should not engage in it except as required in fulfillment of the commandment….” (Ramban, Commentary on the Torah, verse cited.)

This is not Kabbalah. This is straight and simple Torah and the explanation of our Sages. Just like a Jew is different from a gentile in that he has his own Land to live in, apart from the gentiles and their impure, gentile lands – he is to act differently than the gentiles, and not imitate their unholy ways, as it says, “Like the practice of the land of Egypt where you dwelled, do not do; and do not perform the practices of the Canaanites in the land to which I bring you” (Vayikra, 18:3).

We are to be distinguished from the gentiles by where we live, by what we do, by what we eat, by how we dress, by our holidays, by our language, and by our beliefs.

That’s what being a Jew is all about.