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Life Lessons with Judy Simon
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.
A few years ago, someone read an article I wrote about the importance of “Shmirat HaBrit,” and wrote me an email, asking if he could speak with me on the phone. It turned out that he had developed a serious illness, and doctors advised him to undergo a difficult and risky operation. In addition, their only child had developed some sort of psychosis, may Hashem have mercy on us all.
On the phone, he insisted that he and his wife were careful in following the laws of Taharat HaMishpachah (family purity), and that they behaved modestly in their conjugal relations, and that he didn’t watch pornography on the Internet. Since it was during the beginning of Sefirat HaOmer when Rabbi Leon doesn’t meet with people at his yeshiva, I suggested he make an appointment to speak with Rabbi Moshe Ben Tov, the well-known “Mezuzah Rabbi.” After studying their mezuzahs, Rabbi Ben Tov addressed his comments to the wife. He showed her that on the holy parchment where the “Shema Yisrael” prayer is inscribed, the Hebrew word for “your children,” had been eaten away by a worm. He told her that their troubles stemmed from the fact that she was using a diaphragm as their method of birth control.
Unlike other forms of birth control, like IUD’s and the pill, that Rabbis are wont to recommend in selected cases where birth control is warranted, the use of a diaphragm and foam, and the wholesale slaughter of sperm which it causes, is a serious halachic problem. Here is not the place for a detailed investigation of birth control devices and the weighty and detailed rabbinical considerations that surround their use. Only personal consultation with a qualified Orthodox Rabbi can lead a couple to a proper decision if it is allowed in their situation, what form it should take, and for how long a time.
The point of the story is, sure enough, when the couple stopped using the diaphragm, the husband’s medical problems gradually disappeared with the aid of medicines and prayer alone, and their son began to act normal once again.
In a similar case, a man was brought to despair when his business went sour and he faced bankruptcy. Rabbi Leon explained that the source of his problems stemmed from his bedroom. In engaging in all kinds of immodest acrobatics with his wife, he was spilling semen in vain. This was clogging the spiritual channel which brings blessing and prosperity to a person.
In another case, a husband and wife met with Rabbi Leon because of constant marital quarrels that were leading toward divorce. With his spiritual periscope, Rabbi Leon saw her surfing on the Internet and rendezvousing with a man who she admitted meeting through a cyberspace chat “just out of curiosity.”
Another time, a husband and wife came to Rabbi Leon, wondering if they should risk having another child, since both their first two children were born with seriously impaired eyesight. Once again, the problem stemmed from the bedroom, because the husband would look at his wife’s private place.
The horror stories go on and on. Most of them are caused by a lack of education, or by the difficulty in overcoming the age-old evil inclination which is so strong in the sexual arena.
Today in the Counting of the Omer, we have reached the sefirah of “Yesod of Yesod.” As we have written, the spiritual channel of “Yesod” is associated with the holiness of our sexual lives. The Hebrew word “Yesod” means foundation. As we approached the holiday of Shavuot, now is a good time to make an honest appraisal of our sexual lives and to begin to put things in order. Many times, as the years go by, we forget the laws we learned in preparation for our wedding night. These laws should be relearned since they are the foundation of Jewish life. We should also be honest with ourselves in seeing what “extras” and “frills” we could do away with in the bedroom to insure the sanctity of our relations. Without going into the mystical side of the matter, what goes on in the bedroom, or in a rented hotel room, or in front of a computer, or with the girls in the office, determine the state of our mental and physical health, our livelihood, our marital happiness, and what happens to our children.
The “Nefesh HaChaim” explains that the cautioning of our Sages, דע מה למעלה ממך “Know what is above from you” - the decrees from Above affecting your life – they are all ממך "from you.” How we behave in this world brings down the blessings or their opposite which befall us.
While there are talkbackers who don’t like being confronted with this subject, over the course of this blog, many readers have heeded this message and thanked me in private emails for shedding light in times of darkness, when they didn’t know what was going wrong with their lives. Not everything stems from this, of course, but more often than not, it’s at the root of the problem.