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Ask the Rabbi
News & Call-In with Tamar Yonah
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.
I am aware that this blog deals with a controversial topic. There are many people who believe matters like mast@@bation and s&xual transgression should not be addressed in a public forum. On the other hand, the widespread immorality of our times, the lack of modesty on the street, and the rampant dangers of Internet pornography that have insidiously crept into every home and cell phone, demand that the subject be confronted, in order to give people the understanding and ammunition they need to counter the terrible threat.
The holiness of the Jewish People rests precisely on the holiness of our sexual lives. This is why the brit milah, symbolizing the Covenant between the Jewish People and G-d, is stamped on the s&xual organ.
In addition, under the Seven Commandments of the Children of Noach, the gentile nations of the world are prohibited from indulging in mast@@bation and s&xual transgression.
This is the reason we initiated the jewishsexuality.com website, which is filled with information on these crucial topics.
Recently, a doctor from Los Angeles ordered 400 copies of my book, “Secret of the Brit,” to distribute throughout his community, saying the situation was completely out of hand and no one talks about it. He regularly gives his patients a questionnaire to fill out and one of the questions concerns hobbies. He reports that youths unabashedly include watching pornography on the Internet as one of their main pastimes.
At the end of the Torah portion “Bereishit,” G-d sees the widespread transgression of mankind and repents for having created them: “And the L-rd saw that the wickedness of man was great upon the earth, and all the impulse of the thoughts of man’s heart was only continually evil” (Bereishit, 6:5). The Zohar explains that the meaning of evil (“ra”) in this verse has the same meaning of the word “ra” which appears in a verse about the sons of Yehuda, who were stricken to death by G-d for spilling semen in vain: “And Er, Yehuda’s firstborn was evil (ra) in the sight of the L-rd” (Bereishit, 38:7).
Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai explains that there is nothing in the world that so arouses the wrath of G-d as s&xual transgression, teaching that the Generation of the Flood was not considered completely guilty until mankind s&xually corrupted its ways upon by earth by spilling their semen in vain (Zohar, Bereishit 57b). As the Torah records: “And G-d looked upon the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted its way upon the earth” (Bereishit, Parshat Noach, 6:13). The Hebrew word “corrupt” (“shichat”) is also mentioned in reference to Yehuda’s son, Onan, for having spilled his seed in vain (Bereishit, 38:9). At the time of Noach, people would commit this sin openly in public for everyone to see. Thus, measure for measure, just as they destroyed their seed, they were destroyed, and just as they sinned through the illicit pleasures of misusing their holy s&xual fluid, they were destroyed by the scalding hot waters of the flood (Zohar, Bereshit 56A; 61B).
Only the righteous Noach, who guarded the Brit, was saved.
It is forbidden to spill semen in vain. This is a graver sin than any other mentioned in the Torah (Shulchan Aruch, Even HaEzer, 23:1). Jewish Law furthermore stresses the prohibitions surrounding looking at images and engaging in fantasies which trigger a sexual arousal. Sperm contains the life-force and genetic blueprint of man, and the soul which is destined to come into the world. When these are wasted though sexual transgression, the Shekinah is cast into exile and mankind alienates itself from its Maker (See Niddah 13A and B).
Thus we can see how potentially dangerous Internet surfing can be. Another instance of spilling semen in vain can come about in the sanctity of marriage. In the throes of passion, if a husband embraces his wife and has an emission before the marital act, this too requires soul-searching and repentance. Also, if he should have relations with his wife in an unholy manner that brings about the wasting of semen, he must rectify the spiritual damage he caused. (See the book, Darkei Taharah, by Rabbi Mordechai Eliahu, Pg.198) It is precisely in this regard that we are commanded, “You shall be holy!” Our Sages teach us that a person should strive to sanctify himself even in that which is permitted to him. (Ibid, Pg.178. Yevamot 20A).
One must know that with all of the gravity that s&xual transgression involves, penitence (tshuva) is certainly possible, as the Rambam states: “There is nothing that stands in the way of repentance.” (Laws of Tshuva, 3:24)
Furthermore, a person should not think that because of the great number, or because of the seriousness of his sins, he can never start anew. This is not true, as the Rambam makes clear:
“Let not the penitent suppose that he is prevented from attaining the degree of the righteous because of the iniquities and sins that he has committed. This is not so. He is beloved by the Creator, and desired by Him, as if he had never sinned. Moreover his reward is great, since through having tasted sin, he renounced it and overcame his evil passions. The sages say, ‘Where penitents stand, the completely righteous cannot stand.’ (Berachot 34B) This means that the degree attained by penitents is higher than that of those who had never sinned, since the penitent has had to put forth a greater effort to subdue his passion than he who has never sinned.” (Ibid, 7:4)
The Talmud teaches that the penitent not only cleanses himself of transgressions, his penitence brings blessing to all of existence: “Great is penitence for it brings healing to the world, and an individual who repents is forgiven, and the whole world is forgiven with him.” (Yoma 86A)
Tshuva is undoubtedly one of the most uplifting experiences in life. Nonetheless, because of the pain involved in facing past errors, and the need to make real changes in order to set one’s life on a healthier, holier path, the challenges facing the penitent are not easy. This is especially true when it comes to redressing s&xual transgression where the penitent is called upon to redirecting life’s most powerful urge from an egotistical quest for personal pleasure to a fervent love and attachment to G-d.
Paths of penitence over sexual sins are outlined in the section “Secret of the Brit,” on the jewishsexuality.com website. Readers may also find the section “Pornoholics Anonymous” of value in overcoming the many pitfalls of the Internet. The article “Keys to a Holy Marital Union,” can serve as needed reminders and safeguards for husbands and wives.
Like in the days of Noach, to save ourselves from the tsunami of immodesty that is flooding the world, everyone has to build his, and her, own ark and seek shelter inside. For us, the ark is the Torah, its commandments, and the wise and holy teachings of our Sages. Only by clinging onto these lifesavers can we spare ourselves from the serious and omnipresent dangers we face.