Sunday, May 17, 2009

Try It! You'll Like It!

by Tzvi Fishman

The first thing G-d instructed our forefather, Avraham, was to leave his birthplace and come to the Land of Israel. This was to be an example for the Jewish People for all time, as our Sages teach us, “The deeds of the forefathers are signs for the children.”

This was at a time when there were only dangerous heathens and idol worshippers living in the Land. Nonetheless, Avraham came, without hesitation, without complaining, and offering excuses, even though there were no kosher restaurants in Israel, no synagogues with Saturday Night Bingo and Sunday mornings breakfasts with all the bagels and lox you could eat. Avraham came because living in the Land of Israel is not dependent on what kind of government is in power, or how many religious Jews live there, or whether you can find the kind of beer you prefer. A Jew is commanded to live in the Land of Israel – period – because it is the Holy Land. As the classic book, the “Kuzari” attests, someone who truly wants to serve G-d in the most complete fashion will do everything in his or her power to go there (Kuzari, 5:23).

The second thing that our forefather Avraham was commanded was to live his life in sexual purity, as exemplified by the commandment of circumcision. Along with living in Israel, this commandment came to distinguish the Jewish People among all other peoples on earth. Living in the Holy Land and living a holy life go hand in hand. Just a few weeks back, we saw in the Torah portion, “Achre Mot,” that the punishment for sexual transgression is exile from the Land.

This connection is highlighted in the Torah portion we read this Shabbat. Perhaps the foremost of the great Moroccan rabbis was the saintly, Rabbi Yaacov Abuchatzera, the grandfather of the holy Baba Sali. In his commentary on the Torah, he writes that all of the terrible curses of exile that are described in the portion, “Bechukotai,” stem from sexual transgressions, known as transgressions to the Brit.

The Torah states:

“But if you will not hearken to me, and will not do all of these commandments, and if you shall despise My statutes, or if your soul abhor My judgments, so that you will not do all of the commandments, but that you break My Brit, I also will do this to you: I will appoint over you terror, consumption, and fever, that shall consume thy eyes, and cause sorrow of heart, and you shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it. And I will set my face against you, and you shall be slain before your enemies; they that hate you shall reign over you, and you shall flee when none pursue you.... And if you will not be admonished by Me as a result of these things, but you will walk in contrariness (keri) to me, then I will also walk contrary to you, and will punish you yet seven times for your sins. And I will bring a sword upon you that shall avenge My Brit; and when you are gathered together within your cities, I will send the pestilence among you, and you shall be delivered into the hand of the enemy...” (Vayikra, Bechukotai, 26:2-25).

Rabbi Abuchatzera writes:

“As is known, someone who blemishes the holy Brit, even though he observes all of the Torah, his doings are for naught. As the holy Zohar writes, a person who does not have fear of sin in matters of the Brit, has no fear of G-d in anything he does. This is because his body which performs the commandments is blemished. Thus, everything which he does is blemished.

“Both the Rishonim (early Rabbincal authorities) and Achronim (later Rabbinical authorities) have stated that the majority of man’s sufferings, whether through pestilence, the sword, or famine, result from transgressions to the Brit. And whatever mitzvot and good deeds that a person does, as long as his Brit is blemished, it all goes to the forces of evil, may G-d have mercy.

“Therefore, a person who comes to serve G-d should first rectify any blemish to the Brit in the proper fashion, and afterward begin to serve G-d” (From the book, “Abir Yaacov,” section, Pitochei Chotam; Bechukotai).

Transgressions to the Brit include forbidden sexual relations, pre-marital relations, sexual relations with gentiles, and beasts, homosexuality, masturbation, improper marital relations that lead to spilling semen in vain, watching pornography on the Internet, and the like.

Over and over in the Torah potion of “Bechukotai,” we are warned not to relate to G-d in “keri.” The standard English translation implies that we should not relate to G-d in a contrary, happenstance manner, as if He isn’t always overseeing our lives and expected us to fulfill His commands. However, the Hebrew word “keriקרי also means a forbidden seminal emission. This is why Rabbi Abuchatzera attributes the frightening punishments in the Torah portion to sexual transgression. We are warned that if we don’t safeguard the holiness of the Brit, “Your strength will be spent in vain,” where the Hebrew for “spent in vain” is ריק whose letters are an inversion of the word קרי.

This week, our counting of the Omer brings us to the sefirah of Yesod, which is identified with holiness and the proper use of sexual energies. As Rabbi Nachman of Breslov also teaches, anyone who wishes to put his life and character traits in line with the Torah must sanctify his sexual life, which is the foundation of our nation ever since the time of Avraham Avinu. This is why he called his rectification for sexual sins the “Tikun HaKlali,” or the “all-encompassing rectification.”

Get yourselves out of the doghouse!

Now that we have posted the “Tikun HaKlali” on the Internet, along with other helpful tikunim and guidelines for living a healthier sexual life, there’s a ladder for everyone who needs help to make a new start.