Part 22 – Aliyah to a Higher State
In the Ethics of the Fathers (4:1), it states that a man who can control his passions is greater than the conqueror of a city. Yosef HaTzaddik was able to control his passions even though he had to contend with living in the red light district nation of Egypt, and not the Holy environs of his family in Eretz Israel. He had to overcome the urges of a teenage boy, and encouragement of a society that valued physical pleasure above all else, and on top of all this, he had to resist the advances of one of the most physically desirable women in Egypt. Under these circumstances, to resist Brittney Spears once is hard enough. Joseph had to do it time, and time, and time, and time again. The Midrash tells us that Potiphar’s wife changed her clothes three times a day to entice Joseph to sleep with her. She did this for a year. That means that Joseph was seduced one thousand times and resisted every one of them. He was eventually rewarded for his efforts with dominion over the whole world.
Imagine Christina Aguilera, Brittney Spears, and Beyonce all hitting on you while you are 18 years old. Could you say no even once? This is what Joseph resisted. This is why he was given the title Joseph HaTzaddik, and mastery over the world.
Was he really given dominion over the whole world?
In Sefer Bereshit (the Book of Genesis), we see Joseph being sold into slavery by his brothers. He is carted off to Egypt and becomes slave to Potiphar, an officer to Pharaoh. This is where Joseph is tempted by Potiphar’s wife. After refusing her advances for the thousandth time, she falsely accuses him of trying to rape her and is thrown into a dungeon. It is here where he accurately interprets the dreams of the Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker. The baker is hanged, and the cupbearer is restored to his post. At this time, Egypt is the superpower of the world. Whoever rules Egypt has a dominion that stretches everywhere. Pharaoh, the ruler of Egypt, has a dream that nobody can interpret. Joseph interprets Pharaoh’s dream successfully and is appointed the political leader of Egypt.
When Joseph interpreted the dreams of pharaoh, he said that there will be 7 years of plenty, followed by seven years of famine. Joseph, pharaoh, and the royal cabinet were the only ones in the know about this. If the world knew why didn’t every nation stockpile wheat over the seven years of plenty like the Egyptian’s did? When the times of plenty ended, only Pharaoh was ready. All of the citizens of Egypt had nothing to eat. They eventually sold their livestock, their land, and even themselves to Yosef and Pharaoh’s kingdom in order to buy the food that Egypt had saved. Citizens from all over flocked to Yosef to buy food. In the end, the nations of the world subjected themselves to Egypt’s rule in order to survive. The pharaoh became the leader of the entire world. Yosef was the power over his entire kingdom. When pharaoh died, Yosef took over as ruler of Egypt and reigned for 40 years.
For 80 years, Yosef was ruler of the world. This is the power of guarding the Brit. This is what we are capable of when we control our sexual desires like our forefather Yosef.
Many great things happened because of Yosef’s diligence. The Zohar says that when we left Egypt, the sea split in the merit of Yosef guarding the mitzvah of the Brit. As I mentioned earlier, one of Yosef’s descendants, Joshua Ben Nun, was the first Jew to conquer the Land of Israel. When he first entered the Land, the sea split again! Boaz, the righteous Judge of Israel, sheltered Ruth the Moabite in her time of need. As she slept at his feet, he did not try to have relations with her. In the merit of Boaz’s safeguarding the Brit, his family line was blessed. His great grandson King David, and his great great grandson, King Solomon ruled the world for 80 years as well. Boaz will, Hashem Willing, soon be a father to another great king, who we will call Melech HaMoshiach.
In honor of safeguarding this mitzvah, once again, we will have influence over the world for Holiness and good. Our generation is faced with 1,000 temptations a year as well. With the way many women dress, the internet, TV, movies, and loose advertising – we are faced with 1,000 temptations a day! If we can draw down the strength of Joseph our father and resist the urge to look the same way he did, we will merit to rule the world also. The Zohar states that Moshiach will come in the merit of those who guard the Brit. In the times of Moshiach, the Jewish government in Israel will rule the world. The nations will come to us for spiritual guidance the same way their ancestors came to Yosef HaTzaddik for physical sustenance thousands of years ago.
Is Pirkei Avot telling us something deeper when it says that a conqueror of one’s passions is greater than the conqueror of a city?
What will happen when we begin to do tsuva for our sexual sins? New York is probably one of the most licentious places on earth. It is most likely one of the most licentious places in history. Yosef and Boaz had to deal with so many temptations, but did they have to deal with the internet? Did they have to deal with on-demand television? What about a printing press, and magazines and as on buses and in the subway? Did our forefathers have to deal with as much temptation and adversity to Holiness as we do today? Hashem measures effort, not necessarily results. Noach, who was a decent man, is often compared to Avraham, who introduced G-d’s word to the world and became the first Patriarch of the Jewish people. Our sages state that because the generation of the flood was so horrible, to merely is a decent person was equivalent to being a tzaddik during Avraham’s generation. Implicit is the assumption that in order for Noach to be a decent man in his generation, he had to put in as much effort as Avraham did to be a great man in his. Spiritually, according to the effort lies the reward! That is why the power of tsuva in our day is immense! If we were to guard appropriate levels of sexual morality in the face of everything we see around us, what great men in our history will we be compared to? Against what great deeds will our generation be measured?
Based on my personal experience, this is how I understand what the Torah is saying when it says that the mitzvah of the Brit is tantamount to holding the whole Torah. Some mitzvoth are what I call STATE mitzva. An action mitzvoth, like saying a bracha over food, or praying, or lighting Shabbat candles, has a specific period of time attached to it. You perform these mitzvoth, and then you are done. A STATE mitzvoth is where you are never done with the mitzvah. You are always performing it. Shabbat is both an action mitzvah, and a state mitzvah. It is the best example of the concept I am trying to explain. Shabbat is a mitzvah that lasts for a day. It is an action mitzvah in that it has a start time, and a completion time. You begin it, and you end it. However, during those 25 magical hours, your whole state of being is in compliance with that mitzvah every second you guard it. All throughout Shabbat, because you are guarding the commandment, your soul is in a higher state of being. You can feel it very intensely. The more you guard this mitzvah, for example, deciding to spend an hour or two on Friday night learning instead of sleeping extra hours the higher state of spirituality your soul is in. The more you comply, the more your spirit rises while you are in this state. However, the state for Shabbat is limited. After havdalah, the Chag is over and you are no longer observing the mitzvah. Your soul cannot go to a higher state anymore through this mitzvah until the next Shabbat.
Are there any other mitzvoth where we can enjoy a higher state for a longer period of time?
Sukkot is 8 days. Pesach is 8 days. We reach a higher state of being during Pesach by refraining from leavened foods. Yom Kippur is the ultimate island in time. We reach the highest state by refraining from food and in spending the day in prayer.
How about a longer state of spiritual elevation? Are there any other mitzvoth that can bring our souls higher for an even longer period of time?
How about keeping kosher? This mitzvah is one that we must observe every minute of every day. This is one of the purest examples of a state mitzvah. The more serious we are of this mitzvah, the higher our souls rise. If you keep Kosher at home, and refuse to eat meat when you go out, you are guarding this mitzvah to an extent. Every moment you are in compliance with these standards, your soul rises to a higher state. If you keep kosher at home and only eat at kosher restaurants, you are guarding this mitzvah to an even greater extent. Your soul rises to an even higher state. Every moment of your life, your neshama is elevated and every mitzvah you perform is invested with more spiritual energy.
Are there other ‘STATE’ mitzvot that you need to perform at every moment?
The mitzvah of Lashon Harah is another good example. We speak all the time, and guarding the laws of not gossiping is something we have to do at every moment. Keeping this mitzvah is exceedingly difficult, and holding it takes a mammoth amount of effort. This is a mitzvah where we can achieve an even higher level of spiritual elevation if we exerted ourselves enough to keep it.
Is there a state mitzvah, where I keep it every moment of every day, and the spiritual reward I receive is so intense that it will feel as if I guarded the whole Torah? That’s the mitzvah of Shmirat HaBrit. This mitzvah is so difficult, yet so powerful, you will feel like you are guarding the whole Torah.
If you aren’t circumcised, of what strength are the mitzvoth? If you haven’t accepted the covenant of Hashem, to what extent are you performing the other mitzvoth? You are following the Torah without actually accepting it upon yourself. The same applies here. Shmirat HaBrit is THE mitzvah of circumcision. This is the foundation mitzvah. You can build spiritual skyscrapers on it. Without it, everything else will fall and collapse. In a state of Shmirat Habrit, every mitzvah you do will have added value. Every prayer you recite will be with extra strength. Not only is the mitzvah of sexual morality like holding the entire Torah, it enables you to perform every single mitzvah with such great alacrity. It ignites your neshama. You will experience each mitzvah with so much more energy, joy, and understanding. You are better equipped to perceive the spirituality Hashem invests in everything around you. You see the world with the awe and wonder of a child.
In Taharat HaKodesh it says that, in this generation all those who try their hardest to be Shomer HaBrit are the ones doing the final work – they are separating the final sparks of light from the greatest levels of darkness that will bring rise to Moshiach. Sources from all over the Torah are saying the same thing to us – this is our moment. We have a very unique opportunity to transform ourselves from one of the worst generations in Jewish history to one of the best.
We may have been given the hardest test the Jewish People have ever had to face. Today, temptations have never been greater, and the Jewish People have never been weaker. It is estimated that 1 out of every 4 pages on the internet is pornography. It is also estimated that less than 1 out of every 4 Jews is aware of his own faith. Rabbi Ovadia Yosef laments that 80% of the Jewish Nation does not recite the Shema before they go to bed.
The forces of evil we have to fight have never been stronger. We have to overcome the temptation of sex, drugs, obsession with money, and a world that tells you that what’s good is bad, and what’s bad is good. We are mired in one of the darkest eras of history. An era where we don’t even have the basic tools to correct ourselves. The Satan is holding all of the cards.
What are we to do?
We should see the times we live in for what they are – a test from Hashem. If the Jewish people can do tsuva when they are in Yeshiva, it’s wonderful. If they can live as honorable people when society views honor as standard that’s great. What happens when the entire world is living in darkness? What happens when living as a Jew is ridiculed at every turn? What happens when even the Jewish People themselves see anything Jewish as something foreign? What can a Jew do to connect with Hashem? How far will a Jew go to stand up for what is right? What happens when a Jew is surrounded and immersed with so much sex, porn, and lewd graphics, that he becomes completely obsessed with women? What happens when a Jew can no longer trust his own instincts?
Can he possibly combat all of this and serve Hashem with a clear heart, and a clean mind?
The only era we can reasonably compare ourselves to is the generation of Noach. When Noach lived, there was no social or moral order. People did what they wanted, and their sexual sins were as deviant as they were abominable. Throughout Noah’s generation nobody did anything to improve themselves. Hashem commanded that Noach build the Ark by hand as an act of compassion towards mankind. It took Noach 120 years to build the Ark. Over that time, if the people did tsuva, the Decree from Hashem to blot out humanity would have been lifted. Today, the decree is upon us. Iran is putting the finishing touches on a nuclear weapon. Al-Qaeda is plotting to unleash any number of deadly viruses on global population centers. The possible doomsday scenarios of Armageddon and World War III, Hashem forbid, are inescapable.
Yet we still have the opportunity to do tsuva right now.
The law of prophecy is clear. All positive prophecies will definitely happen. Every negative prophecy is merely a warning if we act to stop it. If we do tsuva, every prophecy that predicts disaster will not happen! To save the world, we must fight this great spiritual battle. We have to stand up to the multitude of demons that surround us. We can struggle with all of our heart and all of our strength and reverse the Divine Decree of what awaits us if we remain complacent.
I used to think that this was impossible. I lived in the sheer darkness of sexual obsession for years and when the time came to clean up myself, I didn’t think I could do it. It happened anyway. I spent years doing tikkunim. I fought thousands of battles, and many I am still fighting. While the job is not done, I know that I have overcome many major obstacles. I can handle the constant temptation. I have come to the point to where I can say – “This isn’t impossible. I can do it.”
I am not stronger than any of you. If I can do this, you can do this.
The greatest job in the history of the world has been given to us. We have the chance to be the last link in the chain of Jewish history. We can end the suffering of our forefathers. We can prevent the suffering of our children. We can redeem the pain of this world. Hashem blessed us with the chance to bring on a day without sickness, poverty, hunger, or war.
It’s in our hands. As weak as we are, and as powerful as the enemy is – we can all do the impossible, and ignite a miracle with our holy sparks. The Holy sparks we can find are brighter and more powerful than any others because they have been hidden here – in the times of the greatest darkness.
What happens when we win? What will the Satan have to say to Hashem? after they were given all of the weapons of victory, and still, they couldn’t beat us? The Satan will have no choice but to concede to Hashem that he will never beat us! Hashem will see His people overcome every possible adversity. In His Compassion, He can decide that there is nothing left to test Israel with and it is time for His promised Redemption. Moshiach can come and do what has been promised us for thousands of years. He will kill the Satan. All evil in the world will be destroyed. Every impediment mankind has tripped over in pursuit of a better world will be removed once and for all.
We can do this!
We can bring Moshiach now and reap Heavenly rewards right here on earth. We can do this not just for ourselves, but for everyone we love. Not just for our friends and family, but for all our brothers and sisters. Not just for our generation, but for our fellow Jews of years gone by. Not just for the Jewish People, but for all the good people Hashem created in His world.
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