Part 4 - The Steel Caged Match for the Cosmic Title
Better is the little of the righteous than the great multitude of the wicked.
Tsuva is a little bit like a steel caged wrestling match. To train for the match, you make sure there are good men in your corner. Since you are fighting the good fight, you have thousands of fans rooting for you. Your companion in the ring is your will to fight. However, once the cage door shuts, and the bell rings, you are all alone. It is just you and your opponent. There is no one there to protect you from the other guy who is bent on smashing your face.
When we combat our inclination towards doing wrong (our yetzer hara), we have a lot going on in our corner. We have Rabbis who teach us day and night. They have published volumes and volumes of work that we can reference in battling our baser instincts. We learn what we can do to distance ourselves from all sorts of trouble. We also have within us a basic concept of right and wrong. Even if we aren’t learned in the laws of proper conduct, we all have moral beacons that instinctively tell us when our actions properly reflect what is right or not. Most important, Hashem is in our corner. He is always with us, urging us to defeat our inner demons and in the process, to draw our souls closer to Him.
Our opponent in the ring is our own desires. They are always there, waiting to tempt us into misdeeds. We are all engaged in an ongoing spiritual fight to the death. For each battle in this fight, the stakes are immense. Don’t underestimate this conflict of metaphysical forces simply because you don’t see it as that serious an issue. We are put on this earth to bring our souls closer to Hashem. The Satan, or Evil Inclination, within us, is commanded with the task of making sure that doesn’t happen. Every day, there are hundreds of battles we fight to embolden our soul over the body, bring light to the earth, and make the world a better place.
These battles are not the super-hyped fights you see on HBO. They are all very subtle. Every time you are talking about someone and you have the urge to start gossiping, the battle has begun. Every time you wish to stay in bed when you should be reciting morning prayers or getting up to start the day, the battle has begun. Every time you walk on the street and your peripheral vision sees the contours of a really sexy woman, and all you want to do is raise your head and just get a little peek of this sexy creature rather than visually focus on something like the tip of your nose, the battle has begun. The spiritual stakes for every single conflict are a matter of life and death. Worse even. As Rabbi Lazer Brody has stated, a body is here on this earth for 70 to 80 years (as alluded to in Psalm 81), the soul is eternal. Any damage to the body is temporary because our physical bodies are temporary. Sins such as slandering someone or misusing the eyes G-d gave you to poison yourself stain the soul and the soul is eternal.
Even on a physical level sins of this nature are very dangerous. Talking about lewd topics, checking out people for their physical appearance, and all of the actions that these things lead up to results in some very serious medical problems down the line. Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, famously known as the RamBam estimates that up to 990 out of 1000 cases of all major diseases stem from recklessly spilling seed. The Rambam is generally known as one of the greatest physicians of the past 1000 years.
So as you can see, when it comes to the choices we make in how we deal with sexuality in our daily lives – our decisions are a matter of life and death.
Not just life and death to ourselves, but the physical and spiritual wellbeing of countless others hang in the balance of our daily actions.
Today, we all live very insulated lives. We can connect to the outside world through TV, internet, and cell-phone, without ever having to leave our homes. This lifestyle encourages the assumption that all of our actions only impact ourselves or our immediate family and friends. Even when we do positive things like Torah and Tsuva, we run the risk of feeling that these great acts only had a focused impact.
We need to realize that all of Yisrael is responsible for one another. That means that each individual mitzvah has a positive impact on every Jew, and each sin endangers all of us.
When we sin, we instinctively feel as if we our damaging our own little universe and nothing more. Why shouldn’t we? When we are up against temptation, we fight alone. When something bad happened to someone else, we read about it. The best we can do is empathize with the person. When something happens to us, we feel it personally. This difference makes us believe that our actions only affect our own existence.
This is not a Jewish value. It is very destructive in nature. At the very least, it devalues our own ability to make the world a better place.
It also implies that when we do right by ourselves. When we are honest. When we restrain our baser instincts, we aren’t really making a difference. The world around us has collaborated with the baser parts inside of us to fool us into thinking that marching on Washington changes the world, but praying doesn’t. It has fed us the devastating illusion that a check for $25,000 to UNICEF saves lives while avoiding an inappropriate site on the internet does nothing.
Again, this lie is a western myth. It couldn’t be further from the truth. It only empowers the dark forces around us whom are our opponents in the ring. The easiest way to justify a sinful act is to convince yourself that nobody is affected. If you can convince yourself that nobody else gets hurt by the things you do, it is easy to be convinced that there is nobody watching over you when you do these things.
We need to remember that there are millions of our brothers and sisters all over the world who are impacted by what you do. Billions of people across the planet are impacted by the spiritual deeds of Am Yisrael.
According to Jewish law, a simple act of tsuva has the power to change the world just as much as any check to any organization or any march on Congress.
We can be dissuaded from this belief by what I call the fallacy of the act of nothing. When you defeat temptation, what you really doing? Tangibly, you are doing nothing. On the surface, the act of resisting sin is really an act of overcoming the desire to do something, even if it is something wrong. The net sum of overcoming desire is an act of nothing.
The lie distorts our false reality when we assume that if you do nothing, then nothing happens. This is nonsense. According to Rabbi Lazer Brody, there are three tenets to Jewish Faith. One, everything comes from Hashem. Two, everything Hashem does is good. Three, everything Hashem does is for our good – even if we don’t realize it. It is up to us to find out what G-d is communicating to us with everything that happens.
When we perform an act of, ‘nothing’, and resist the urge to do something, then something will happen. It can be an immediate reward like waking up the next morning and finding out your wife cooked you breakfast. It can be a long term reward, like something you see 10 years from now – or a blessing to your children. It can be something very wonderful, more wonderful than we humans are capable of perceiving, that awaits us in the next world.
You think nobody knows what you just resisted? You think that nothing was recorded in Heaven on your behalf? Or on behalf of the Jewish Nation? You think the monotony of life just continues like the previous moment? No. In this act of resisting temptation, you are metaphysically bringing intense light into the world. You are not acting in a vacuum. We never act in a vacuum!
While you are doing battle with your yetzer in the ring, Hashem, and all of His angels in heaven, as well as the demons on the side of evil, have invested themselves on the outcome of every battle. There are so many great Rabbis who would have been so much greater had the generation been worthy of it. They could have done so much more for us if we had the merit. An act of tsuva serves to bring light up to all levels of the Jewish People. In the physical world, we think that it’s the kings, presidents, and prime ministers who impact the welfare of the people. In the real world, the Jewish world, where the physical and the spiritual are intertwined, the opposite is true. You don’t have to start a grass roots organization to change the world. You don’t need to give millions to charity to improve things? You can accomplish so much for mankind in simply choosing to do right each day.
This is the essence of overcoming sin. Every act strengthens the forces of light in the world, which directly affect the consequences of what happens to all of us. When you lose, we all have to pay up. Our individual actions affect everyone. This is the importance of Tsuva. This is the importance of what we are talking about today. The specific tsuva we are discussing in this series is one where the stakes are as high as they can possibly be. The greatest era in Jewish history, the First Temple period, began and ended in the merit of this mitzvah. During this time, the Shechina, G-d’s presence, tangibly rested in Jerusalem with the Jewish people. Our leaders were King David and King Solomon. There were 100,000 prophets who dwelt among us. The majority of Jews in the world lived in the Land of Israel. We were the superpower of the world. It was our finest national era.
But we blew it.
How did we lose it all? How did we go from being the mightiest military, economic, political, and spiritual nation in the world to a scattered people?
We lost because every Jew thought that his sin only affected himself. We lost because the people convinced themselves that it was their might that sustained them, and that nobody was watching. They served Hashem according to the laws set out for them, but they did it by ‘going through the motions.’ Nothing permeated into the heart. When a prophet would perform an act of idolatry in private, he thought he could get away with it. When a man would succumb to sexual lust, he believed that he could do it and there would not be any consequences.
We forgot the laws of Jewish Emunah (faith). Hashem runs every facet of the world. From the movement of the continents to the wind blowing on a single blade of grass. Hashem is everywhere. Whether in this world or the next, no good deed goes unpunished. No sin goes overlooked. Thousands of years ago, we forgot that every action had Divine consequences. We thought we existed independently of any Higher being. We didn’t think we had to do tsuva for our misdeeds. We forgot to realize that there are very real physical consequences to everything.
Hashem reminded us.
Our sages say that it was the acts of idolatry and sexual immorality that brought down the greatest time in our collective existence.
Since the end of the first Temple era, Thank G-d, Hashem has destroyed the allure of idolatry. If you think that idolatry is not such a big deal – think again. Before it lost its luster over two thousand years ago, it was as desirable as sex is today. Hashem creates sins to be desirable. He does it not so we can enjoy them, but so we can have complete free will to choose from right and wrong. If the only pleasure we received in this world was from serving Hashem, we wouldn’t have free will. We wouldn’t be able to exert ourselves to the greatest degree in order to come close to Hashem. There would be no effort in bringing light to the world.
As long as, at least to a superficial degree, the allure of idolatry was as great as the allure of Torah, the choice would be difficult. At the same time, the reward would be greater.
Can we face the same challenges today? Is there a pleasure as great in our minds and hearts as Torah? What is it that we have to have no matter what the cost? What does society talk about all the time? What is it that we have a unique opportunity to overcome with so much exertion that we can bring unprecedented light to the world because we have to overcome unprecedented temptation to in order to succeed?
The answer is simple: Sex.
No different than our forefathers under Kings David and Solomon had to fight their sexual urges to maintain the security of living in the Land of Israel, do we Jews have to fight the same temptations to ensure a good and secure existence for the Jewish people today – both inside Israel and out.
The only difference is that there was no internet back then. There was no television. There was no late night cable, magazines, billboards, or videos.
The sin of sexual immorality is a spiritual virus that has infected every area of Jewish life. How can you fight it? It’s all around us. It’s on the internet. It’s in our streets. It’s in our homes. We talk about it. We think about it. We try to get it from everyone and the world tells us how cool we are if we succeed. Casual sex, in all of its direct and subtle forms, has become so widespread and socially accepted that most Jewish lecturers won’t even touch the subject. We have gotten to the point where observing 612 mitzvot is enough. The other mitzvah, the mitzvah of Shmirat HaBrit, is a lost cause.
There is a joke about averot (sins) in Judaism. When you do it for the first time, it’s a terrible thing. The second time you do it, it’s not so bad. The third time you do it, it’s considered a mitzvah. If you perform a sin enough times, you become desensitized to the consequences. It doesn’t feel like such a big transgression. You get used to it.
Think of foul language. The first time you used a bad word, it was a big deal. Your mother probably punished you; your father probably had a talk with you. You may have had to pay a quarter for every bad word you uttered. Over the years, you kept it up. Eventually, this language became a part of you and you don’t think twice every time an expletive is used.
This is what the common belief has become among many, religious and not, about the sexual sins that are committed today. We do it so much, it just doesn’t matter anymore. What’s another time next to the hundreds of times we have done it already?
I am here to tell you firsthand the devastation we have brought on ourselves with this sin. I am here to tell you about how deadly one simple act can be.
I will explain how looking at a women, or wasting human seed is a mortal sin and one we will have to pay for, not only in this world, but the next one as well.
I will also tell you the other side of this equation. As deadly as the sins of sex are, the tsuvas we can do for it are just as powerful. The things we can do to heal our souls, and rectify our past deeds have the power not only to make our lives indescribably better, but they also have the ability to redeem all of Israel.
David Fink is the Editor-in-Chief of the daily investment newsletter, Real Wealth Recon. In 2008, his Real Wealth portfolio MADE MONEY, outperforming the three major indices by 38%, and the average Hedge Fund by 25%. For $99 a year, you get David’s daily market commentary, instant emails for every trade he makes, total access to David’s portfolio, and a weekly review of the major articles published around the world. Why hand over your hard earned money to someone in a suit saying “trust me.” Keep your money and trust yourself. Join the elite investors who are making money this year, and tell Wall Street: YOU’RE FIRED!