Part 6 - The Features of the Mitzvah
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.
I need to warn everyone that there are some parts that are a little graphic. Remember, as immodest as these subjects I am about to discuss are, they are all Torah lessons; and essential ones at that. Things will get a little dicey from here. If anyone, at any moment, feels that what I am talking about is too over the top – I take no offense if you wish to click somewhere else.
If I want to become more aware of my sexual morality, and I don’t have to take a vow of celibacy, or chastity, or stupidity, what exactly do I have to do?
What do I have to do in order to be Shmirat HaBrit?
Shmirat HaBrit is the guarding of the laws of sexual morality. On the one hand, it is focusing your sexual activity and passions towards your wife, and during the allowed times (which is most of the time!), and most importantly, it is the restraining of committing acts of pgam habrit, or, sexual immorality.
It’s important to emphasize that following the laws of Shmirat HaBrit is just as much about the sex you are allowed, as much as it is about the sex you are not allowed to have.
Okay, well, what is pgam habrit? What acts of sexual immorality are we referring to?
Without going into graphic detail, there are five general categories of sexual behavior that are pgam habrit.
One category is to gaze at a woman. According to Jewish law, one is forbidden to stare at a women’s physical beauty. The eyes are the windows to the soul and when we stare at something forbidden, we are putting a blemish on our soul. The reward for this mitzvah is immense. According to Rabbi Lazer Brody, when we avert our eyes from seeing a woman, thousands of angels in heaven smile upon us. We are compared to the greatest tzaddikim in Jewish history. When we say the Shema, the third paragraph stresses that we will wear tzitzit so we won’t, in the exact words of the Shema, “stray after our heart and after our eyes.” Sin occurs when, “The eyes see, the heart desires, and the body acts.” When you stare at a woman’s beauty, you are spiritually soaking in their physical looks. This is very damaging to ones neshama, or soul. Not only does it cause a blemish on the spirit, it creates seed within the body, and it strengthens the yetzer hara. The RamBam, Rabbi Moshe Maimonides, states that a man, when committing this sin, will often say to himself, “it is not a sin because I am not touching her, or engaging in any physical relations.” When we are soaking in the physical beauty of a woman, we are not thinking about anything but the woman and what we desire. Gazing at a woman will eventually bring you to this sin. The sin of staring at a woman’s beauty includes women in the street, magazine photos, movies, television, and most of all, the images you see on the internet. You can combat this sin by averting your eyes when an impure sight comes into view. You can focus your eyes on the tip of your nose, or in any other direction when you see something or your periphery sees something that you instinctively want to see more of. This self-control brings upon oneself great merit. In a split second, you are metaphysically bringing intense spiritual light into the world. Averting ones eyes is not an easy thing to do. Each time you do it, you are performing a great healing on the world.
Visually tempting images are everywhere, the challenge to be Shmirat Ayniyim (guarding the eyes) is very great. This gives us tremendous opportunity to bring great light from Hashem to ourselves and upon all of Israel, hundreds of times a day! It may sound impossible, but it isn’t. The peace camp in Israel has a slogan: “What have you done for peace today?” Every act we do to serve Hashem benefits Israel as a whole.
The next category sexual misconduct is called niuf. Niuf are sexual fantasies. They are an especially big challenge to fight because nobody can catch you in the act. You can fantasize all you like and hardly anybody will know the difference. This is how subversive this sin is. We logically assume that since a thought by itself doesn’t tangibly affect anything, sexual thoughts are harmless. This is a very dangerous falsehood. Sexual fantasies are very destructive. First off, according to Rabbi Yossi Mizrachi, you are damaging yourself in all of the spiritual worlds above you. You are also distancing yourself from Hashem. You are desensitizing yourself to this sin, and increasing the possibility that you will turn your thoughts into action. After thinking about these acts for a while, your mind isn’t focused, and you can’t concentrate. These thoughts also create seed within the body. Seed, or semen, is created in the brain. It goes down the spine where it sits in ones bowels waiting to be excreted.
The next category is to speak vulgarity. Speaking or listening to sexually vulgar speech is an act of sexual immorality. The more people talk about sex, the less serious of act it appears. We all become too familiar with these acts and we begin to view the dangers of inappropriate sex like its no big deal. Talking about sexual misconduct implies that ‘other people are doing it.’ How many times in our lives do we wind up doing things we wouldn’t normally do because our friends did it? Speaking, or participating in a conversation that is replete with this type of vulgarity weakens any and all taboos about impure relations. Sixty years ago, people didn’t talk about sex so openly. It wasn’t on the TV, it wasn’t on the radio, and it was limited in the movies. It was considered a private matter between a husband and a wife. Take a look at the marriage rates back then. Take a look at the percentage of marriages that lasted 50 years. It’s astonishing. Compare that to today. We have no social boundaries to having sex before marriage, or even while we are too young to understand the consequences of what we are doing. This has caused great spiritual and emotional pain to our generation. The lowering of the bar starts with the acceptance of all forms of vulgar speech.
I am not talking about censorship. However, the right to say something doesn’t give you an obligation to say it. Freedom is the using the right not to exercise a liberty just as much as it is in exercising that right. The highest levels of spirituality can be achieved in a free society simply because we are given the will to choose good or bad.
Vulgar speech includes listening to crude songs on the radio, watching them on TV, especially sexually explicit videos, and all forms of vulgar conversation. Walking away from such a dialogue doesn’t give off the impression that you think you are better than your friends. It says that there are some things you just don’t talk about lightly.
The fourth category is that of the touch. It is forbidden to touch a woman who is not your wife, or not in your family. It’s that simple. Touching, or anything beyond that is an act of pgam habrit. It is a sin. Rabbi Zechariah Wallerstein gave a wonderful explanation about the dangers of touching. He explained that every physical action between a man and a woman should be accompanied by a spiritual action. He stated that until a man marries a woman, he doesn’t earn the right to touch her. Until he commits himself to be faithful to her for the rest of his life, and she commits herself to him forever, there is no privilege for a man to touch a woman. 60 years ago, this was the norm. A man wouldn’t touch a woman until they committed to marriage. This level of spirituality works. Marriage rates among the observant are above 90% while one in every two marriages outside the religious community end in divorce. People used to get married in their early twenties and stay married for over 50 years. The stability of the family led to happy and healthy children. It gave immense happiness to both the husband and wife. Unfortunately, we have lost all of that today. It’s a horrible fact to accept that most of us will have to wait until we are at least 30 years old until we get married, and after we finally do, the odds are even that we won’t stay married. Guarding against the touch takes the odds and puts them heavily in your favor. It may not be easy, but getting the best out of life isn’t.
The final category is by far the most serious. The worst act of sexual immorality is the act of spilling seed. Spilling seed is any act of excreting semen that is not with ones wife while during the proscribed time. This encompasses sex with any woman who is not your wife, any form of oral sex, wet dreams, drops of seed falling out after you urinate, and, masturbation. The sin of wasting seed is a very serious one. The Shulchan Aruch, or the Code of Jewish Law, states that this is the worst sin that a man can commit. The Kabalah says that this sin is so horrible, you cannot atone for it. The deeper meaning is that this sin is so horrifyingly evil, you have to perform massive amounts of intense tsuva to rectify it within one’s lifetime.
Why is this sin so much worse than the others? What is the transgression in spilling seed?
In Pirkei Avot, or the part of the Talmud called Ethics of the Fathers, we learn that man comes from a putrid drop. When a man lies with his wife during the proscribed time, a drop of semen exits the man and enters the woman. G-d Willing, that drop will reach its destination and becomes a fetus. It will grow within the mother and B’ezrat Hashem, be born a healthy baby. Years later, that baby will become a full grown adult. What started out as a putrid drop, becomes a human being.
The human body that this drop has become is the most sophisticated machine ever built. A computer may have thousands of connections and attachments, but the human body has billions of blood vessels and nerves. There are enough blood vessels and nerves inside the human body to circle the earth twice. The most sophisticated telecommunications network boasts hundreds of billions of electrical connections that compromise one of mankind’s greatest technological accomplishments. The human brain has 10 trillion connections inside it. The human body is by far the most advanced machine ever built. It is a living testament to the Greatness of its Creator.
Hashem created us with limbs, muscles, bones, and organs which work together in a miraculous fashion.
All of this comes from that putrid drop. All of the instructions for the creation of the bones, and the organs, and the skin, and the nerves, and the blood vessels, and the 10 trillion connections that make the brain come from this putrid drop.
Imagine the potential physical and spiritual energy that’s inside that drop. If used properly, this potential energy can be harnessed to strengthen the soul to levels you never thought possible.
Now, just think about how devastating a sin it is when we take this energy and throw it to the ground. This is the severity of what we are doing when we transgress against the mitzvah of Shmirat HaBrit.
These aren’t only my personal opinions – they are Jewish law! I don’t want to openly talk about my personal sins in these matters. I will say that one of the greatest tsuvas for these sins is to discuss them with as many people as possible. So here I am, telling you about how serious these sins are and what we can all do to atone for them and fix our damaged souls. You can deduct the rest on your own. I promise you that the spiritual, emotional, and physical rewards for exerting this degree of restraint far outweigh whatever pleasure you get for these immoralities.
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!