11 Cheshvan 5781 / Thursday, October 29, 2020 | Torah Reading: Lech Lecha
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Keep the Shame    

Keep the Shame

Various forces are at work trying to destroy our natural sense of shame. There cannot be another flood for our sins – but there is a flood not of water, but of plague…


“Fight the Midianites” (Numbers/Bamidbar 25:17)  


In our days, there are various groups seeking to force extreme liberal and leftist ideologies upon everyone, to try to justify every sinner, claiming that people are born with negative tendencies which are immutable and therefore nothing to be ashamed about. These groups attempt to encourage people to indulge in all kinds of evil desires in public, in order to destroy their human attribute of shame.  


Although this appears to be a new and progressive ideology, it is actually the ancient ideology of the antediluvian era, as the people of the Generation of the Flood had an ideology of recklessness and promiscuity. They legislated abominable behavior into the official public record, including redefining marriage, and this caused the Flood to come, as our Sages taught, “anywhere were licentiousness can be found, chaos and bedlam enter the world, and kill the good and the evil alike” (Midrash Bereishis Rabbah 26:5).  


The punishment for public sinners is worse than the punishment of private sinners. The reason for this is explained in the Talmud (Kiddushin 40a), that the public sinner has an additional grave sin of “Chillul Hashem”, as he is publicly denigrating the laws of the King of the World, and this causes others to learn from him to sin, and this eliminates shame, which is a deterrent from sin. For this reason, the people of the generation of the Flood received a most public punishment, as the Holy Zohar explains (Noach 66a).  


Our Sages teach (Tosefta Taanis 2:12), that when Hashem promised that He would never punish the world again with a flood, it meant a Flood of water, but an epidemic flood can come, as is found in the prophecy of Zechariah (14:12) that in the Messianic Era there will be a tremendous epidemic throughout the entire world.  


This harsh punishment of an infectious contagion that causes an epidemic, comes particularly for the sin of public immorality. Our Sages in the Talmud teach (Archin 16a), that plagues of leprosy come on account of immorality, as we find that Pharaoh, King of Egypt, received a terrible plague of leprosy when he kidnapped Sarah the wife of Avraham (Genesis/Bereishis 12:17). The Midrash (Vayikra Rabbah  Metzora 16) says that Hashem smote Pharaoh and his family with a contagious leprosy, because someone who is afflicted with a contagious disease needs to quarantine and maintain social distancing, and this is a message from Hashem to remain far from physical intimacy with forbidden relations.  


This is what the wicked Bilaam taught to the Midianites when they sought to harm the Israelites. His advice was to try with all of their effort to pass onto the Israelites the Midianite and Moabite ideologies of licentiousness, in order to smite them with an epidemic. The Midianites therefore worked hard to nullify all of the fences of modesty and shame, as the Talmud says (Sanhedrin 106a) that the Midianite women went out unclothed to greet the Israelite men, and they tempted them to worship the idol Baal Peor, whose worship was to nullify all aspects of modesty and shame.  


The Midianites continued to tempt the Israelites not to be ashamed of their natural evil lusts, thus they should allow public immodesty and immorality. For this reason, they sent Cozbi, the Midianite princess, to give up her royal dignity and engage in promiscuity, in order to demonstrate that even the most dignified families did not need to be ashamed of this. They were able to tempt many to accept their ideology, the most prominent of them was Zimri ben Sallu, the Prince of the Tribe of Shimon, who went and publicly took Cozbi in front of Moses and all Israel. For this reason, the epidemic spread immediately in Israel, as the Talmud explains (Sanhedrin 82a).  


In earlier times, the more dignified gentiles generally kept a modicum of modesty. Our Sages teach in Tractate Chullin (92b) that the Children of Noah receive reward because they do not officially recognize abominations through redefinition of marriage. However, about 50 years ago, the Midianite ideology returned to the world, teaching that it is a benefit to humanity to allow people to indulge in all types of evil lusts, publicly and with pride, and that they should not be ashamed about their sins or desires at all, because according to this vile ideology it is impossible for a person to overcome the desires he is born with.  


This ideology is fundamentally false, because the truth is that Hashem created every person with the power of free will to overcome the evil proclivities he was born with, therefore the Seven Laws of Noah prohibit adultery and other forms of immorality to all human beings. This is all the more so for a Jew, who has a Holy Soul, and has special Divine Providence, that he is able to keep all of the mitzvos of the Torah as long as he is willing to do so.  


Over the years, I have found that when I asked youth to accept upon themselves purity and holiness in their lives, or other mitzvot, some of them answered that Psychologists or Psychiatrists told them that by their nature they are not able to do this, but when I explained to them that they are actually able to do so, they eventually accepted this, and then they saw that indeed they are able to overcome this, and they are worthy by this to live a happy life and to build faithful Jewish homes.  


The only way that this false Midianite ideology is spread, is by repeating this lie persistently, publicly, loudly, and with pride, and by this method, people can accept this lie even when the reality disproves this lie. They accept it even when they see that this ideology brings to recklessness and violence, and destroys people lives, and damages the entire environ.  


After the sin with the women of Midian, which brought the epidemic, Hashem told Moshe: “Hate the Midianites” - you must hate the Midianite ideology and stay away from it always, “because they are your enemies by their machinations which they tricked you through the matter of Peor and the matter of Cozbi” - the word “dvar” (matter) is the same as “dibbur” (word), meaning that your enemies caused you to stumble in sin via their words, talking about their evil ideology concerning Peor and Cozbi, because by repeating a lie the propaganda ministers of the Midianites were able to convince a portion of the Israelite community of their lies, and this brought the epidemic.  


This also applies to our days, where parents and teachers must have mercy on the younger generation, and to teach them in a sweet way the pure education which we received from the previous generations, that we must be ashamed of sin, and that a person can indeed overcome his desires, and that this is for one’s benefit in This World and in the Next World.  


In the merit of being stronger in this issue, we can be worthy to be rescued from every type of illness and epidemic, and be worthy by this to the complete redemption, soon and in our days. 



The Kalever Rebbe is the seventh Rebbe of the Kaalov Chasidic dynasty, begun by his ancestor who was born to his previously childless parents after receiving a blessing from the Baal Shem Tov zy”a, and later learned under the Maggid of Mezeritch zt”l. The Rebbe has been involved in outreach for more than 30 years, and writes weekly emails on understanding current issues through the Torah. You can sign up at www.kaalov.org 


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