7 Shvat 5781 / Wednesday, January 20, 2021 | Torah Reading: Bo
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HomeFoundations of JudaismHoliness for Men and WomenYou Shall be Holy!
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You Shall be Holy!    

You Shall be Holy!

Women of Israel have the responsibility to dress in a modest fashion to draw Jewish men into sexual fantasy and sin. The Torah warns us that Israel’s..


Before continuing on with a halachic look at Shmirat HaBrit, in the light of these mystical insights, we can understand the great importance of the laws of modesty. The women of Israel have the  responsibility to dress in a modest fashion, so as not to cause Jewish men to be drawn into sexual fantasy and sin. Their attire should cover the body according to Jewish Law. For example, sleeves should extend lower than the elbow. Skirts should extend below the knees. Clothes should not be so tight-fitting that they expose the outline of the body in a suggestive fashion. Besides violating the laws of modesty, women who dress in a purposely  enticing fashion transgress the prohibition of putting a stumbling block in front of a blind man, in that they lead others to sin.
The Torah warns us that Israel’s success and security is dependent on guarding our holiness, specifically in the area of sexual purity.
 “When thou goest out to encamp against thy enemies, then keep thee from every evil thing. If there be among you any man that is not clean by reason of an impure emission of semen at night, then he shall go abroad outside of the camp, he shall not come within the camp.” (Devarim, 23:10-11)
“For the L-rd thy G-d walks in the midst of thy camp, to deliver thee, and to give up thy enemies before thee; therefore shall thy camp be holy, that He see no unclean thing in thee and turn away from thee.” (Devarim, 23:15)
This demand for sexual purity applies not only to the soldiers of Israel, but also to community life in general. The Torah commands us, “Kedoshim t’heyu!” “You shall be holy, for I the L-rd your G-d am holy.” (Vayikra, 19:2)
To ensure the day-to-day holiness of the Jewish People, the Torah and its Sages set forth guidelines to prevent a man from succumbing to the temptations that can easily cause him to err. 
For example, Jewish Law demands that a man exert special care to distance himself from interaction with women. (Shulchan Oruch, Even HaEzer, 21:1) This warning is not because women are evil, G-d forbid. Rather, it comes to guard a man from falling into transgression.
Regarding the prohibition against being alone with a woman, Jewish Law states:
“One must not be alone with any woman, whether she is young or old, a Jew or non-Jew, a relative or not, except in the case of a father with his daughter, a mother with her son, and a husband with his wife.” (Kitzor Shulchan Oruch, 152:1)
The halacha continues:
“A man should ever avoid women; thus he should not make gestures at them, nor wink at them, nor jest with them, nor act with levity in their presence, nor gaze at their beauty. It is forbidden to scent their perfume, especially on a woman scented with it. One is forbidden to look at the colored clothes of a woman with whom he is acquainted, even though the clothes are not upon her, lest he come to think of her. If one encounters a woman in the street, he should not walk behind her, but he should hasten his steps so that she is either alongside of him or behind him. One should not pass by the door of a harlot, even by four cubits. He who gazes at the small finger of a woman in order to enjoy its sight, commits a serious wrongdoing. It is forbidden to hear the voice of a woman singer or to gaze at a woman’s hair.” (Ibid, 152:8)
“The great sages of Israel, of blessed memory, have already dealt in length in their holy works concerning the custom prevailing in some communities, where there is a lack of scholarship and piety, that they hug and kiss the groom and bride, and the young men and women dance together. Beside the grave sin of coming in contact with a woman in her menstrual period, he also stimulates lewd thoughts within himself, causing erection and the vain discharge of semen, G-d forbid.” (Ibid, 152:13)
It is important to note that all unmarried women are considered to be in a state of menstrual impurity. The impurity of niddah (menstrual impurity) is the severest form of spiritual uncleanness. The punishment for having relations with a woman considered niddah is karet, dying before one’s time. Because of the great strength of niddah impurity, a man does not only become impure through having sexual relations with her, but also through intimacies like hugging and kissing.
When a man spiritually pollutes himself through the accidental emission of semen in vain, through masturbation, by contact with a woman considered niddah, or even through a sexual fantasy alone, the Shechinah departs from him. Holiness and impurity cannot exist in the same place.
The Midrash teaches that the Holy One Blessed Be He is slow to anger in regard to every sin, except immorality. (Bereshit Rabbah 26)
“Rabbi Simlai taught, Wherever there is immorality, indiscriminate destruction comes to the world and kills the good with the wicked.” (Ibid)
This is the reason why we are called upon to keep our camp holy, to insure that the Shechinah which guards over Israel never leave us prey to our enemies.
To be continued
(Secret of the Brit is reprinted with kind permission of JewishSexuality.com. Tzvi Fishman was awarded the Israel Ministry of Education Prize for Creativity and Jewish Culture. His books on Judaism and Jewish themes include: "Tuvia in the Promised Land," "Days of Mashiach," "The Kuzari For Young Readers," and four books on the teachings of Rabbi Kook, "Torat Eretz Yisrael," "War and Peace," "The Art of T'shuva," and "Lights on Orot," co-written with Rabbi David Samson)

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