15 Adar B 5779 / Friday, March 22, 2019 | Torah Reading: Tzav
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The Master Smuggler    

The Master Smuggler

The country was in chaos of crime and contraband. Everywhere, people were selling smuggled goods and prices way below legitimate imports. One arch-criminal was responsible…


The government was in an uproar and the country in chaos. Somehow, all types of contraband had been smuggled across the borders, penetrating every single city and marketplace, where smuggled liquor and tobacco were selling at prices far lower than legitimate customs-cleared and tariff-paid goods.


The Secretary of the Treasury moaned that the country was being robbed of millions of tax dollars. The Head of Internal Security warned that tobacco and alcohol were only a minor part of the contraband, for the illegal drug traffic and the transfer of stolen goods had now become a major crime industry.


The country tottered on the verge of total breakdown. The police failed to stop the raging fire of smuggler-incited crime. At the emergency cabinet meeting, government ministers pointed fingers of blame at each other and tempers flared.


The Prime Minister banged on the table with his gold-plated gavel and called everyone to attention. He called on the Head of Intelligence, who said, "Honorable Prime Minister, everything – the contraband, the narcotics, the crime and all the unpaid tariffs – can all be traced back to one individual--the master smuggler. We must seize him. But first, we must comb the country and eradicate the contraband and narcotics. While doing so, we'll undoubtedly catch him."


"How do you propose we do this?" asked the Prime Minister.


The Head of Intelligence replied, "We must mobilize all the border police and customs officers. Rather than waiting idly on the borders, we must do a house-to-house and store-to-store search across the country. That way, we'll rid our country of crime and contraband."


All the ministers agreed and the meeting was declared over. Immediately, the border police and customs officers began a nationwide dragnet searching for illegal goods.


The plan was an utter failure; contraband and crime trebled.


The master smuggler scoffed at the stupidity of the government. First, he and his intricate network of henchmen had caves and underground storehouses loaded to the gills with illegal merchandise, drugs, stolen cars and every shape and form of contraband, far from the eyes of the authorities. And second, now that the Border Police and Customs Officers were roaming the country trying to seize contraband, the borders were wide open, and the master smuggler could now bring whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted, into the already ailing country.


* * *


Maybe you're laughing at the utter inanity of the government in the above parable. It's not such a laughable matter when we learn who the parable is alluding to…


The country symbolizes each one of us, for our sages compare each of us to a mini-nation. The government is our sense of judgment, how we govern our lives and personal affairs. The master smuggler is the evil inclination and the contraband and illegal goods are all the sins and impurity that contaminate our souls. The underground warehouses that house the master smuggler's goods are the limbs and organs of our body, while the country's borders are our eyes.


Let's see how all that works:


Guarding our eyes is like an efficient border patrol and customs police that hermetically seals the border. Nothing can enter the country – each one of us – when we guard our eyes. Why? Our sages teach us that the eyes are the panderers of sin. A person doesn't crave anything until he sees it. As a result, what he doesn't see, he doesn't crave.


Ah, but people think that guarding eyes is for prudes. They don't need to, because they think that if they slip up, they'll make teshuva and everything's hunky dory. Not so…


The "master smuggler" evil inclination hides "contraband" – lust - in every single limb and organ: arms, hands, fingers, legs, heart, mouth and of course the private parts. The contraband got there because the "borders" – the eyes – were wide open. And, in case you still think I'm exaggerating, think of that forbidden thought – that image that popped up on WhatsApp, YouTube or Facebook that caught you off guard, or that movie or magazine that suckered you into looking at it.


The Torah commands in more places than one that we guard our eyes. Income, marital and many emotional problems stem from the open borders of unguarded eyes. What's more, genuine emuna is impossible without guarding our eyes. The evil inclination doesn't want us to be happy, so it does everything to discourage us from guarding our eyes. That's right – one cannot be happy, or even sane according to Rebbe Nachman of Breslev, if he doesn't guard his eyes.


The good news is that we can nab the master smuggler – we do so every time we slam our eyelids shut.


* * *

We invite you to visit Rabbi Lazer Brody’s award-winning daily web journal Lazer Beams.

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