17 Sivan 5779 / Thursday, June 20, 2019 | Torah Reading: Shelach Lecho
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Casually Devastating

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…


Teshuva: A Cage Fight, Part 2

While you are doing battle with your Yetzer in the ring, Hashem, His angels in heaven, and the demons on the side of evil are closely monitoring the outcome of the fight. 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 teshuva 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 Teshuva. This is the importance of what we are talking about today. The specific teshuva we are discussing here 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 teshuva 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.
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.
Here’s the other side of this equation. As deadly as the sins of sex are, the teshuvas 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.
Let’s get to work. Hitbodedut, Torah, earnest prayer, Tikkun Klali, mikva, Uman Rosh Hashana…

Dovber Halevi is the author of the financial book, How to Survive the Coming Decade of Anxiety. He writes for Breslev Israel and The Middle East Magazine. He lives with his wife and two children in Eretz Yisrael.

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