The Pollution of Sodom
A Holy Letter from the Kalever Rebbe Shlit”a
to the Jewish Community of Brazil
Parshas Lech Lecha 5778
Shalom u’Brachah, to our dear Jewish brothers and sisters in Brazil,
This week, before I sent my son, Rabbi Yisochar Dov Taub, shlit”a, on a Chizzuk mission to your country, several of your community activists informed us that a recently enacted law effectively prevents educators in Jewish schools from speaking about maintaining the bounds of moral sanctity and shunning acts of abomination. Therefore, it is important that people from outside the schools share words of chizzuk with the students regarding this subject.
We must consider that the mere existence of such strange and vile laws indicates the gravity and importance of this issue. The Satan is clearly waging an all-out war, using every means possible to cause people to fail in these most central areas of human behavior.
Hashem created people with five senses: sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch. Our task in this world is to choose good. We must use the five senses to serve the Creator by performing mitzvos and good deeds which sanctify Him, and resist using them to violate mitzvos by following evil lusts which profane Him.
Four of the senses are located in specific parts of the body. Sight is centered in the eyes, hearing in the ears, taste in the mouth, and smell in the nose. The only sense that covers the entire body is the sense of touch. This demonstrates the tremendous influence the sense of touch has on every person; it has the power to defile and destroy the entire body.
The Holy Zohar explains that using the sense of touch for forbidden lusts brings poverty, including poverty of the mind, ignorance, which is the worst form of poverty. Indulging in lustful behavior confuses the mind and curtails its attention and concentration span for important matters, since all of one’s thoughts become occupied with lust.
Lust causes people to become obsessed with making people like them and honor them, with the goal of satisfying this temporal pleasure. Becoming addicted to this impulse, the mind loses its rational sense, and doesn’t stop to think that it must forego other pleasures to pursue lust. A person thus obsessed can even destroy his own life or the lives of others.
Some fifty years ago, permissive society spawned a horrible and destructive “Permissive Revolution”, which urged people to fulfill their lusts publicly in all types of ways. We must all take precautions not to be dragged down into this destructive lust.
Regarding this, Chazal taught a general rule from our Holy Torah, “if one starves it, it is satisfied; if one satisfies it, it remains starved” (Sukkah 52b). Specifically, when one tries to feed this lust, one feels hungrier for the lust. It becomes uncontrollable, leading to the pursuit of more and more lust.
We see today the nations of the world becoming more and more embroiled into these lusts, to the point where the most important and respected people in these societies, do not stop to think about the destructive outcomes of their actions. They then enact laws to support their lusts, and forbid opposition or protest against it.
This phenomenon occurred in Sodom. Their society crumbled as they ran after the abomination known to the world as “Sodomy”. Thus, it is written, “the men of Sodom were evil and sinful to Hashem very much” (Bereishis 13:13), because this sin is a very grave sin, which defiles the entire human body. The fire of desire for this sin causes one to be cold to mitzvos, and destroys all good character traits.
Scripture tells us (ibid. 19:4-5), that when two men came to lodge at Lot’s home, the “Men of the city” (Anshei Ha’Ir) surrounded his home. It is taught that whenever the term “anshei” appears in Scripture, it refers to the most important leaders of the community. They demanded that Lot bring out these men to be violated by them, as this was the law of their city to be done to every guest so that no one in the city would be clean of this sin or stand in opposition to it.
Thus, the city was punished with extreme harshness; Hashem caused fire and brimstone to rain from the sky, totally burning it away and uprooting it from the world.
At that time, when the Sodomites polluted the world with their abominations, Hashem commanded the mitzvah of Bris Milah to Avraham and all his children thereafter in order to help them always overcome the powerful temptations of lust. As Rambam writes (Moreh Nevuchim 3:49), a reason for the mitzvah of Bris Milah is to lessen the power of lust that is increased by the orla.
Hashem also added the letter “hei” to Avram’s name, becoming Avraham, to symbolize that Avraham Avinu gained control at that time over all five of his senses, the letter “hei” being the number five in Gematria.
Similarly, Yosef Ha’Tzaddik followed the ways of his ancestors and maintained himself in holiness, even among the Egyptians who were embroiled in impure lusts. As a result, he merited wealth and honor at the end of his life, as the Holy Torah tells us in Parshas Vayeshev and Parshas Miketz. Yosef, too, had the letter “hei” added to his name, as he is sometimes referred to as “Yehosef”, as we see in Tehillim (Psalm 81:6), “edus b’Yehosef” – “testimony to Yehosef”, hinting that he had self-control over all five senses.
May it be Hashem’s Will that every Jew follow in the ways of our holy ancestors, remaining protected within the bounds of holiness, thus meriting long life and good years with good and easy Parnassah, as the Holy Zohar teaches in Parshas Yisro.