Thursday, 12 January 2012

Kedoshim: Rashi vs. Ramban

by Twerski, Rabbi Dr. Avraham (See all authors)

Hashem instructs Moshe to tell the Children of Israel, "Kedoshim tihiyu, you shall be holy," but does not specify what one must do to be holy. Rashi says that this means one must abstain from immoral behavior. Ramban says that it means one should restrain oneself from indulging in permissible pleasures. His famous statement is that a person might be a naval bereshus haTorah, a degenerate person who is technically observant of all 613 mitzvos.

Today we can realize that these two interpretations are one and the same.

The frum community is being swept by an epidemic - yes, a plague of addiction to internet pornography. As the Talmud says, when a plague occurs, it does not discriminate between tzaddikim and reshaim (Bava Kama 60a). This is afflicting men and women of all ages, some of whom appear to be stellar in Torah and Yiddishkeit!

Satan is waging a ferocious battle, and it is claiming victims. Some bachurim are drifting away from Yiddishkeit, publicly and privately. They know that what they are doing is an abomination to Hashem, but because they cannot control themselves, they feel they have lost their connection with Hashem. Their davening and learning suffers, and even Shabbos observance is affected. Wives feel they have been betrayed, and marriages are ruined, with the children being innocent victims.

The effort to stop this plague by outlawing computers and internet is unfortunately futile. Every day, more of our daily actions become dependent on the internet. It is predicted that check writing will become extinct and all transactions will take place on-line.

Filters are the first line of defense, but essentially they are a defense to avoid accidental pop-ups. This is important, because if an indecent picture pops up and one does not immediately turn it off, one can be in trouble. Some people can become "hooked" by a single exposure of just several seconds.

Unfortunately, filters are of limited value for the person who is addicted. One can find ways to circumvent the filters.

I may sound naive, but I believe the only truly effective antidote to this terrible plague is developing a genuine sense of kedushah. A person would not think of taking a siddur or chumash into the bathroom. Yet, when one looks at pornography, one is doing much worse. One is taking one's neshamah, which is part of Hashem Himself, and dragging into the pits of disgusting filth! I believe that if a person had a true feeling of personal kedushah, one would be loath to defile it.

Meticulously observing Shabbos, eating only glatt kosher, pas Yisrael and chalav Yisrael, as important as they may are, is not enough to gain a feeling of kedushah. Ramban said it well. One can observe Shabbos, eat only glatt kosher, pas Yisrael and chalav Yisrael, be an olam hazehnik and devoid of kedushah.

Rashi and Ramban do not disagree. The only way to avoid immorality is to develop a feeling of kedushah, which is not achieved when we are indulgent in permissible gratifications.

Kedoshim tihiyu is a Scriptural mitzvah, and its proper fulfillment is literally life-saving.

There are few therapists that deal with pornography addiction. The website guardureyes.com is a most valuable resource for help, providing chizuk, education and anonymous support groups. Countless people have been helped by this website.

There must be a dedicated effort at developing kedushah, in the home, shuls, yeshivos and girls schools. The study of mussar and Chassidic writings should be a profound emotional rather than an intellectual experience. Parents and teachers must realize that they must model kedushah in their lives, because only this way will our young people adopt it in their lives.

I am not an alarmist, but I must say that we are at a crisis, and we must make heroic efforts to avoid disintegration of our families.

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