Monday, 10 August 2020

Guarding our eyes protects our livelihood

A Message from the Kalever Rebbe for Parshas Ekev 5780
Guarding our eyes protects our livelihood

“The Eyes of Hashem your God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year” (Devarim 11:12).

When trouble in the world causes people’s parnassah to decline, people make every effort to protect and stimulate their livelihoods. G-d fearing Jews, however, believe that the source of their livelihood is Heavenly. They therefore make every effort to improve their spiritual level by committing to increase their spiritual deeds of Torah, Mitzvohs and Prayer, thereby bringing down the abundant blessings of parnassah from Heaven.

One of the main barriers to Divine influence of parnassah is looking at improper things, which brings improper thoughts, and ultimately pollutes the spiritual mind. Even if this influence is not immediate, it becomes etched into the mind, and in the end it will contaminate the person. For this reason, Hashem commanded us in His Torah “and you shall guard yourself from every evil thing” (Devarim 23:10), which Chazal explain as a command to guard that one’s thoughts remain pure during the day, because impure thoughts can bring physical manifestations of impurity (Kesubos 46a).

The Holy Zohar (Tikkunei Zohar 30b) brings the idea that poverty chases anyone who is mired in such impurity, and even if someone was born under a ‘mazel’ of wealth, he will lose his fortune and wealth. This includes not only financial poverty, but also poverty of the mind, because this impurity causes the brain to be addled and fogged, and this confuses the mind and causes low attention span and a lack of patience, and this lack of brain power will also cause one to lack success in his business dealings.

Conversely, we know that whatever exists in the negative sense will always be greater in the positive sense. Thus, one who is careful to guard his eyes will be worthy to have abundant parnassah in an easy manner. This is because all of the pain and difficultly a person endures when he overcomes the tremendous temptations of ‘shemiras einayim’ will stand for him as a merit, and this will greatly lessen the pain and difficulty that may have been decreed upon him as necessary to earn a living, and this tremendous reward is poured down upon him and his progeny from Heaven, as is explained in Sefer Chasidim (495).

We see this idea in the story of Yosef HaTzaddik. When Yosef was only 17 years young, he suddenly found himself in Egypt, which was the most immoral and impure place in the world, yet he was able to conquer his lusts and did not look upon Potiphar’s wife, and he ran away from her. Along these lines, he continued to keep himself holy and pure even when he was appointed Viceroy and was brought out into the Egyptian streets. Even when all the immoral and immodest Egyptian girls tossed their expensive jewelry at him in order to get his attention so they could entice him, he would not look at them.

In this merit, Yosef was worthy to fabulous wealth, to the point where during the years of famine, the entire world had to come to him to request food from him, as it is written “and Yosef was the distributor of food” (Bereishis 42:6), and then everyone was able to see that through the attribute of holiness, embodied by Yosef HaTzaddik, is one worthy to parnassah. Chazal explain that it is in the merit of the Shemiras Einayim of Yosef HaTzaddik that he was worthy to draw down abundant parnassah to his progeny after him (Zevachim 118b).

However, when Yosef HaTzaddik passed away, the Israelites lacked a role model who taught them the paths of holiness, and the eyes and heart of the Israelites were no longer careful in holiness, and they began to waste time in places where they could look at immodest sights, as the Midrash teaches (Tanchuma Shmos 6) on the verse “and the land was filled with them” (Exodus/Shmos 1:7) that the Israelites began to fill the Egyptian theaters. When this happened, the Jewish parnassah became diminished, and they became indentured to the Egyptians, and needed to work very hard just to receive a bit of food to continue to live, and the spiritual reason for this decline was because they breached their holiness.

Along these lines, when a time comes in history where there is an epidemic and the situation of parnassah becomes difficult, we have to be even stronger than usual in these areas.

It is taught in the Gemara (Taanis 8b) that once there was a famine simultaneously with an epidemic, and the people did not know which they should put more effort into praying for, and Rabbi Shmuel bar Nachmani said that they should pray that Hashem gives them food, because this includes the prayer for their lives to be saved from the plague, because food is not given to the dead.

My holy ancestor the Koznitzer Maggid zt”l explains the depth of this concept. He said if it is written by a Divine Decree the words “mavves raav” (death, famine), the Tzaddik is able to nullify the famine, and he is able to remove the letter ‘ayin’ from the word “raav” (famine), and place it into the word “mavves” (death), which then changes the Divine Decree to “Maos Rav”, which means “abundant money”, and this will automatically nullify both of the evil decrees at once. This is the meaning of the verse (Psalms/Tehillim 33:18) “behold, the Eye (ayin)of Hashem is upon those who fear Him, those who wait for His kindness”, which means that Hashem gave over his “ayin” to the Tzaddikim, to change the place of the letter ‘ayin’ from its place in the Supernal decree, “and to save their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine”, meaning that by moving the letter “ayin”, it is possible to nullify “death” and “famine”.

The holy Rebbe Meir of Dzikov zt”l in his holy sefer Imrei Noam (on Chanukkah), writes that someone who is pious and fears Hashem, and keep his “ayin” (eye) pure, because he knows that it belongs to Hashem, Who created him, and it disrespectful to use this eye in a manner which violates His Will, this causes the letter “ayin” to be moved on his account to the good place, and thus “maos rav” will be decreed upon him.

We similarly find in the Talmud (Bava Kama 60b) that Rava would shut his windows during an epidemic, and the earlier sources explain that the “windows” referred to here are actually the eyes, which are the windows of the human body, because during a time of an epidemic he was careful to close his eyes to avoid seeing any evil thing, because improper sights bring one to tumaah which increases the power of the destructive forces during an epidemic, and from this famines comes, which is not the case when one guards his eyes, which nullifies the decrees of death and famine.

It is possible to say that this is what we find in this parshah, that Moshe Rabbenu told the Israelites that once they entered Eretz Yisrael they will not need to work hard for their parnassah as they did in Egypt, and then he explained the reason, because “the Eyes of Hashem are constantly upon it, from the beginning of the year and until the end of a year”. The message here is that we should always remember that our eyes belong to Hashem, which is the meaning of “the Eyes of Hashem”, thus even if a decree of famine was made at Rosh Hashanah, it is possible to nullify this decree before the year’s end by being strong in ‘shemiras einayim’, as Chazal explain (Rosh Hashanah 16b) that this verse teaches us that it is possible to change a Divine Decree in the middle of a year.

May it be Hashem’s Will that by being strong in ‘shemiras einayim’ and staying far away from immodest sights on technological devices, the Jewish People will be worthy to a life of good Parnassah.