In the past few articles, we explained the fundamental distinction between good and bad and the importance of having emunah. We also learned that we have the power to create angels by learning Torah, observing mitzvot and doing acts of kindness. These angels are our allies. They fight for us and defend us. But they are not all the same. Their power and strength is directly correlated to the kedushah in our lives and the self-sacrifice and self-negation that we exhibit in serving Hashem.
We also wrote about the origin of terrorists [mechabelim], i.e. that they emanate from spiritual mechabelim that we create through our transgressions, and since we create them, we have to provide for them. That’s why these mechabelim have permission to take the heavenly abundance [shefa] that was originally intended for us and redirect it to themselves. When this happens, we become weakened because we have been deprived of the shefa that was originally intended for our sustenance. In addition, the mechabelim get strengthened through the spiritual nourishment that they took from us. Once strengthened, these forces of impurity, i.e. klipot, hide or obscure the good that emanates from Hashem, making it look like it’s actually bad. The only way to rid ourselves of these forces of impurity, whether the spiritual mechabelim or their earthly counterparts, and to reveal the good itself, is to be compassionate. When Hashem sees us behaving compassionately, His compassion gets aroused. He then takes personal responsibility for these mechabelim, removing them from us altogether.
Therefore, we have two tasks at hand if we want to win this war and triumph over our physical and spiritual enemies. The first is to increase the kedushah in our lives. This will create more powerful angelic allies who will advocate on our behalf, defend us in and out of court, and attack our enemies. The second is to increase our level of compassion. This will eliminate the terrorists that we have already created through our transgressions.
Is there a way we can accomplish both of these at the same time?
What exactly is kedushah anyway? When we pray אַתָּה קָדוֹשׁ וְשִׁמְךָ קָדוֹשׁ (You are kadosh and Your name is kadosh), what are we really saying? There are two aspects to kedushah, one that comes from the Holy One [ha-Kadosh], blessed be He, i.e. the אַתָּה in the prayer, and the other that comes from His Shechinah, the Divine Presence, i.e. the שִׁמְךָ in the prayer. The Holy One, blessed be He, is the ‘male’ aspect, i.e. the Giver, and the Shechinah is the ‘female’ aspect, i.e. the ‘Receiver’. When these two aspects are united without any separation, we call it ‘intimacy’, i.e. yichud. Much more can be said about this idea, but that will have to do for now. The point is that Hashem desires that there be yichud between the Holy One, blessed be He, and His Shechinah. Why? Because all shefa that comes down to the lower worlds, including the one in which we live, emanates from this yichud. Ultimate yichud would result in such a revelation of light down here that death itself would be swallowed up and we would experience peace and happiness that we cannot even begin to fathom.
Wherever kedushah is mentioned in the Torah it is connected to moral purity and personal modesty. It is taught in Vayikra Rabbah 24:6: אָמַר רַבִּי יְהוּדָה בֶּן פָּזִי מִפְּנֵי מָה נִסְמְכָה פָּרָשַׁת עֲרָיוֹת לְפָרָשַׁת קְדוֹשִׁים אֶלָּא לְלַמֶּדְךָ שֶׁכָּל מָקוֹם שֶׁאַתָּה מוֹצֵא בּוֹ גֶּדֶר עֶרְוָה אַתָּה מוֹצֵא קְדֻשָּׁה…כָּל מִי שֶׁהוּא גּוֹדֵר עַצְמוֹ מִן הָעֶרְוָה נִקְרָא קָדוֹשׁ (R’ Yehudah ben Pazi said, Why is the parashah on forbidden relationships [Vayikra 18] adjacent to Parashat Kedoshim [which starts at Vayikra 19]? To teach you that wherever you find a fence against nakedness/immorality [ervah], you find kedushah…Anyone who fences himself from ervah is called kadosh). The examples of Rabbi (Yehudah ha-Nasi) and R’ Yosi illustrate the point (Shabbat 118b): אָמַר רַבִּי יוֹסֵי מִיָּמַי לֹא נִסְתַּכַּלְתִּי בַּמִּילָּה שֶׁלִּי אִינִי וְהָאֲמַרוּ לֵיהּ לְרַבִּי מַאי טַעְמָא קָרוּ לָךְ רַבֵּינוּ הַקָּדוֹשׁ אֲמַר לְהוּ מִיָּמַי לֹא נִסְתַּכַּלְתִּי בַּמִּילָּה שֶׁלִּי בְּרַבִּי מִילְּתָא אַחֲרִיתִי הֲוָה בֵּיהּ שֶׁלֹּא הִכְנִיס יָדוֹ תַּחַת אַבְנֵטוֹ וְאָמַר רַבִּי יוֹסֵי מִיָּמַי לֹא רָאוּ קוֹרוֹת בֵּיתִי אִימְרֵי חֲלוּקִי (R’ Yosi said, In all my days, I never looked at my brit. Really? But didn’t they say to Rabbi, Why did they call you ‘Our Holy Teacher’? He said to them, In all my days, I never looked at my brit. [If so, why didn’t they call R’ Yosi ‘Our Holy Teacher’?] Rabbi had something else, i.e. he never put his hand below his belt. And R’ Yosi said, In all my days, the beams of my house never saw the seams of my robe [i.e. I dress and undress while under my sheets]). We see, therefore, that the essence of kedushah is all about modesty—even in private.
It is written in Michah 6:8: הִגִּיד לְךָ אָדָם מַה־טּוֹב וּמָה־יְיָ דּוֹרֵשׁ מִמְּךָ כִּי אִם־עֲשׂוֹת מִשְׁפָּט וְאַהֲבַת חֶסֶד וְהַצְנֵעַ לֶכֶת עִם־אֱלֹקֶיךָ (He told you, O man, what is good and what Hashem wants from you, only to execute justice, to love chesed and to walk hatznei’a with your G d). When the whole Torah is summarized in just three mitzvot, to walk hatznei’a with G d is one of them. Therefore, it must be very important. What does it mean? Referring to this verse, the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch writes (3:1): לְפִיכָךְ צָרִיךְ הָאָדָם לִהְיוֹת צָנוּעַ בְּכָל אָרְחוֹתָיו. וְלָכֵן כְּשֶׁלּוֹבֵשׁ אוֹ פּוֹשֵׁט אֶת חֲלוּקוֹ אוֹ שְׁאָר בֶּגֶד שֶׁעַל בְּשָׂרוֹ יְדַקְדֵּק מְאֹד שֶׁלֹּא לְגַלּוֹת אֶת גּוּפוֹ אֶלָּא יַלְבִּישׁוֹ וְיַפְשִׁיטוֹ כְּשֶׁהוּא שׁוֹכֵב עַל מִשְׁכָּבוֹ מְכֻסֶּה. וְאַל יֹאמַר הִנְנִי בְחַדְרֵי חֲדָרִים וּבַחֲשֵׁכָה מִי רוֹאֵנִי, כִּי הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא מְלֹא כָל הָאָרֶץ כְּבוֹדוֹ…וְהַצְּנִיעוּת וְהַבֹּשֶׁת מְבִיאוֹת אֶת הָאָדָם לִידֵי הַכְנָעָה לְפָנָיו יִתְבָּרַךְ שְׁמוֹ (Therefore, it is necessary for a man to be modest in all his ways. Therefore, when he puts on or takes off his shirt or any other garment from his flesh, he needs to be very careful not to uncover his body, rather to put it on or take it off while lying covered on his bed. And he shouldn’t say, I’m in my inner room and in a dark place. Who will see? For the Holy One, blessed be He, fills the whole world with His glory…Modesty [tzniut] and shame bring a person to know submissiveness before Him, blessed be His name). Therefore, when R’ Yosi said that the beams of his house never saw the seams of his robe, he wasn’t being a chassid. He was just observing the basic halachah.
The Torah says (Devarim 23:10): כִּי־תֵצֵא מַחֲנֶה עַל־אֹיְבֶיךָ וְנִשְׁמַרְתָּ מִכֹּל דָּבָר רָע (When you go out to encamp against your enemies, protect yourself from every bad thing). If you have to leave the sanctity of your home to fight a war against your enemies, then the most important thing is to guard yourselves against every ‘bad thing’. What does this mean? In addressing the question whether it is permissible for a man to look at a woman (not of his own family), the Gemara quotes this verse and says (Avodah Zarah 20a): שלא יסתכל אדם באשה נאה ואפילו פנויה באשת איש ואפי’ מכוערת ולא בבגדי צבע [של] אשה (A man is not to look at a beautiful woman even if she is unmarried, or a married woman even if she is ugly, or at the colored clothing of a woman). So what is the ‘bad thing’ that the soldier must be very careful about during war? Any improper or immodest thought (and it goes without saying, action or dress). It’s all totally forbidden.
Lest we think that this is some form of stringency for soldiers during war, the Torah adds (Devarim 23:15): כִּי יְיָ אֱלֹקֶיךָ מִתְהַלֵּךְ בְּקֶרֶב מַחֲנֶךָ לְהַצִּילְךָ וְלָתֵת אֹיְבֶיךָ לְפָנֶיךָ וְהָיָה מַחֲנֶיךָ קָדוֹשׁ וְלֹא־יִרְאֶה בְךָ עֶרְוַת דָּבָר וְשָׁב מֵאַחֲרֶיךָ (For Hashem your G d walks in the midst of your camp to rescue you and to deliver your enemies before you; and your camp shall be kadosh, so that He should not see among you any indecent/immoral/lewd [ervah] thing, and turn away from you). It is impossible to emphasize this enough. The Shechinah will literally leave the camp—our homes, our neighborhoods, and our cities—if Hashem sees any manner of ervah whatsoever. She is literally driven away. She cannot tolerate it. Why? Because it is written (Vayikra 19:2): קְדֹשִׁים תִּהְיוּ כִּי קָדוֹשׁ אֲנִי יְיָ אֱלֹקֵיכֶם (You shall be kadosh because I, Hashem your G d, am kadosh). And if we fail in this regard, G d forbid, we create separation between Hashem and His Shechinah in the upper worlds, resulting in a diminution of the shefa to this world. How come? What’s the connection between here and there? Because we as Knesset Yisrael are one with the Shechinah. And if such a situation were to arise, G d forbid, we would be left unprotected, having to fend for ourselves, so to speak, just like every other nation in the world. It’s not like this hasn’t happened before, for this is exactly what happened when we came out of Egypt and were attacked by Amalek. The ones who were attacked had literally been expelled from the clouds of glory, from being protected under the wings of the Shechinah (see Rashi’s comments to Devarim 25:18).
The purpose of all of this has been to lay a foundation from our Torah in order to bring these lessons into the present.
We all know that a terrible breach in the laws of tzniut took place during the night and early morning hours of Simchat Torah. We are not here to condemn, but rather to help us understand the root cause of what happened and to stir us to repair our own breaches in tzniut. (Condemning those who attended the party is absolutely forbidden for at least two reasons. First, there were many mitigating circumstances in the lives of each and every Jew who attended. Second, anyone killed al kiddush Hashem, i.e. just because he or she is a Jew, is elevated to a very high level in the upper worlds.) However, just because Hashem turns a blind eye, so to speak, even for a long period of time, doesn’t mean He condones what He sees (Tehillim 50:21): אֵלֶּה עָשִׂיתָ וְהֶחֱרַשְׁתִּי דִּמִּיתָ הֱיוֹת־אֶהְיֶה כָמוֹךָ אוֹכִיחֲךָ וְאֶעֶרְכָה לְעֵינֶיךָ (Rather, you did and I was silent; you imagined that I was like you [i.e. thinking that your deeds didn’t matter], but I will correct you and set things straight before you). Tragically, Hashem sent a correction to His beloved children to set things straight.
Above, we brought down examples from R’ Yosi and Rabbi (as well as from the Kitzur) to illustrate what the Torah expects of men when it comes to matters of tzniut. In addition, we have written many articles focusing on the need for men to guard their eyes and be shomer brit. Therefore, we now turn our attention to women.
Let’s start with an example for our women to emulate. Addressing the question of what Boaz saw in Rut that led him to inquire of her, the Gemara states (Shabbat 113b): דְּבַר צְנִיעוּת רָאָה בָּהּ עוֹמְדוֹת מְעוּמָּד נוֹפְלוֹת מְיוּשָּׁב (He saw in her a matter of tzniut: the standing stalks of grain she gleaned while standing and the fallen stalks while sitting). She never bent down to pick up the fallen stalks of grain. Why not? Because she was concerned that perhaps a small portion of her leg might thereby be exposed (see ArtScroll commentary). She wasn’t concerned about the thigh, for without a doubt that part of her body was surely covered (for according to all opinions, the upper leg, i.e. the thigh, is definitely ervah). Rather, she was concerned about the lowest portions of her leg, down near the foot.
It is interesting that when it comes to Pesach, we seem to go out of our way to look for every stringency in the book. We wrap our kitchens in tinfoil, seal up our cabinets with tape, and even close off our regular kitchen faucets. But when it comes to tzniut, we seem to have veered in the opposite direction, looking for as many leniences as we can find. We leave parts of our hair, legs, arms, etc. exposed, and even more so when we are seated. Although that may be the way of many goyim today; it’s not the way of a goy kadosh. A true Bat Yisrael is not a barbie doll, and she shouldn’t be dressed as such (even as a little girl). It’s not about showing off the body, as it is written (Tehillim 45:14): כׇּל־כְּבוּדָּה בַת־מֶלֶךְ פְּנִימָה (The entirety of the honor of a princess is internal). All of her honor is internal. The true beauty is the beauty of the soul. There’s absolutely nothing honorable or glorious about a physical body, as it says (Mishlei 31:30): שֶׁקֶר הַחֵן וְהֶבֶל הַיֹּפִי (Grace is falsehood and beauty is vanity). As the Kitzur said (see above), the physical body should be a source of shame, not of pride; therefore, we should seek to cover it, not expose it. (We hope to explain why it should be a source of shame in a future study.) The reason we have come to think otherwise is because we listened to the advice of the Snake and have been brainwashed ever since.
We now come to a delicate issue. How was the demonic horde able to breach the most expensive and technologically-advanced security fence in the world? The spiritually mature among us will say, ‘They didn’t breach the fence. I breached it. I’m responsible. It’s my fault.’ It is written (Mishlei 26:2): קִלְלַת חִנָּם (לא) [לוֹ] תָבֹא (A causeless curse does not come [Translation based on the ketiv]). The curse, i.e. the ultimate good hidden in the midst of the klipot, came upon us for a reason. And what was that reason? ‘Because I transgressed the laws of tzniut and created these terrorists in the first place.’ That’s what each of us needs to say, and that’s what we need to take to Hashem in hitbodedut, and that’s what we need to work on repairing. We need to work on repairing our own breaches in our own fences. Only then will our soldiers and our nation be safe, because only then will the Shechinah return to Her camp to protect Her children on all sides.
Earlier, we asked whether it was possible to find a way to increase personal and national kedushah while showing compassion. We hope that we have answered the question satisfactorily. We should start by being compassionate to ourselves. No matter what level we’re already at, if we would increase our level of tzniut, we would decrease the creation of the spiritual terrorists that morph into the physical ones. This is the most important type of compassion we can do right now because we wouldn’t just be showing compassion to ourselves, we would also be showing compassion to each and every member of our nation at the same time.
Men should stop looking at women (especially at images and videos on cellphones and computers). This is most important. We can tilt our heads down when walking in the street or riding on a bus, etc., and if we must speak to women for whatever reason, we can divert our eyes as much as possible. It’s not that difficult if we work at it. We just have to decide to make it a priority. Further, we should keep our thoughts focused on our holy Torah. All of us, men as well as women, should not be wearing tight or revealing clothing, rather we should wear clothes that do not accentuate our bodies. The women, when covering their hair should not cover it with something that accentuates the body even more than before it was covered. Not only will they be showing compassion on themselves, but they will end up doing a second act of compassion by not casting a stumbling block in front of the men, which could, G d forbid, lead them to sin. After all, we are one nation and one people, and we are responsible for each other (whether we like it or not).
This last point has been taught by Chazal in numerous places (see Sanhedrin 27b and Shevuot 39a) and brought down by Rashi in his commentary on Vayikra 26:37, specifically regarding the words וְכָשְׁלוּ אִישׁ־בְּאָחִיו (They shall stumble over each other). He writes: זֶה נִכְשָׁל בַּעֲוֹנוֹ שֶׁל זֶה שֶׁכָּל יִשְׂרָאֵל עֲרֵבִין זֶה לָזֶה ([The Midrashic interpretation is that] one will stumble because of the sin of another, [which teaches] that all Jews are responsible for each other).
If we strengthen ourselves in these matters, we will repair the breaches in the fence, establish true kedushah to our nation, and arouse the mercies of Hashem. And in turn, we will create powerful angelic advocates while eliminating the physical and spiritual terrorists that threaten our very existence. This is the only way for us to win this war as an everlasting victory and bring upon us a new age, not only for ourselves, but for our children to the end of all generations.
Every generation has its defining moment. Simchat Torah was ours. And question is, What will we do with it? Let us not be like our ancestors who said (Yeshayah 30:10): לֹא תֶחֱזוּ־לָנוּ נְכֹחוֹת דַּבְּרוּ־לָנוּ חֲלָקוֹת חֲזוּ מַהֲתַלּוֹת (Don’t prophesy for us right things; speak to us smooth things, prophesy fantasies).
If you’ve read this article without getting self-defensive, angry or indignant, kol ha’kavod. We have written the truth plainly because it is a matter of life and death. Now, it’s your turn to let the truth reach your heart and stir you to action. May G d bless you and may He bless our nation.