G-d calls the Jewish people a holy nation (Exodus 19:6); we are close to the source of all holiness, G-d Himself. This exhilarating connection is not fixed: Specific actions outlined in the Torah either weaken or intensify our bond. Sin distances us from G-d and cools off our passion for Judaism. In contrast, mitzvot bring us closer to Him and when done mindfully, can fill us with fervor.
G-d chose us to embody the teachings in His Torah and show the world what it means to live elevated lives. Observing the laws in the Torah, keeps spiritual pollution out and nurtures the sanctity of our people. As the morality of the culture around us plummets and temptations reach new peaks, our mission is more difficult than ever. G-d knows this and does not expect perfection. All He asks is that we do the best we can.
We recite daily in the morning prayers, “My G-d, the soul you placed within me is pure.” We need to do whatever we can to safeguard the holy of holies within, our Creator’s priceless gift. Then, we can say to Him with satisfaction and pride, “I have done my best to keep the soul you placed within me pure.” When we lapse, we can restore our purity and begin anew, through the power of repentance.
Answering Moshe Rabbeinu’s call
When Moshe Rabbeinu came down from Mount Sinai and saw Jews worshiping the Golden Calf, he wanted those who had shielded themselves from sin to pledge total allegiance to G-d. He cried out, (Exodus 32:26), “…Mi Lashem Elai!” “Whoever is for G-d, join me!” This was not a onetime plea; he is speaking to each one of us, every day of our lives. He is urging us to flee from sin and cling tenaciously to G-d.
The Vilna Gaon, the renowned eighteenth century scholar, quoted by Rabbi Yechiel Weitzman in his book, The Ishmaelite Exile, discussed the period before the Messiah. He wrote that the number of people who are of average conduct will slowly decrease, until society becomes polarized: One group following the path toward ever increasing connection to G-d, the other, breaking away and sinking to the depths of evil.
A question to ask ourselves, with possibly frightening implications is, “Which group am I in? Am I answering Moshe Rabbeinu’s call or am I among those dancing around the golden calves of our society?”
In the face of indecency, we need to say, “No! I will not be a part of this.” We must flee from sin as if running from a fire. When we make sacrifices to uphold the Torah, we join G-d’s vanguard in ensuring the survival of our people as His holy nation.
We need to be steadfast, never compromising our sanctity, even in the face of great temptation. We must be, “…Mighty warriors, who do His word…(Psalms 103:20),” courageous in standing up for our principles and unrelenting in upholding our values. By doing this, we will be privileged to carry the torch of G-d’s Torah, to hold it up high, at all cost, and light up the world with His grandeur.
Here are four practical steps you can take to preserve or restore your moral purity:
1. Learn the laws. For example, laws of forbidden seclusion, yichud, and forbidden contact, negiah, keep those who uphold them far away from forbidden relations. The Chofetz Chayim, in his Nidchei Yisrael, outlines what is allowed and what is not. This book is available in English, and can be read for free at www.chafetzchayim.org.
See also chapter 11 in The Path of the Just by Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto. He has an eye-opening discussion on commandments which many are not fully aware of, including those relating to morality.
Crucial in maintaining our sanctity is filling our thoughts with Torah, studying every day, and asking G-d to help us overcome our struggles.
2. Use the internet with caution. The internet is perhaps the greatest source of spiritual pollution in our generation. Like fire, the internet can accomplish great good, or can become an inferno causing great harm. Even if by the grace of G-d you are not among those caught in a web of contamination, protect yourself and your family. Allowing access to an unfiltered internet is like leaving a loaded gun lying around your house. It is possible no one will get hurt, but do you want to take the chance?
Philip Rosenthal, an internet safety expert, recommends the internet filter http://www.k9webprotection.com. The filter, while not providing complete protection, is free, easy to use, and keeps a log of all websites visited. The software can also limit internet access to specific times of the day. If you are using this filter for yourself, preferably have someone else set up the password and he or she should periodically review the log of websites visited. One can do this by accessing the program and then clicking on, “View Internet Activity.” To customize the level of protection, access the program, click “Setup” and then “Custom.” An important category to block, among others, is “Web Advertisements.”
A website devoted to this issue and recommended by Rabbi Dr. Avraham J. Twerski, MD is http://www.guardyoureyes.org.
3. Engage in spiritual spring cleaning. The Torah warns us (Deuteronomy 7: 26), “Do not bring an abomination into your house since you will become accursed like it; you should utterly detest it and utterly abhor it, for it is an accursed thing.” When you’re ready, go through your books, magazines, music and videos; get rid of those which stimulate forbidden thoughts and bring you down spiritually. Women can go through their wardrobe with an eye toward modesty, donating to charity any clothing that’s not appropriate for them.
Staying away from temptation and impurity will enable you to have a closer relationship with the ultimate source of holiness and purity – G-d Himself.
4. Talk to your kids. Children can be exposed to spiritual pollution in many different venues. We need to do the best we can to shield them and beseech G-d to protect them. Our children should join in this effort and not feel it is us against them. Talk to your children, perhaps read this article with them and go through the above steps. Work together to keep them out of harm’s way. Explain this is a struggle we are all engaged in; while as an adult we are responsible to protect ourselves, as parents we are responsible to help our children protect themselves.
We need to be role models for our children and let them know what we do to safeguard ourselves; we cannot expect them to be more vigilant than we are.
Protecting our moral purity will entail making sacrifices. When we remind ourselves that we are safeguarding eternal souls, we will realize that it is well worth the sacrifice. What could be more important than our souls – our very essence?
Check out Yaakov’s new, free e-book, Living with God: 30 Days to a Fulfilling Life
Yaakov Weiland has an MSW from Fordham School of Social Service and lives in New York City. He has been published in The Jewish Press, Arutz-7and Aish.com. To read his other articles, please visit yaakovweiland.blogspot.com.
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.