Acharei Mos 3

D'var Torah by Rabbi Jay Spero


Lust & Violence

Parshas Acharei Mos

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“Speak to the children of Israel and say to them: I am the Lord your Hashem. As the deeds of the land of Egypt in which you dwelt you shall not do; and as the deeds of the land of Cana’an you shall not do, and in their statutes you shall not walk. Carry out My laws and safeguard my decrees in order to follow them, I am Hashem your Hashem. ” (Vayikra 18:1-4).


What is implied by mention of Egypt ? The Ramban explains that this refers to witchcraft. The Egyptians were, at that time, the world experts in the field of witchcraft. Witchcraft — like idol worship — is the belief that through manipulating nature one can change reality. The truth is it that though it may appear so, all that those who believe this are really accomplishing is to push themselves away from Hashem's providence, and the gains they think they have accomplished are, in reality, short term gains.


This is basically the concept of “selling one’s soul to the devil”.


What is implied by the reference to the Cana’anites? The Cana’anites, who were at that time inhabiting the land of Israel, were extremely sexually immoral.


These two lands — Egypt, where Israel had dwelt for 210 years, and Cana’an, where they were now going — were the most decadent in the world. Hashem specifically wanted to warn the Jews of the dangers to which they had been, and would be, exposed. Once society justifies a certain action, even if that action is wrong, and even if the people know it's wrong, there is strength in numbers.


There is also a common claim that how people conduct themselves intimately is their own personal choice and does not reflect on their moral status. And in an age where we are inundated with rampant immorality on television and on the internet, groups like the ACLU would have us believe that “it's natural” to see these sorts of things, and to censor them “violates” our rights. They claim society should be worried about violence, but the right of people to express their human sexuality in any manner they choose is totally “normal” and natural.


In reality the opposite is true. Is it a mere coincidence that since the 1960’s, when the world saw a new looser set of morals come in, that violence has rocketed off the charts, thereby displaying the lack of compassion man has for his fellow man?


The Slonimer Rebbe explains that violence and sexual immorality go hand in hand. He explains that they both share the same root: lust; that if I want something now, I should have it. How can this be controlled? After Hashem warns us of imitating Egypt and Cana’an, He then exhorts us to carry out His Laws.

Only through keeping the Torah can we control our baser instincts and lead meaningful lives.

Rabbi Jay Spero is the rabbi of the Saranac Synagogue in Buffalo.

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