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Beit Midrash Jewish Laws and Thoughts Pathways in Personality Development

Chapter 14

14. Caution Regarding Sexual Immorality

Part Fourteen of "Pathways in Character Development" In order to be completely free from sexually immoral impulses one must work very hard. Yet, the more a person advances in cleansing himself of them, the more he frees himself from their enslavement.
Dedicated to the speedy recovery of
Dvorah bat Miriam
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Unless one is persistent in his efforts to build a healthy and exemplary character, one will not be able to make any substantial headway it this area. This is especially true when it comes to those things which the heart passionately seeks out - for example, sexual immorality.
Pathways in Personality Development (52)
Rabbi Zalman Baruch Melamed
13 - 13. Theft in the Work Place and in General
14 - 14. Caution Regarding Sexual Immorality
15 - 15. Forbidden Foods
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One who wishes to make himself completely taintless in this respect will have to invest quite a bit of effort. All the more so in this day and age, due to the many changes in modes of living. Women today work in most of the professional fields just like men. Men and women spend many work hours together, sometimes more so than with their own spouses. Naturally, friendly relations develop between coworkers during the course of their work, and even if the workers are the sort who practice caution and draw clear moral boundries, the very presence of camaraderie is problematic and can take its toll on the family life.

The prohibition against sexual immorality is not limited to the actual act, but includes anything which leads to it. The Torah is quite explicit in this regard, stating, "Do not come near to uncover nakedness." The Sages, too, have said that God declared, "Don't say to yourself that, 'though it is forbidden for me to cohabit with that woman, if I just hug her a bit I won't have done any thing wrong,' or, 'if I caress her I won't have harmed anybody,' or, 'if I kiss her I will not have done any harm.'" The Almighty says, "Just as when a Nazarene vows to abstain from wine he is forbidden to eat even grapes, raisins, grape juice, or anything derived from the vine, so too, it is forbidden to touch, even in the slightest, any woman other than your own wife. And one who touches a woman other than his own brings death upon himself."

The Sages, we see, compared the prohibition against sexual immorality to the restrictions of a Nazarene. Even though the principle prohibition concerning the Nazarene is the prohibition against drinking wine, the Torah forbade even those substances derived from the wine. In so doing the Torah was in effect teaching the Sages how to enact safeguards to prevent people from violating actual commandments of the Torah. Just as the Torah forbade not only the actual prohibition - the drinking of wine - but forbade and distanced the Nazarene from anything even related to the wine, so it must be with all the commandments of the Torah, for this is God's will.

Following the Torah's lead, the Sages forbade anything even slightly related to the actual prohibition against sexual immorality, whether carried out through action, speech, hearing, sight, or even thought. Thoughts of transgression are more severe than the transgression itself. All of the man's senses have to be shaken clean and purified of every trace of transgression. Do not say to yourself, "I know how to establish boundries, I know how to protect myself. I won't allow myself to get carried away. Since I have good self control I need not be cautious, distancing myself from immoral speech, sights and sounds. It won't cause me to sin." No. The mere act of discussing things which involve sexual immorality, the mere act of viewing or listening to such material, is forbidden in its own right, regardless of the fact that they invite the act itself.

In order to be completely free from sexually immoral impulses one must work very hard. Yet, the more a person advances in cleaning himself of them, the more he frees himself from the enslavement of these impulses. As a result, his life becomes purer and happier, his family life untainted. The children grow up in a healthy and united family, and the effort pays off.

Rabbi Zalman Baruch Melamed
Rosh Yeshiva of the Bet El Yeshiva, was the head of the Yesha rabbis board and rabbi of Bet-El, founder and head of Arutz 7.
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