Written by Guest Writer Uriel Cohen
Based on a shiur by Rabbi Raymond Beyda
We are surrounded today by a world of total immorality. Things that were seen as totally obscene only a few decades ago are considered not only permissible, but accepted. The Gemara says that after a person does an Aveira and then decides to do it again it begins to feel to that person like it is permissible to continue doing the Aveira. Hacham Baruch said that after a person does an Aveira a third time it even begins to feel like it is a Mitzva!
We live in a time where children no longer respect their parents. Two teenagers were recently heard on a subway saying to each other, “why do these old people think we have to get up for them? We deserve to sit here just as much as they do!”. When my grandfather was a child, he got tied up with a chain if he showed Chutspa to his parents! When my father was a child, his mouth was washed out with soap for saying something wrong! And nowadays if a parent dare give a tiny bit of Musar to his child he is not only labeled as an abusive parent but the child feels the right to yell back at the parent! The parents are then too afraid to respond without offending their children and let their kids get away with the great Aveira of Bizui Av V’Em, disgracing one’s father and mother. Rachamana Litslan.
And if you’ve ever seen pictures of our holy grandmothers from Morocco, Persia, Yemen, etc. it is so readily apparent how far we have fallen in Tsniut. One doesn’t have to go farther than walking down almost any street in America to see things that our great grandparents never dreamed of! How could it be that we live in a world where I witnessed an otherwise innocent seventh grader convincing his friend to look up pornography on the internet?!?! Yes, this really happened! Never would our ancestors have imagined that the ability to perform the Mitzvah Lo Taaseh of Lo Taturu Acharei Levavchem Ve’acharei Einechem would be so readily available. Even the Goy of yesteryear was Tsanua! Women used to go to the beach wearing sleeves down to their hands, dresses to their feet, and would walk around wearing gloves and hats. Rachamana Litslan, Oy Oy Oy.
We also live in a generation where people march in the streets to declare to the world that they are homosexual and proud of it. People used to be stoned and burned to death for doing these kinds of things! The Torah speaks about this in the harshest manner! How could it be that we live in a world where I can walk to work and am confronted by an advertisement in the street for homosexual pornography?!?! And the very Yesod of our Kedusha, Shemirat Habrit, which is a Meforash Isur in Shulchan Aruch (E”H 21) has fallen by the wayside! This Mitsva is one of our greatest keys to holiness and it is ignored by the masses. How could it be that I was told of a yeshiva guy who thought Hotsa’at Zera Levatala was Mutar?!?! OY VEY!
And we are becoming desensitized to the issues. We think in our minds, are these things really so bad? Maybe there are heterim for some of these things? For us, all the above-mentioned issues are common place. They exist in our world. And we put up with it. Rav Raymond Beyda said that if a man from many generations were to see the kinds of things that go on today, things that were considered totally immoral in his day, he wouldn’t be able to survive. He wouldn’t be able to handle the immorality. Things that used to be considered totally crazy and out of the question are now not only considered permissible but (almost) a Mitsva!
So what can we do to stand up against the perversion of the Goyim today?
Rav Raymond Beyda said we can learn how to fight from the story of Chushim ben Dan:
The Gemara tells us that a whole entourage left Mitsrayim to go bury Ya’akov Avinu. All of his family walked with the embalmed body of Ya’akov Avinu all the way to Erets Yisrael. Even Egyptian royalty followed in the funeral procession. And when they arrived at Me’arat Hamachpela Esav was standing there blocking there way. He would not let them bury Ya’akov in Me’arat Hamachpela. Esav disputed the claim of Ya’akov’s children to the land, claiming he deserved burial instead of Ya’akov. Ya’akov’s children argued back, saying that their ancestors had rightfully bought the land only that they had left the document of ownership back in Mitsrayim. Naftali headed back to Mitsrayim to get the sale document. Meanwhile, the body of Ya’akov lay unburied in front of them. Chushim the son of Dan, who was deaf, signaled to someone asking what the dispute was about, as he couldn’t hear. When he was told that Esav wasn’t letting them bury Ya’akov Avinu, Chushim got up and knocked off Esav’s head. Literally.
Let us ponder: where there no other zealots in Klal Yisrael that could have killed Esav? Why didn’t anyone else attack Esav before Chushim heard about it the issue? What about when Shimon and Levi killed the entire city of Shechem, could they not also kill Esav? Did the other brothers lack something that Chushim possessed?
Rav Chaim Shmulevitz explains that when the brothers began negotiating for Ya’akov to be buried, Esav counter-argued, and they responded. Over the course of the argument they started to gradually get used to negotiating with Esav. They were trying to win the argument with Esav and lost track of the fact that their Tsadik father needed to be buried as soon as possible. It was this gradual shift from their goal that did them in. Chushim, on the other hand, wasn’t aware of the entire conversation because he was deaf. So when all of a sudden he was told that Esav HaRasha was preventing Ya’akov Avinu’s burial he was outraged so he chopped off Esav’s head.
Rav Raymond Beyda says that our problem is that we enter the discussion. We approach these immoral changes as if they are something to be considered. As if there is a discussion; as if it is a debate. Instead we should be like Chushim ben Dan and realize that we have the Torah and we must fulfill it. The Torah is not something to be considered against modern society and debated whether or not changes can be done. There is no debate. The anti-torah issues modern society tries to force on us are exactly that: anti-torah issues.
Rav Beyda encouraged everyone to strengthen themselves in knowing Halacha. You have to know the laws in order to serve Hashem properly. He also recommended learning Sha’arei Teshuva of Rabeinu Yona. Finally, he suggested that everyone take on a small Kabala from Elul until Shemini Atseret, something small, like being makpid to always say birkat hamazon out of a siddur, or taking at least nine seconds to say the Beracha of Shehakol (it has nine words).