Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Vayeilech, Devarim 29:16. Exposure to Kedusha and Exposure to Tumah

29:16. Vatiru es shikutzeihem...giluleihem...pen yeish bochem...asher levovo poneh hayom...la’avod es elohei hagoiyim hoheim. Mishulchan Govo’a brings from the Brisker Rov in the stencils: the avoda zoro is described as stinking, disgusting and revolting, like golol and vermin. Why, then, does Rashi say in passuk 17 that since you saw them, pen yeish bochom— lefichoch ani tzorich lehashbiachem? The answer is that even if the aveira is disgusting, seeing it leaves a negative roshem on the neshomo, and this roshem can result in going to serve the avoda zoro. Once there’s a “Vatir’u,” there’s a danger of “levovo poneh.” (This reminds me of Tom Lehrer’s song about pornography– "Stories of tortures Used by debauchers Lurid, licentious and vile..... Make me smile." There are things that at first sight turn the stomach with disgust, but strike a responsive chord in the primitive mind and which can engender an appetite. Like many acquired tastes--e.g., coffee and vodka--the effect co-opts the natural distaste.)

This is the same idea as “kol horo’eh sottah bikilkula yazir atzmo min hayayin” in Emor, Vayikro 19:29. On the topic of indelible effect of exposure to rishus, see Breishis 27:1 about Rivkah being inured to avodoh zoroh because of her time at home, though she had left at the age of three.

The complementary idea is that exposure to kedusha is beneficial. See Vayeileich 31:10 about the mitzvah to bring infants to Hakheil.

So, people should realize that when it says “shivti b’veis Hashem,” it is referring to the need to engineer one’s environment so that he will be in the presence of kedusha and never in the presence of tumah. Many people say that a person should be able to live anywhere, that his faith should be strong enough to see anything and remain firm. This is true to the extent that if you know that you’re going to be exposed to all kinds of things, you have to develop resistance, which is probably not going to happen by simple avoidance before exposure. But the best thing is to do your best to ensure that the problem doesn’t arise in the first place, to create a environment that is suffused with kedusha and protected from tumah.

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