When I was a teenager, my parents sent me to study Torah in Israel with my great-uncle, Rabbi Elya Lopian. Watching and listening to a man who was a giant of ancient Jewish wisdom opened my eyes to spiritual reality.
Large numbers of young men from around the world flocked to study with him at his yeshiva, Knesset Hezekiah. A student, on one occasion, sought permission from my great-uncle to miss yeshiva while he returned home for a family wedding. Reb Elya inquired whether there would be young women dressed immodestly at the wedding. My friend responded honestly that there was every possibility of this. However, he assured our teacher that his spiritual level was so high that he would be immune to whatever exposed feminine charms he might encounter. He barely noticed attractive women, he concluded.
Reb Elya granted his student permission to attend the wedding on condition that before he left, he was to meet with a friend of Reb Elya’s. When the young man came to bid farewell, my uncle asked him about his appointment. The student answered,
“Well, I did call the number you gave me but it must have been a mistake since it was a doctor’s office!”
Replied Reb Elya, “There was no mistake. I am nearly eighty years old and blind in one eye, yet I am powerfully affected by the sight of women in scanty dress. Since you, a healthy young man, assure me that you are not, I know you must be suffering from a medical condition. I wanted you to be examined by the doctor whose name I gave you.”
The lesson I learned from this event is always to be profoundly aware that we humans are impacted by everything we do and by everyone we encounter. In many circumstances the effect might be subconscious but for better or for worse, each day’s events change us.
The Divine directive to safeguard ourselves is quite clear:
….and he (God) took Adam and placed him in the garden
to work [it] and preserve [it].
Straightforward, isn’t it? But there’s one problem. In Hebrew, the Lord’s language, verbs indicate gender. Actions must match the gender of whatever is being acted upon. The verbs ‘to work’ and ‘to preserve’ in this verse indicate female gender. So the sentence actually reads, “…and placed him in the garden to work her and preserve her.” Yet the Hebrew word for garden, GaN, is a masculine word.
This suggests that Adam was not put in the garden to work and preserve the garden. If not the garden, what was Adam to work and preserve? We must search the Biblical text preceding verse 15 for a feminine gender noun that could be subject of the command.
We find the answer back in verse 7—Adam’s soul, NeFeSH ChaYaH—a feminine word. God gave not only Adam, but all of us a perfect soul and He expects us to work on it and preserve it. Every movie we watch, everything we do and say, and everyone we spend time with impacts our soul.
At this point, if you’re like me, you are throwing your hands up in despair. Perhaps the only way to preserve my soul’s purity is to hide in an isolated cave! Not so fast. In verse 17 God makes clear that opting out of the world isn’t an option.
…it is not good for man to be alone…
Reb Elya understood that being at a family wedding was important, even if less religious relatives might be dressed provocatively. Refusing to acknowledge the challenge involved, however, would make one less likely to deal well with it.
We can all plan to maximize positive experiences and minimize the effects of negative ones. Americans have just been through an election cycle that had more than its share of degrading moments. It highlighted how coarse our culture has become and how easily we become accustomed to lowered standards. This is a bipartisan problem and we would be foolish to think it doesn’t impact us. Like Adam, we need to guard our souls. We would like to offer our Biblical Blueprint Set of five audio CDs to help in that battle. It will delight and challenge you to deal correctly with everyday influences. It is on sale now, making it a fine time to access this ancient Jewish wisdom
Reprinted and adapted from Thought Tools Nov. 2011
19 thoughts on “S.O.S. – Save Our Souls”
Rabbi and Susan,
You both are a source of sanity and wisdom for me and I know for many others who faithfully read your blogs. Thank you so much. We must not stop now being involved. We must never allow ourselves to believe that all is well in our government. It never will be and needs good, godly people to be monitoring it constantly. We also need to pray diligently for our elected officials. Early this year I started praying every Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. For our country and this election. As Americans we need to do that. I am going to continue this and invite everyone to join me. We can make a difference with God’s hand going before us. Prayer at 7:00 p.m. across our countries time zones is at least 4-6 hours of prayers going up to God asking him to bless and protect and guide our leaders. That is one way we can all be involved. I have every Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. on a alarm on my calendar so that I don’t forget. Blessings to you. You are much appreciated.
We hope many people join you, Lynn.
In the fall of 1959 as a one year old in Christ, I stepped into the living room early one Saturday morning and my gaze turned to the blank TV set in the far corner. Immediately I heard within me, “I want you to get rid of the television because it will damage the minds of the children I am going to give you.” I sold it the same day for $50. Sometime after not watching it, we visited a home where they were watching the TV. When a violent scene was portrayed, I found myself to be very sensitive to it so that it caused me to react with mental anguish. Each evening after dinner I would read from C.S. Lewis’s Narnia tales to our four children which we had at that time. They, as well as the next two, all turned out to all be prosperous, responsible citizens.
Harold, we also had no TV in our home, but that sounds quaint today. It was easy to get rid of a TV, almost impossible to stop media infiltration through computers, phones etc. Our children have a much more difficult challenge than we did.
I do want to remind everyone that we do not undertake to make every comment public. A few people have made valid and wonderful points, but the tone was not as respectful as we would like. Sorry – but we chose not to enable your comments.
Thank you again for the insight. My name is Andre. I am from Russia. I have read your books and listened to your teachings. They encouraged me to read my Bible in Hebrew now. WOW! I feel like I am back at an elementary school learning something new every day! I thank God for you…
How wonderful Andre
I am so happy to read your note. Your words make me feel enormously validated and very useful Thank you. Please try out the audio program here https://soundcloud.com/rabbi-daniel-lapin-show
Do stay in touch with us,
Thanks, Rabbi! This reply deals with the thought begun by Mr. Bodner. In our culture each and every male must be exposed to locker room talk. It is a universal rite of post-puberty passage at a certain age. Some deflect it, other pay brief respects, still other wallow in it. Yes, even the Left receive this enculturation, and certainly many of them revel in it. The smutty and uncivil act of Hillary and the Left was to exhume this bit of locker room talk to smear and brand Mr. Trump (whether in fact he said it or not), and also hypocritically to deny reality and act holier than thou: ‘No, WE are above such things.’ They predictably try similar tactics with any opponent who becomes too popular and dangerous. They played the sexual harassment game with Herman Cain, as well. I wish Mr. Cain had stuck to his guns, for he would have made a fine president.
Loved this Rabbi Lapin. It is now up to all of us to disengage from politics and get back to taking care of our souls. I wrote this morning in my journal – Make ME Great Again. I lost some of my personal “greatness” during this election and I am making a commitment to getting back to taking care of my own soul.
Well done Deborah–
I am not sure that it is safe for us ever to disengage from politics. When you leave the battlefield, the bandits sneak in and seize your positions. But we can and must take care of our souls all the time. Happily it is not an exclusive activity demanding abandonment of all other enterprises. We become great by how we engage with every challenge every day be it social, family, financial and yes even political. Please listen to the lastest audio show here: https://soundcloud.com/rabbi-daniel-lapin-show
Quite informing article. But to the previous comment from Paul Bodner, if I remember right the Hillary Clinton team are the ones who brought up the grabbing the genital thing while searching for dirt on Mr. Trump. To me that is not any better than actually doing/saying it.
Thank you Rabbi Lapin, I find your knowledge of the Torah so inspiring and uplifting. And also I thank all the people who commented above me. It shows that some people at least, are conscious and aware, which is refreshing in today’s culture of distraction to the point of ignorance.
Thank you Evelyn–
I don’t know if you get a chance to hear the podcast show https://soundcloud.com/rabbi-daniel-lapin-show but I hope so as I provide some enlightenment on the craziness gripping our country right now
I thank you so much for your insights.
I so ‘wish’ Christian Churches spent so much more time and energy in what we call the Old Testament….
We could all be better [informed, foundational] Christians.
I have spent my whole life in the Church – the first place I ever went when I was ‘allowed’ to be in public was Church
I have learned more from you (and Susan) in the last few years (Thanks for Thought Tools, Ask The Rabbi, Susan’s Musings and your programs on CBN) than I did in 56 years
I have no words to tell you
Thank you Karen–
It pleases us more than you can imagine to know that we are helping you recover your own OT legacy. Do you get a chance to hear the audio show? I hope so. If not try it here now https://soundcloud.com/rabbi-daniel-lapin-show
I found your concept of nurturing the soul interesting. I can see how that works in choosing who to interact with, and our reaction to others. What was a new thought was to think how eating correctly and exercising affects our soul rather than just how it affects our physical body. Where I disagree with you is saying the vulgarity of our last election was bipartisan. Hillary Clinton at no point talked about grabbing people by genitals, or other such profanities in her discourse. She did get more popular votes for her civility, but I guess that in the end didn’t matter.
Neither did Donald Trump talk about grabbing people by the genitals. Everyone knows it was locker room talk as he put it and it happened about 10 years ago and he apologised for it. The key thing to note is that it was brought up by the media. Trump did not bring that up in his campaign to deliberately demean women.
Proof of HRC’s nearly countless lies, big and small, at every step of her career is pretty vulgar. Financial corruption on a breathtaking scale that has gone on for many years is pretty vulgar. Calling Trump supporters a “basket of deplorables” is pretty vulgar. And finally, even if she did win the popular vote, it isn’t very relevant. We don’t have a simple, popular vote national election, but fifty simultaneous state elections for president, each of which send electors for that state’s winner to the Electoral College vote, which was written into the Constitution to protect the little states from being overwhelmed by the big, more populous states. Eliminate that, and we would have every election decided by California, New York, Texas, and Florida, and the rest could go pound sand. (And I say that as a Californian.)
Paul Bodner- It is bipartisan. I am a christian first and a conservative second. I cannot say that democrats have been attacking and degrading the family and winning without taking responsibility for what I and others like me have NOT done to beat back the liberal side.
You, Paul, cannot say that what Donald said to Billy Bush was deplorable, and it was, but Donald SAID it!!! You’re not taking ANY responsibility for the many women that Bill Clinton raped, assaulted while Hillary worked to enable her husband to continue to be a sexual predator by portraying all of those same women Bill raped as ‘nuts and sluts’. Donald talked about doing the same type of thing that Bill and Hillary did.
Hillary doesn’t respect, value and honor women. She doesn’t champion the rights of women. HillBilly do everything for political gain. I love women. It’s why I married one. Women waste the gifts God that gave them if they support feminism.
It’s all about personal responsibility. And yes, I don’t like what Trump said but at least he didn’t do it as far as we can tell. I voted for him because he is the lesser of two evils.
And any faithless electors need to get over themselves, quit wailing on down in the minutia and remember that they ran for an office with a party and signed their word to vote for that party’s nominee. If you said you would then DO IT! None of this changing my vote nonsense.
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