HOW SEVERE IS THE SIN OF MISHKAV ZACHUR (HOMOSSEXUALISM)?

It is written regarding the creation of Adam and ChavaVayeva­rech otam vayikra et shemam Adam, “He blessed them, and called their name Adam [man]” (Bereshit 5:2). Torah is very clear to reveal that G-d called them ‘both’Adam. In this way, He established that the spiritual nature of a human being is only completed in the world through the union of the ‘two distinct human aspects’, to wit, the masculine (corresponding to the active spiritual force and of expansion), and the feminine (corresponding to the passive spiritual force and of restriction). These spiritual forces embodied in the human being – and that exhibit such opposing functions – when united in the sanctified manner, form a ‘well balanced physical-spiritual pair’. This means a single being mirroring his origen in one common soul before its descent to this world and division into sexes. In fact, through this balance, flow all Divine blessings to the couple; and the whole world benefits from this most pleasing of unions in Shamayin. And as it is written, “When a couple lives in accordance to Torah law, the forces of Creation – the letters Yud and Hei from the holy Tetragram – reside with them. Then, in time, they become the image of the holy forces of Creation” (Tikunei ZoharTikun 10b). And it is also written that, “Who is incomplete below [i.e., not married] remains incomplete on high [i.e., spiritually]… And Ya’acov [the perfect patriarch]…alo, until his marriage was not complete” (Zohar 150a, Vayetze).

Now, our Sages, all of blessed memory, have openly cautioned us: Kedoshim tihiyu hevu persuhim min ha-arayot u-min ha-evera, “Distance yourself from the illicit relations and from sin” (Rashi at the beginning of Parashat Kedoshim). And “of all isurei haarayot, only regarding the avon [sin] of Mishkav Zachur the Torah uses twice the word Toeva [Vayikra 18:22]. The Talmud explains that Toeva is Toe Hu Ba, which means that ‘he is making a mistake in this’… That is, ‘this’ is against human nature! It is the type of avon that exists only to challenge G-d. It is something that comes from the anger which feeds this abominable rebelliousness” (R Moshe FeinsteinTeshuvahChelek 4 siman 115). And the Torah is also quite clear regarding the grave punishments of these forbidden unions, including that which occurs to the person committing these transgressions after he dies. The mekubalHaRav Yehudah Fatiyah, the greatest student of the Ben Ish Hai, in his Sefer Minchat Yehudah describes his many conversations with tormented ruchot (spirits) which commited these abominations in life. They relate with terror the severity of their spiritual punishments! After all, not only from this transgression’s zera levatalah the sitra achra gets nourished and demoniacal beings are brought to life, but also each drop of semen spilled in vain implicates on the destruction of potential (unborn) children, which become imprisoned in the clutches of the klipot. Moreover, the ejaculated semen in a domain ‘absolutely improper’ deflowers these poor souls in a most perverse and horrible manner! Contrary to an union between man and wife which fulfills the mitzvah of procreation and gives the fruits of children (G-d willing), if oral sex occurs in this sin, chaz v’shalom, then the only thing fulfilled are the spiritual deaths of the children which are as if “swallowed” in this most merciless abomination! Yet, regarding these rebellious ones, all members of the Erev Rav, it is written: “They all alike have broken the yoke, and burst the bonds… a wolf… shall destroy them… because their transgressions are many, and their apostasies are great” (Yermiyahu 5:5-6). Additionally: “The wicked with their sins pollute both themselves and the Sanctuary [i.e., they contaminate the earth], and bring a ruach rah [an unclean spirit] upon themselves; but in time to come G-d will purify Israel and remove from them the unclean spirit” (Zohar 54a, Metzora). This ruach rah is the wicked Nebuchanetser, “who was deprived of his kingdom and he dwelt with the beasts of the field, his human countenance was taken away from him and from that day he did not bear the impress of a man” (Zohar 125b, Mishpatim) – and was only to bear the image of a wolf! And as it is known, “Nebuchanetser used to tear the flesh of a live rabbit and eat it” (Eicha Rabah 2:14), and Kabbalah says that, “He who has homosexual relations is reincarnated as a rabbit” (the ArizalShaar HaGilgulimHakdamah 22, end).

Each and everyone who is involved in this most grievous of sins must use all of his kochot ha-nefesh (spiritual forces) to do teshuvah and implore Hashem’s mercy.

 

WHY IS IT THAT ON THE HOLLIEST DAY OF THE YEAR – YOM KIPPUR – THE LITURGY SPEAKS OF ARAYOT (“ILLICIT RELATIONSHIPS”)?

Yom KippurOur Sages have spoken: “On Mincha of Yom Kippur we read the section [from Achare Mot] regarding the arayot [forbidden unions]” (TalmudMegillah 31a). Now, “the temptation for sexual offenses is extremely strong” (Rashi on the TalmudChagigah 11b), and frequent (see TalmudBava Batra 164b). And why are the sexual temptations so strong? For the vital force used in a sexual act is the same necessary for the arduous work of spiritual ascension, to wit, it is pure spiritual energy that needs to be ‘exclusively channeled’ to the side of kedusha. This energy is a vehicle for ‘corrective transformation’ (tikkun) which empowers the person to penetrate deeply in his superficial characteristics, so that in this manner, he may come to the understanding of his own soul’s essential attributes (i.e., his needs, virtues, and even his mission). This needs further explanation, which I do so with the help of Heaven.

Through this spiritual creative force, the redemption of the Shechinah (Divine Presence) becomes possible. The Shechinah is the aspect of G-d that vitalizes all of Creation, as well as the holy spark exiled in the person’s soul. However, as it is known, “The divine soul does not need any improvement, and there is no reason for it to become embodied in this world… save to bring the rectifying light [for the guf and the nefesh habahamit]” (the ArizalEtz ChayimShaar 26). In a similar way, “the Shechinah is exiled for the refinement of the nitzutzei kedusha [holy sparks] that have fallen in the klipot” (TanyaLikutei Amarim 37). In addition, being in exile, this holy spark cannot (easily) evoke the soul for the spiritual service to G-d with the intense and transcendental love that lays hidden in the heart of the Jew. This exile is perpetuated through the debased desires – so distant from holiness – proceeding from his body and animal soul, as in the case of using the sexual energy solely for self-gratification. Now, when the person does teshuvah (the fierce struggle to break one’s evil nature which burns like a fiery flame) and completely leaves “the arayot, transgressions so hard to be relinquished” (Rashi on Megillah 31a), and uses this same spiritual energy to fulfill the mitzvah of union with his wife in kedusha so as to come closer to Hashem, he redeems the Shechinah’s holy spark held captive in his soul and in the Cosmic level as well. This results in a great effusion of the intense love for G-d contained in the depths of his heart. And as the spiritual root of this sublime love is the Divine attribute of Chesed (Kindness) – which derives and is a channel for the attribute of Chochmah, which ultimately needs the outflow of Chesed’s channel in order to diffuse and influence the various spiritual worlds – then, through this revelation of love for G-d, the light of Chochmah (vis à vis, the corresponding power of the soul that represents the force of humility and abnegation before G-d) is actively diffused. This diffusion is the true influencing of the entire person’s sechel! And it is for this reason that our Sages, of blessed memory, have taught us that, in the appropriate use of this sexual energy, the person is illuminated in the manner of ‘expanding his consciousness’ – perceiving G-d as the only existing Being that underlines all of existence, what ultimately subjugates the sitra achra. Thanks to that, the person spiritually ascends and raises his capacity to perceive the spiritual truths. Moreover, he actually comes to apprehend his soul’s holy spark from the Shechinah, which is its own spiritual root! And it is this illumination and spiritual intimacy that brings him to recognize the very essence of his soul, allowing the attainment of comprehension of even the necessary tikkunim (rectifications) for the blemishes of his soul yim yertza Hashem. Alternatively, if this love for kedusha is not revealed, and the spark of the Shechinah is maintained “imprisoned”, the more elevated flux of consciousness (from Chochmah) is hindered from manifestation, and the person from being illuminated. Consequentelly he is spiritually degraded. This is what occurs when such precious vital force is corrupted, that is, removed from the person through his connection to the arayot – the sexual promiscuity and the total absence of consciousness regarding the use of this force in vain and in something external to itself. When this sexual force (which after all has its root in holiness) is diverged, it then becomes a source of spiritual nourishment for the negatives forces that aggressively seek only the individual’s spiritual deviation, resulting in his distancing from kedushachaz v’shalom. This is the precise reason for the exaggeration of stimuli and sexual perversions in our society – acting as powerful instruments for the weakening of man’s mind – in order to favor the klipot and sitra achra in its overall objective to psychological enslave man, and to ensure the “end of all flesh” (Bereshit 6:13); this means its physical and spiritual annihilation, chaz v’shalom. After all, evil is al known as Mashchit (Destroyer).

Finally, we are reminded during Mincha of Yom Kippur – the day of greatest spirituality – what we should do to go up the spiritual ladder: we must avoid using this vital force inappropriately. The fact that this reminder occurs exactly when we are at the highest point of the fasting is also very important. Our Sages explains that, the greater the spiritual elevation, the greater the tests. These inappropriate taivas (temptations) can and should be resisted and purged through the meditation and the fast of this holiest of days. The idea here is that, the weaker the person’s physical aspect (the body per se) the stronger the spiritual aspect (i.e., the more his soul shines), implying that he will be less sexually tempted. Thus, the Yom Kippur liturgy, being that it is such a elevated time, teaches us how to distant ourselves from this terrible unbalance. The formula is a simple one: connect to Hashem, distant yourself from the materialism and do not use your precious vital force in a vain and rash manner, but use it with holiness as taught by Torah. In this way, certainly, the person will testify to his own rectification and spiritual climbing, and the coming of the true Mashiach will be hastened, may it be so, amen selah.

 

WHAT IS WRONG WITH THE PRACTICE OF NON-KOSHER SEX (GALUEI IRVAH)?

In order to provide further clarification, I want to address non-kosher unions in light of both the subject ofarayot and of zera levatalah.

The pronouncement of the living G-d Himself regarding the Torah law dealing with all aspects of sexuality – and the ill consequences of transgressions in these matters – is clear and decisive (see Vayikra 18:24-30). The sexuality declared by G-d as being impure and abominable, to wit, all prohibited sexual unions (arayot) which are known are galuei irvah (“the uncovering of nakedness”, implying on an exclusively physical relationship and spiritually frivolous) is summarily forbidden and it is verily a hindrance to the person’s ascension in kedusha. This also means that such nakedness should literally be covered. And as it is written, “When the yetzer hara grows stronger in man, it only does so through his immoral sexual conduct. All sins are connected to the ‘uncovering of nakedness’” (Zohar 15b, Vayikra). This is true even is the person is considered in all other aspects of his life, as good, decent, and honored. However, the sexual unions called “knowledge” (which recognize the intimate physical-spiritual nature of the sexual union and its consequences) are not only approved, but allow great spiritual ascensions! The ones named galuei irvah are actual transgressions of spiritual law and bring upon people and the world great physical and spiritual devastation. As it is known, if the union through sexual intimacy is ‘abused and wasted’ (i.e., the act is not fulfilled leshem mitzva of procreation, as it is the case of a sanctified union), not only the potential of spiritual ascension fails to be realized, but the sexual energy in its ‘physical form’ (the involved fluids) vitalizes the chitzonim. This has the effect of subjugating the side of kedushachaz v’shalom. Moreover, the spiritual energy, vis-à-vis, the sexual energy used only for self-gratification becomes an instrument of disconnection and spiritual exile of the soul, assertively thrusting the person toward the domain of the klipot – where extraneous and impure spiritual elements negate the unity of G-d. This degradation implies on the loss of the person’s spiritual stature, for in only privileging the ‘animal aspect’ of an intimate union, he sustains only the level of an animal – below his complete experience of humanity.

 

WHAT ARE ARAYOT?

As we have treated the fundamental subject of zera levatalah, it becomes equally important to understand a whole area of greatly damaging behavior in which zera levatalah is “only” the final transgression. This is the area called in Toraharayot. Let us explore it and related subjects.

Among various subjects, the parshiot Achare Mot and Kedoshim treat one, which is absolutely vital for the person seeking kedusha and distance from tumah, the essence of fulfilling the Divine injunction of Kedoshim tihiyu (Be Holy). We are speaking of the laws against the forbidden expressions of sexuality. These illicit activities are generally called Arayot. Although commonly translated as incest, the Torah definition of this subject is different from the contemporary vision. In fact, there are various “sexual unions” absolutely forbidden by Torah law, such as a man with a nidah (a woman during her menstrual cycle, and until she goes to the mikveh), all homosexual relationships and of bestiality, as well as incest and illicit relationships described in these parshiot. All of these arayot are considered by Divine law as belonging to the same exact category and degree of tumah as the idolatrous rituals used to sacrifice children to profane and inferior entities (see Vayikra 18:21, 20:2-5). That is why spiritual law declares: “The souls who commit these abominations shall be cut off from among their people” (Vayikra 18:29). It is noteworthy that all arayot, being one of the cardinal sins, are on par with both murder and idolatry – transgressions for which we are required to give up our lives rather than transgress. Moreover, Chazal explains in a most unquestionable manner that “the essential condition for sanctification is that the person must necessarily be distant from the arayot” (Rashi no Vayikra19:1). And as it is esoterically known, “the objective of Creation is a dira b’tachtonim, a term explaining that Hashem created the world for He desired to have an abode in the lower worlds” (Midrash TanchumaNaso 16). This objective of Creation is only reached through the ‘sanctification of the world’, that is, through the efforts of man in Torah and mitzvot. It follows that, the transgression of arayot not only implies in a most intense degree of impurity and direct connection to the klipot and sitra achra, but these types of illicit relationships have cosmic implications as well, to wit, bringing severe dinim to the world and vivifying the negative forces, chaz v’shalom. The path of kedusha imposes a true distancing from all impurities and abominations for the soul, and in fact, impels the ultimate transformation of this evil in good. This occurs through the exclusive establishment of ‘Torah sanctioned relationships’, which bring man and the world the Divine shefa – the brachot from Hashem. Furthermore, it is only through kedusha that Mashiach will come, may it be soon, amen.

 

IS THERE TIKKUN FOR THE SIN OF ZERA LEVATALAH? (Part 3)

As it is written in the Mishnah: “Ten Sefirot of nothing, the number of the ten fingers, five opposite five, and the brit yachid (single covenant) is in between, as ‘in the circumcision of the male organ and the circumcision of the tongue’” (Sefer Yetzirah 1:3). The secret of the brit yachid is expressed in the two levels – superior and inferior – of the power of da’at (lit. ‘knowledge’, representing the action-oriented conclusive intellectual power). In general it is additionally associated to the power of the soul related to concentration and sensitivity). Da’at eliyon (‘superior knowledge’) is the final truth that the Divine is the only true essence and reality and that the whole universe is “nothing” in comparisson. As such the absolute objetive of existence is the revelation of Hashem in the world. Da’at tachton (‘lower knowledge’), is the creation’s perception of an existent universe, but the Divine as Creator as an absolute “given”, yet totally “unknown”. And as it is written, “The external expression of the higher da’at is through the means of the speech of the tongue, especially in speaking words of Torah in general, and revealing the inner mysteries of the Torah, in particular… The external expression of the lower da’at is through the union of husband and wife [to procreate], as referred to in the original union of man and woman: ‘and Adam knew Chava, his wife’. [Marital relations are referred to as ‘knowing’ only when the procreative organ is circumcised, and indeed, we are taught that Adam was created already circumcised]… The tziniut [modesty, which is a ‘state of ocultation’] present in the holy union of husband and wife reflects the ‘unknowability’ of the Creator’s essence by His creation, especially in that very moment that the creation most emulates its Creator – the moment of procreation – attaching itself to His certain existence… From the above, we learn that the ‘tongue’ and the ‘procreative organ’ [the two manifestations of the ‘single covenant’ – the union of G-d and man] are interrelated in essence. From this we may infer that their ‘rectification’ is interdependent” (Rav Yitzchak Ginsburgh, “The Healing of Body and Soul – Part 8”; see Tikunei ZoharTikun 69, pg. 99a). This has extraordinary implications. for “The tikkun of one’s faculty of speech [to speak only good and ‘sweet’ words] and the ‘guarding’ of the brit of one’s procreative organ [to express one’s true love for one’s spouse in marital relations in holiness, thus guarding it not to become pogem habrit], ‘depend upon and influence one another’. For this reason the two terms: ‘the word [in Hebrew, milah] of the tongue’ and ‘the circumcision [in Hebrew milah] of the procreative organ, are the same” (ibidR’ Ginsburgh). This means that, among other things, the ‘manner’ in which the person speaks not only indicates the degree he lives his life in devotion to what is holy, but it acts as a fundamental ‘correction’ for the transgressions of the brit. Hence our Sages have spoken: “He who desires to be saved from the sin of spilling his seeds in vain should not contaminate the brit of his mouth. He should be particular in guarding it from sicha betela [idle talk] and lashon hara, for the tongue and the procreative organ go together, to wit, he who damages with his tongue will most certainly stumble with his organ” (R’ Chayim Yosef David AzulaiHaChidaAhavat HaKodeshTsiporen Shamirsiman 7,101. See also Eliyahu de VidasReshit ChochmahShaar HaKedusha, 11 & 17; Shelach HaKadoshShaar HaOtiotOt Shin).

Finally, the severity of transgressing the brit surpasses practically any other averah (see Shulchan AruchEven HaEzer 23:1; Zohar 214b, Vayakhel), for it has repercussions here and in all superior Olamot in a most devastating manner. In fact, the holy Zohar affirms that there is no teshuvah for the sin of spilling the seed in vain (Zohar 60a, Noach and 219b, Vayechi. See also R’ Eliyahu deVidasReshit ChochmahShaar HaKedushah 17 for an explanation of the Zohar’s intention regarding the teshuvah tataah, as it is also brought by the Alter Rebbe in the TanyaIggeret HaTeshuvah 4). Know that this is a transgression that actually eliminates both the person’s desire to come closer to G-d and the experience of awe of Him, and it is the means to exile neshamot in the klipot and sitra achrachaz vshalom. Yet, our holy Rabbanim have taught us that the person should never give up, and that in reality there are some truly wondrous spiritual medicines for this most pressing rectification, which ultimately can rescue the person from the thick darkness which covers him – “the iron furnace of captivity” (alluding to Devarim 4:20). This occurs only through teshuvah, a truthful and deep regret and ‘specific actions’ for the person in need of tikkun. With these corrections, the person may return to become sensitized with the Divine realities and in this way, his desire for connection with Hashem shall be restored y”H.

 

IS THERE TIKKUN FOR THE SIN OF ZERA LEVATALAH? (Part 2)

Now, HaRav Ya’acov elucidates al pi Kabbalah the pasuk in Iyov, however this quoted portion of the Zohar does not say anything regarding he who is pogem habrit. In fact, what is written there is that, “‘Be afraid of the sword… that you may know that there is a judgment [pronounced shadun but written shedin, demons]’… The Serpent’s lashon hara spoken to Chava brought death over man and his wife, and the whole of mankind. Hence it is written: ‘And their tongue a sharp sword’ [Tehilim 57:5], referring to the lashon hara. As such, truly, ‘Be afraid of the sword’, to wit, the lashon hara” (Ibid. Zohar, Metsora). What is the relationship between lashon hara and the transgression of the brit which brought R’ Ya’acov to derive such stark conclusions from this Zohar?

 

IS THERE TIKKUN FOR THE SIN OF ZERA LEVATALAH? (Part 1)

רבי יעקב אבוחצירהKnow this well: “Both Torah rabbinical authorities of antiquity and later ones have affirmed that, the majority of the great tribulations that humanity has suffered, be it plagues, hunger, or war, truly have come from the ‘transgressions of the brit’ [Pogem HaBrit]. Any and all mitzvot and good deeds that the person fulfills while his brit is blemished, all goes to the sitra achra, may G-d have mercy… As such, if a man wants do come e serve Hashem, he should first properly rectify the ‘spiritual stains’ of his brit [which have occurred through the ‘spilling of semen in vain’] and later initiate his avodat Hashem. All transgressions against the brit, and the evil events that proceed from that are in fact alluded to in the admonitions of parshat Bechucotai. And that which is written – ‘But if you will not listen to Me’ [Vayikra 26:14] and ‘If you will not do all these commandments’ [ibid.] – does not insinuate that these individuals do not fulfill any of the mitzvot or that they do not study Torah. What is implied here is that, although these individuals study Torah and fulfill mitzvot, the principal is missing, for the brit, which is the most important is stained, and they have not rectified it! And once the brit is blemished and has not been rectified, all [i.e., Torah and mitzvot] is considered as being void and non-existent” (R’ Yaacov AbuchatzeraPituchei Chotam al HaTorahBechucotai; see the ArizalShaar HaKavanotchelek sheniIniyan SucotDerush 7, on the subject of onegnega). HaRav Ya’acov also explains that, “As it is written in the Zohar, the person that has no fear of sin on the subjects of the brit has no fear of G-d in anything that he does. This is so, for his body, which is what fulfills the commandments is stained. Hence, all that he does is also stained! [He affirms that] in accordance to the Kabbalah [Zohar 52b, Metzora], the pasuk, ‘Be afraid of the sword [a metaphor for the sexual organ]; for wrath brings the punishment of the sword, etc.’ [Iyov 19:29] refers to this [to wit, to the stains of the brit that cause severe Divine decrees to befall the person” (IbidPituchei Chotam).