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Sunday, 28 September 2014

It's a Dangerous World out there!

Daf Yomi Chagigah 20

Back in pre-Emancipation Europe, most Jews lived in the shtetl (Jewish village).  Life was very straightforward; our heritage was passed on from one generation to the next without fear of assimilation.  After all, who was there but your parents and teachers to emulate?  Nobody wanted to be like the drunken peasant in the neighbouring village!

Nowadays, most Jews live in major metropolitan areas.  And even if you don’t, you are connected to the world in ways previously unimaginable.   My friend, Rabbi Jonathan Gross used to say when he lived in Omaha, Nebraska, that he was more connected to life in New York than his grandfather, Rabbi Maza zt”l, who lived in New Jersey!

But with connectivity comes challenges.  And if we assume that the old methods will continue to work given the new circumstances, then we are only fooling ourselves.

There was once a woman who came to Rabbi Ishmael and said to him, “Rebbe, I wove this garment in a state of purity.  However, I did not consciously have in mind to protect its purity.   May I assume it is pure?”
Rabbi Ishmael proceeded to interrogate her about the process.
She admitted, “Rebbe, a menstruant woman indeed helped me draw the rope to the loom.”
Rabbi Ishmael exclaimed, “How great are the words of the Sages, for they said: If one consciously had in mind to protect it from impurity, it is pure.  But if one did not consciously have in mind to protect it from impurity, it is impure!”

The world is an impure place.   Our children today are exposed to such scary imagery and temptations, the likes of which we were never even aware of.  And we need to protect them.  Consciously.  Indeed, we must protect ourselves from the filth and rubbish out there.  Consciously.  If for a moment we cease to guard ourselves and our children from the terrible impurities that abound, we must assume that the impurity has made its mark, G-d forbid.

You know how to put those guards up.  For some, it means internet filtering software.  For others it means monitoring what TV programs are watched in your home.  For others, it means a daily dinner-table discussion about the kinds of foods we eat outside the home and the language used by our family.

The main thing to remember is that purity is no longer a given.  The default position today, sadly, is impurity.   Be vigilant and consciously, constantly, guard yourself and your loved ones from the clutches of the forces of impurity that abound!  You can and will remain pure.  Just stay ever on guard! 

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