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Monday, 2 March 2015

How to keep the zombies out of your life

Daf Yomi Kesubos 27

In World War Z, the only city in the world that manages to keep out the zombies, at least for a time, is Jerusalem.  Israel has built a massive wall around the city and its inhabitants are protected.  Of course, this is an allusion to the great accomplishment of Israel’s security barrier that has managed to keep terrorists out of the country.  After all, good fences make good neighbours.

We live in a spiritually dangerous world.  We are constantly being bombarded by foreign forces attempting to take control of our souls.  And so when it comes to our personal ‘cities’ – our hearts and minds – it is just as important that we have good fences to protect our spiritual values.  What protective measures should you have in place?

The Mishnah states: If a city was besieged by an army, all women married to cohanim (priests) are invalidated.  If, however, they had witnesses that they were untouched – even slaves or maidservants – they are trusted to have not been violated.  However, one is not trusted by their own word.

Rabbi Isaac bar Elazar quoted Hezekiah: Different laws apply when we are dealing with the national army versus a foreign army.  Rashi explains that the national army would not want to destroy its citizenry.  When it conquers a city near its kingdom, it protects the inhabitants in order to broaden its rule. 

The Gemara asks: Is it not possible that one soldier could sneak through?
Rabbi Judah answers in the name of Shmuel:  Here the guards have an eye on each other.
The Gemara asks: Is it not possible that somebody dozed off?
Rabbi Levi answers:  They surrounded the city, for example, with chains, dogs, spikes, and geese.
Rashi explains: The dogs and geese would make noise when intruders would attempt entry.

How do you protect your personal city – your heart, mind, and values?  With these same steps and guidelines: Firstly, the guards should have their eyes on one another.  It’s always helpful to keep company with others who share your values.  That way, you feel compelled to stay in line and convey the right spiritual values to your children.  Once you’re outside the view of the other guards, you are more liable to go with the flow of what you see around you in our spiritually-desolate culture.

Secondly, no matter how secure in your values and spirituality you feel you are, never doze off and become complacent.  Yochanan the High Priest is infamous for having become a Sadducee at the age of eighty!  If you wish to maintain your spiritual integrity, you must be ever vigilant in your efforts to ward off intruding forces.

And then finally Rabbi Levi offers four ways to protect your city.  You must have chains, which of course remind us to be forever mindful of our place in the chain of tradition.  You have a duty to be a faithful link in that chain and pass on the same tradition to the next generation that you received from your parents. 

Dogs, the next form of protection, are interesting creatures.  On the one hand, dogs are man’s best friend.  On the other hand, they can be pretty scary, even when thinking of their bark alone.  The meaning here is that you should not shun the world around you.  You must be friends with everyone, no matter whether their spiritual values align with yours or not.  But at the first sign of their attempts to infiltrate your personal city, don’t be hesitant to bark loud and clear that you will not swayed from your values.

Next, Rabbi Levi tells us that you should also have spikes.  What methods of protection do you have against intruders into your city?  Do you have mitzvos at which you excel, those activities you perform more piously, in order to protect yourself from intrusion?  Maybe you make a point of never talking about anyone, in order to avoid lashon hara (gossip).  Maybe you drink chalav yisrael (rabbinically-supervised milk) in order to ensure that your standards of kosher are always in line.

And finally, Rabbi Levi instructs us to have geese watching the city. While it’s true that geese honk, they also lay eggs, symbolic of their desire to give and share with others.  If you want to protect your values, the best way to achieve that goal is to share the spiritual light with other people.   Teach them how to live by Divine values in a spiritually-darkened world.  Share with them the constancy of the Torah’s teachings, in stark contrast with the values of the world around us that change as the wind blows.  When you teach others, you become stronger in your own convictions.

We live in spiritually challenging times.  It takes great effort to protect your personal city and those of your family members.  May you merit the fortitude to maintain the right security measures to ward off intrusion and to inspire those around you with the Divine light!