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Thursday, 21 May 2015

Turn off the radio, please!

Daf Yomi Kesubos 107
The world recently lost a great leader.  Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein was the Rosh Yeshiva of Har Etzion in the Gush, near Jerusalem.  Let me share a powerful teaching I once heard in the name of Rav Lichtenstein. 

A Modern Orthodox colleague of mine lives in a community with two Jewish schools.  One is a pluralistic community school and the other is Charedi.  He asked Rav Lichtenstein which school he should send his kids to.  The rav replied: Send them to the Charedi school, because you can always imbue them with your family’s more progressive values at home.  It’s way harder the other way around – to teach them Torah-true values at home when they’re being immersed in liberal values at school.

Indeed, we are blessed to send our kids to the local Kollel school and very fortunate that our kids can receive a Torah-true education in our small Jewish community of Edmonton.   And so when our kid comes home from school and refuses to get into the car if the radio is blasting with pop music (or in my case, country. . .), we bite our lip and acquiesce to shut off the music.  After all, she’s probably right – the stuff that’s on the radio today is really not the most kosher of substances!  (And anyway, the Almighty’s probably paying me back for all the times as a teenager I refused to step foot into the family room when the TV was on!)

Rav Zevid taught: Concerning glazed earthenware vessels, white and black are permitted but green are forbidden.  And that is only true where there are no cracks in them, but if there are cracks in them, they too are forbidden. 
Rashi explains: The black and white coatings repel forbidden substances, such as chametz and non-kosher wine, whereas the green aluminium glaze absorbs.  Therefore the black and white may be kashered, but the green may not. 

The more mitzvos you do and the more Torah you learn, the more you become a vessel for G-dliness.  The greater the vessel you are, the more your life becomes one with the Divine.  His will becomes your will, your will becomes His.  Nothing can stand in your way as the Almighty will remove all impediments and grant you prosperity in every aspect of your life. 

But becoming a vessel for G-dliness means not only doing mitzvos but also ensuring you have a good coating of glaze to repel the foreign influences from the world around.  Inviting foreign culture into your heart and mind works against your goal of becoming a vessel for the Divine.  When your entire being is infused with Torah, you gain a real sense of moral clarity.  Issues where other people are faltering, for you are black and white.  There’s no indecision, you have the Torah to guide you.

But when there are cracks in the vessel and you allow yourself to absorb any and all foreign influences from the ‘vanity and nothingness’ the world around has to offer, you desensitize yourself from that moral clarity.  It becomes much harder to see things clearly.   Technically, there might not be anything halachically wrong with TV and radio, but they’re certainly not helpful in your Avodas Hashem (service of G-d). 

It’s not easy to be one with Hashem today.  We live in an era where foreign influences abound and they’re near impossible to escape.  May you merit the strength to repel what needs to be repelled and become a vessel for G-dliness in order to achieve moral clarity throughout your life!