It’s a big wonder that the Bilaam and the Moabites (sounds like a rock band) successfully conspired to ensnare even part of a “Holy Nation”. What led them to believe that such a seductive strategy would be affective against a “Priestly People”?
Someone asked in a Q/A session a similar question. “Rabbi, since I started learning Torah I feel even more vulnerable in certain areas. There are places I used to go in “The City” and I remained unaffected. Now I’m afraid to go there. Who knows what it might do to me?! Shouldn’t it be the other way around? Shouldn’t I be more morally secure now that I’m learning?”
One of the rabbis answered with the following personal account. He said that he had been walking past some street in Israel where there was a crew of men repairing a broken sewage line. It was extremely repulsive. He felt he had to run quickly past this place to distance himself from the disgusting smell. As he was hurrying by, a bell sounded and the men working there stopped abruptly and took out their lunch boxes and proceeded to eat right there. He was sickened but they were unaffected because they were already used to it. How does that help us?
The Talmud tells us that the greater one is the greater is his negative inclination. (Tractate Sukkah 52) How so? Maybe, now we can partly understand it. A clean white garment can become more easily soiled and wrinkled than an already soiled one. What’s the other option? Should one wear a shirt which is ruined just to avoid the hazard of dirtying it or the aggravation of having to set it straight again? Of course not! It doesn’t work that way for clothing or for human beings.
In spite of the risks it’s better to remain spiritually and emotionally clean and sensitive. We can simply enjoy the wholesome pleasures of life when our senses are fine tuned. However, when the old synapses are overloaded from all too frequent firings the person tends to look for more unhealthy and eventually self destructive activities just to feel the sensations of being alive.
About this the Piazetzna Rav wrote, “The human soul relishes sensation, not only if it is a pleasant feeling but the very feeling of stimulation. Sooner sadness or some deep pain rather than boredom of non-stimulation. People will watch distressing scenes and listen to heartrending stories just to get stimulation. Such is human nature and a need of the soul, just like all its other needs and natures. So he who is clever will fulfill this need with passionate prayer and Torah learning. But the soul whose divine service is without emotion will have to find its stimulation elsewhere. It will either be driven to cheap, even forbidden sensation or will become emotionally sick from a lack of stimulation.”
Bilaam and the Moabites understood that if some could be distracted they would be easier and more vulnerable targets because of their heightened sensitivity. The best defense, though is not to become sensually dull because that only lures the individual further beyond the original battle lines and deeper into the filth of the enemy territory. The secret is to learn the fine art of sipping goodness and reveling in the holy to remain forever sensitive.
Text Copyright © 2003 Rabbi Label Lam and Project Genesis, Inc.