In this parsha we read about the Jewish army camp. The Torah tells us that the Jewish solders need to be especially careful to avoid any transgressions including the indecent thoughts and evil speech<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>. The camp itself has to be kept in a totally clean and neat condition. The Talmud<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> learns many laws from these verses and they apply to us today as well. If these commandments are applicable at all times, why are they mentioned in regards to an army camp in particular?
It is known that often the Torah uses a more common example, not meant at all to exclude the general case<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>. The general situation in the army camp is often such that the soldiers are not very careful about the mitzvah observance<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>. Some of the reasons for this may be the fact that they are afraid they may die and therefore try to meanwhile enjoy this world as much as they can. Another possibility is that the enemy’s territory often seems like a place of easy gain (robbing, killing, raping etc). Even a righteous solder placed in such an environment can often be influenced by peer pressure and go astray. A group of solders busy in their free time discussing women and their personal experiences cause the one listening to be influenced for bad<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>.
It is therefore crucial for the Torah to establish a Jewish army camp different from all other camps. It is given a special status of great holiness with Divine Presence being there<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>, and extra prohibitions and rules are set up that apply exclusively to it. The Torah tells us:
When you go out to encamp against your enemies, then keep yourself from every wicked thing. If there is among you any man, who is not clean because of a nocturnal emission, then he should go out of the camp and remain outside. Towards the evening, he should immerse in water and when the sun is down, he can come into the camp again. You should also have a place outside the camp, where you go out to [the bathroom]. And you should have a spike among your weapons<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>, and when you will ease yourself outside, you should dig with it and cover your excrement. For Hashem your G-d walks in the midst of your camp to save you, and to give your enemies before you, therefore your camp should be holy that He should not see any nakedness in you, and turn away from you. (Devarim 23:10-15)
Many commandments are learned
from these verses. Some apply only to the most holy places like the
It is known that in order to keep the balance of freedom of choice, the Creator decreed that the power of evil inclination should be directly proportional to the power of good. In the end of days even before the coming of Moshiach we are told that the generation will have access to comfort and enjoyment with abundance of physical pleasure<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>. In our day we benefit from the conveniences that can even be compared to what was promised when Moshiach comes<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>. Under such conditions it should be quite easy to keep the mitzvos. All the main reasons to drop observance seem to be gone. Throughout the ages, many Jews were forcefully converted or did so under presser and life threat. At times people did not keep the mitzvos properly because of financial reasons. In early American history, some Jews started working on Shabbos when they could not find a job that would allow them to take this day off. They saw their families on the verge of starvation and thought they had no choice.
These difficult times are gone. Today, an orthodox Jew can now work in almost any field. The discrimination in many countries is minimal or nonexistent. Even those who have no jobs are hardly living in poverty. Many of the American, Canadian, British and German Jews who are unemployed are receiving sufficient aid from the government that they can even afford cell phones and vacations. If there would not be enough power given to the “unclean side”, almost everybody would be already keeping the mitzvos. In order to keep the balance Hashem also gave a terrible power of persuasion to the strongest of all desires. With the invention of internet many righteous people got trapped and addicted to the worst filth that this world has to offer. Failed careers, broken families, sick people are just some of the results of only ten years of the internet penetrating our homes. Can we do anything to save ourselves from this leprosy? Obviously Hashem never sends a test that can not be overcome. There are methods that can help us and some of them are described in the appendix of this article<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>. The very fact that the power of persuasion for bad is so strong is the biggest indication that the times of Moshiach are drawing near<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>. And may we all withstand the test and deserve to live till the yetzer hara is removed and internet will become the tool for only spreading righteousness and true knowledge.
In general the main danger of unlimited access to internet lies in the fact that even a good person who absolutely didn’t plan to use his computer for anything forbidden by the Torah, can become a new person in a very short time. It usually starts with a mistake<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>, but in the end he may begin to often break strict prohibitions or even become addicted<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> to unclean material<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>, becoming “mumar lidvar echad” – a person who habitually breaks a particular prohibition<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>.
Obviously the person who is not trying to do Tshuvah, nothing can help. In this case even disconnecting internet will not solve the problem, since there is plenty of similar materials in the neighborhood newspaper stand selling magazines. Our words of practical advice are directed to those who did not fall into the trap, but want to give themselves some extra protections, or those who have fallen before and specifically want to make extra fences around the prohibition in order not to fall again. What can be done is making internet no more dangerous than the existence of kiosks, bars, clubs, cinemas etc. These places generally do not affect 95% of orthodox Jews and most of us would even be ashamed to enter such places. Internet access can also be made relatively safe so that it would be almost impossible for a person to access forbidden sites.
The simplest and most accepted advice is to try not to use the computer unless somebody else is watching. Even if that person is not constantly looking over one's shoulders, but comes in and out without giving enough time to hide the screen, this is sufficient<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>. It is therefore preferable to install the computer in a room where there is more activity, with the screen facing the entrance. Another possibility is to install one of the programs that will track all the sites one visits, and have someone else choose the password to the log and check it regularly. Several such programs exist and some are free, including K9 web protection which can be downloaded from: http://www.k9webprotection.com/. Those who only need to access only a select list of sites, and are using Microsoft browser only, can simply use tools / internet options / content to have someone set up a password they don't know, and permit only the needed sites to be accesses without it. At last, some filters also exist, including free ones. None are 100% reliable but they are quite useful for most people who are hopefully not putting too much effort to fool themselves and the program they installed. One of the free programs is called Naomi and can be downloaded from http://www.radiance.m6.net/. It runs in the background, and if one tries to access a site it considers inappropriate, it kills the session right away. However, as we already mentioned, it’s not full proof and one cannot rely on it alone.
Obviously, as the programs and systems are getting more sophisticated, so are the filtering programs. We always need to stay on top of things in order to keep ourselves and our children away from the bottomless pit into which we may Chas Veshalom fall. And may Hashem help us in our work!
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> See Tamud, Kesubos 46a, Avoda Zara 20a, Sifri, Ki Setze 44.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> See our words to Parshas Mishpatim regarding the command of the Torah not to cook a kid in its’ mother’s milk.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Indeed many religious Jews went completely astray after spending time in the Israeli army.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Indeed, according to some opinions one of the Arks was carried with an army camp (see Yerushlami, Shekalim 24b).
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Even at the time of danger, the Torah commands the solder to carry a tool in addition to his weapons, just so that our camp is clean (see letters of Rabeinu Weismandel, letter #79 for additional discussion).
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> There are some differences regarding this law depending on the gender of the person who wants to say the blessing and on the gender of the person who is undressed. In all cases, if the person himself or the one if front of him or her is completely undressed, the prohibition to say the words of Torah is of Biblical origin as stated in these verses. Regarding the fact that a woman pronounces a blessing in the mikva while she is not dressed, since her body is under water it is permissible according to many authorities, as long as she is also not looking down when she makes the blessing. Most women in addition encircle themselves with their hands to separate the upper part of the body from the lower one (see Shach on Yore Deah 200:1 and Taz 200:3).
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> This prohibition is of Biblical origin even when the woman he is thinking about is permitted to be married to him, i.e. she is a single Jewish woman who is not his close relative (see Bash, Even Haezer 21:2). The women are also not supposed to stare at men with illicit thoughts and intentions. However, since the women do not get as easily excited there are some differences in the laws: a woman can hear a man singing, and she can see the men’s section of the synagogue, while a man can’t listen to a forbidden woman singing and the men don’t see the women’s section of the Shul.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> See Talmud, Sotah 49b, and Rashi there.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> According to the opinion that open miracles will not happen when Moshiach appears, many of the predictions regarding that utopian era coming true as we live, (see also our words in the end of parshas Devarim regarding two Moshiachs).
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> In the past few years there have also been a lot of articles written in mainstream religious Jewish press, like Mishpacha, Jewish Observer etc.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> See Sanhedrin 98b. The Chofetz Chaim used to offer the following parable: when two people fight and one is ready to win, the other gathers all his remaining power. So too, the power of evil that knows that once Moshiach comes it will seize to exist, is now trying its’ outmost to lead people astray.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Something our sages would describe: “the beginning was by mistake by the end was willfully”. Most people started by clicking the wrong button on a web page or e-mail, or accidentally mistyping some word in the browser and got to a completely inappropriate site.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> See Talmud, Avoda Zara 17a: “…he was so addicted to forbidden relations that it was similar to heresy …” In general this obsession should be considered a real sickness and has to be dealt with as such.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Even though forbidden thoughts in general is something very few people can completely avoid (see Talmud, Bava Basra 164b, see Tosafos Avoda Zara 20b) there is still an obvious difference between the one that accidentally looked at something improper or had a bad thought, and the one who occupies himself searching for forbidden “pleasures”.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> See Rambam, Laws of Tshuva 3:9. Note that even though the prohibition of staring at forbidden pictures is usually broken by men, there are a number of prohibitions that women often break too. The common example is going to various chat groups, forming relationships with other people etc. By now there have been hundreds of cases of families that broke due to a woman’s involvement on the web. Besides all this, there is also much inappropriate material for an Orthodox Jew. One of the common examples is wrong and falsified information that is presented as legitimate encyclopedic knowledge. Many times a not so knowledgeable person can be quit challenged by information that seems quite persuasive, and may even lose the strong faith that he had before.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> See Shulchan Aruch, Yore Dea 118:10 for similar laws regarding supervising food production. Shame is a great gift Hashem gave us and we can use it well. One might wonder why we are more afraid of being caught by other people than by Hashem Himself? The reason might be that even though Hashem is watching everything we do, people sin and think they can later do Tshuva, but embarrassment from others is enough of a determent for most of us. Indeed it has always been that way, Raban Yochanan ben Zakai blessed his students that they should fear Hashem as much as they fear people (Brochos 28b)! The righteous Rav Amram Chasida saved himself from transgression by calling people so that he gets embarrassed and not commit it (Kidushin 81a, see also Nefesh Hachaim, end of the third gate).