In honor of the Walker brothers, who are enjoying their very first Shabbat in Jerusalem tonight.
What is wrong with just looking?
Does it harm anyone just to look?
I had planned to write about evil today, but certain events this week have led me to write about lust instead.
One of those events was pricing a fence for our back yard. Sticker shock! Could a fence be so important that someone could spend three months’ salary on one? (But it’s a great fence, kyna hara!)
What did Robert Frost mean by this line: Good fences make good neighbors. (Bonus points if you can recall the name of the poem.)
Is the poem about the irony of meeting your neighbor only to build a wall between you, or is it a metaphor for constructing social fences between people? Social fences make good relationships?
There are several religious Jewish families in our neighborhood. We’re even friendly with some of them. We recently saw some of these Jewish daughters hanging out with some teenage boys who are not Jewish. Normal for a secular teenage girl, unusual for a religious one. Then they were playing some kind of game that kids play. But one of the non-Jewish boys was overheard taunting one of the girls, “You can’t touch me because you’re Jewish!” I’m certain that he didn’t make that up.
Maybe he meant good fences as opposed to bad fences. The narrator’s voice comes across as critical of the wall, but acknowledges that his neighbor’s belief in the wall comes from his father – that is, from tradition. He has a tradition that good fences make good neighbors, but he may not know why.
Another Jewish fence besides the touching thing is the looking thing. If you have a significant someone in your life, man or woman, how do you feel when he or she looks at other women or men? How would it feel if you were absolutely certain that he or she never had eyes for anyone else?
How do you yourself feel when you playing the seeker?
That feeling is totally physical. There is nothing spiritual about it. Once, after hearing me say this, some guy challenged me -”Isn’t it possible to look at a woman and just appreciate her beauty without it being sexual?”
Well, I guess theoretically, but not practical for 99.9999995 percent of the men out there.
Meaning, there are approximately three dozen men on the entire planet who can pull it off.
Judaism says that if you look merely at a woman-who’s-not-your-wife’s little finger in an aroused way, you are objectifying her, which is bad for you. Makes you more of an animal, less of a holy soul.
What’s a poor fella to do?
Well, he could start by finding a soul mate. And with her channel all of that physical energy into a synergistic spiritual fusion that can only happen when you’ve made a binding commitment to each other.
A soul mate isn’t the solution, but she can help.
Like any addiction, the surest way out of the wandering eye syndrome is a 12-step method. The first step is to admit you have a problem.
So men (and women) should at least be honest. Instead of “just looking” they should say, “Just lusting”. It’s not going to make your partner feel better, but it’s the way to start.
Here’s a little exercise you can do: next time you're out there - try counting how many times in one hour you wander after your eyes. Then challenge yourself to go an entire hour without seeking.
As usual, please share your results below in the Comments.
Wishing you a truly Shabbat Shalom.
Upcoming speaking schedule:
June 12 – Mill Valley: “Why Do Bad Things Really Happen?” (Private home)
June 13 – San Francisco: “Judaism & Hinduism: Hidden Connections?” (Adath Israel)
June 15-16 – San Francisco: Shabbat Scholar-in-Residence (Adath Israel)
June 25-26 – Philadelphia: "Kabbalah of Wine" (Etz Chaim Wine Tasting event)
(For details, send an email)
Yiddish of the week:
kyna hara — no evil eye
Yiddish review - how many do you know?
anee — poor person
koptsen — panhandler
ballaboss — homeowner; layman
nu — various meanings (see archives)
mishpocha — family
mameh — mother
tateh — father
mazal – (MAH-z’l) luck or fortune, as in, “It was good mazal that....”
beshert – (b’shairt) - meant to be, as in “It was beshert that...”
mine eltern – my parents
mine lair-er – my teacher
hamantashen – Haman-pockets
zeigezunt – all the best (said upon parting)
kesher - connection
Ikh volt veln a kave, zayt azoy gut. - I'd like a coffee, please.
...kave mit shmant. – ...a coffee with cream.
...kave mit milkh. – ...a coffee with milk.
...kave mit tsuker. - ...a coffee with sugar.
Di Fir Kashes - The Four Questions
Oy vey! - Good grief!
mensch — a decent person
rachmanos — mercy
neshoma (neh-SHOH-ma) — soul
minig — custom, as in, "Why do you do that?" "It's my minig!"
Gavaltig — wonderful
Oy gavalt — how wonderful (sarcastic)
Azoy gait es! — That’s how it goes!
Shabbos — Cessation; stopping; day of stopping; weekly sabbatical experience
"Gut Shabbos" — "Enjoy your weekly sabbatical experience"
Neshoma — Soul
meshugass — insanity
meshuganeh — insane