The Torah PodcastTranscript
063 The Torah Podcast – Why are Homosexuals Depressed – Self Control and Happiness
Torah Portion of the Week – Balak
The verses in Parshas Balak say like this. “And an angel of Hashem stood in the way to oppose Bilam, while he was riding on his donkey, and the two servants that were with him. The donkey saw the angel of Hashem standing in the road with a sword drawn in his hand. So, the donkey turned aside from the road and walked into the field. Bilam struck the donkey and turned it towards the road.” In other words, the donkey saw the angel of Hashem but didn’t want Bilam to go curse the Jewish people, but Bilam himself didn’t see it. So, the verses continue, and it went further. At that point the donkey pressed Bilam’s leg against the wall. And then Bilam gets the donkey to go a little bit further, and then finally the donkey lays down and refuses to go. And after that, finally the donkey opens his mouth and speaks to Bilam. The donkey says to Bilam, “What have I done to you that you struck me all these three times?” And Bilam answers her, “Because you have mocked me. If I only had a sword I would have killed you.” The Malbim explains that Bilam completely ignored all the simanim, all the signs that Hashem was sending him, telling him not to go curse the Jewish people. The symbolism was all lost on Bilam, and that’s what the donkey was saying to him. “What have I done to you up till now? I haven’t done anything. Don’t you realize that something unusual is taking place, and you’re supposed to pay attention to what’s going on? Hashem is trying to tell you, “Don’t go.” So, Rav Schwab explains that Bilam lost all sensitivity. Even though the mouth of the donkey, the fact that the donkey spoke, that was created on twilight on erev Shabbos, at the beginning of creation, a special creation, just to tell Bilam not to go. And he remained unmoved. Here is a donkey speaking, he talks back to the donkey as if it’s normal. He isn’t even thinking to himself, “What’s going on here?” Totally unaffected. He explains that a person who is a slave to his own personal desires, to his own drives, is completely desensitized to holiness. Even open miracles won’t move the person. He explains, “Just like the original snake lost his sense of taste, so too a person who just runs after his desires will lose all capability to be inspired. He won’t be able to do teshuva, to come back. And that’s his punishment. His punishment is that he loses his sensitivity.
I want to now explain why a person loses his sensitivity. What happens to that person? Okay, they went after their desires, but what happens to them that they can’t even do teshuva, repent? They can see miracles, and nothing moves them. What happened? We can explain it by looking at the end of the parsha. What was the idol worship of that day, of Moav? It was baal peor, and this type of idol worship is very strange. The way you would worship it is you had to defecate in front of the idol. So, what was going on there, what kind of worship is that? Rav Wolbe brings Rav Hutner who explains, “This idol worship is a manifestation of pessimism. It was a way of declaring that life has no purpose. At the end of the day, everything is worthless. Everything turns into excrement. There’s no meaning in life, and there’s no purpose to life.” Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz explains in a little bit of a different way. He says, “Listen, I could do anything and it doesn’t matter. I can even relieve myself in public in front of this idol, nothing matters. There is no meaning to life. And I could do every sin I want. It doesn’t matter, I won’t get punished. Look, I just excremented in front of this idol, nothing happened to me. There is no God, there is no meaning. There is no purpose, everything goes.” There’s even a Gemara that tells us, one time a Jew did this idol worship and he wiped himself on the nose of the idol, and the priest there said, “Wow, unbelievable. We never saw such a worship.” In other words, the more disgusting it was, the more rules it broke, the more degrading the better, because in their eyes that exposed that there’s no meaning to life. But Rav Wolbe explains that this is diametrically opposed to the Torah. The possuk said, “And Bilam himself said at the end of the Parsha, “Who can count the dust of Yaakov.” Rashi explains there, there is no limit to the mitzvos that the Jewish people could do, even with dirt. We’re prohibited to plough the earth with an ox and donkey yoked together, from planting different plants together, it’s forbidden for us. Each one of these things is a mitzvah to refrain from them. The ashes of the red heifer – ashes – can purify a dead person. The sota was a mixture of water and earth, and it could peace into the house of a woman who was suspected. Even the dirt, the Jews were able to uplift –ashes. This is the secret of the Jews, the ability to transform the mundane into the spiritual. It says that giving food and drink to a talmid chacham, a Torah scholar, it’s like offering sacrifices on the mizbeach, on the altar. We know there is meaning to life. Everything we do has meaning. Every mitzvah makes a difference. There’s a reason to live, and there’s a reason to control ourselves. There’s a reason to do the right thing, because it makes a difference. But in a last chance attempt for Balak to curse us, he brought Bilam to where? The peak Rosh ha Peor, and he figured that he can get the Jewish people to fall through what? Through immorality. That’s exactly what happened at the end of the parsha, and 24,000 Jews died because of this.
But I want to point out here, what’s the fight about? Now, listen to this. Rav Hirsch says, “A nation could be blessed with an abundance of spiritual gifts, and still hasten headlong into ruin.” Why? Because even if they have all the physical treasures and even if they have spiritual wealth, a worm can devour it from inside, and turn that blessing into a curse. And what’s that worm? Immorality. It is a shameless surrender to desolate sensuality, and that’s what it means, the Peak ha Peor, shamelessness defiles. This was the baal peor. He says, “Why do you dream of modesty and a exhausted moral calling? Your own body shows you, you’re just like an animal and you shouldn’t be ashamed before the Gods. Just act like an animal, isn’t that what you are anyway? And Rav Hirsch says the modern baal peor is what? Darwinism, that man is just a higher animal. Why try to be righteous? Why do the right thing, right, wrong? Come on, get with it. You’re an animal. Don’t be embarrassed to be an animal. Act like an animal, that’s what you are. Give up. But what happened when Bilam went to go curse the Jewish people? The possuk says, when Bilam lifted up his eyes and saw Yisroel camping according to its tribes, the spirit of God came upon him.” What did he see? He saw they were dwelling according to their tribes, which means what?
They guarded the family structure. Every child knew who his father was. The Jewish people were all set up according to their parental descent. Everybody knew where they were came from, which meant that the Jewish people guarded themselves in modesty. And he couldn’t curse them because of that. He had to bless them. They say at that point, prophesy came upon him and he gave the blessing to the Jewish people. The other possuk says, “Like brooks they are termed, like gardens by the river, like ohel trees planted by God, like cedars besides the waters.” Rav Hirsch explains, “What does it mean, like brooks? Each household and each family branch passes down to the next generation the blessings and the material prosperity and the spiritual and moral welfare. And it went from generation to generation.” The Jews guarded themselves. They didn’t cheat. They weren’t sexually immoral. And that’s why it says, “How good are your tents Yaakov, your dwelling places oh Yisroel.” It doesn’t say how beautiful, it says how good. It was good, morally. They dwelt with morality. Here is a really important point – Rav Hirsch says, “The secret of this lies in the moral aspect, in the sanctity of family life. The sexual life of Yisroel is sanctified and immune against the vulgar baal peor.” The people of Yisroel respect the power of man’s seed belonging to God, and it’s sacred to Him. Yisroel’s power of victory depends precisely on this moral aspect of the private family and sexual life. This is our power, this is our strength. This is the whole foundation of the Torah. And anybody who says that the Rabbis are going to come around, they are going to accept gay marriage; they’re going to accept homosexuality – no way. It’s the whole foundation of the Jewish people to guard ourselves, to have proper morals. The family structure is what keeps us going, morally and spiritually. Any Rabbi who says it’s accepted and it’s okay, and we have to be open-minded and liberal, we have to be politically correct – that person is not a Rabbi. He’s in a dream world. What’s happening now is exactly what Bilam gave as the eitza, advice, to Balak to do, to send out your women and entice the Jewish people to do the wrong thing. And he sent out women and the youth fell, the Jewish youth fell. He says, “Bilam advised Balak to entice Yisroel’s youth to their downfall, because sexual purity is the fundamental condition for their closeness to God. The God of these people is an enemy of all unchastity.” Gemara in Sanhedrin. And He is the very antithesis of peor. If you succeed in enticing them into sexual immorality, you will bring about their downfall. And you can make an attempt through your own daughters. Send your daughters down there.
So the question is now, why aren’t people returning to God? Why not? Because like we said before, they became desensitized. Now, why did they become desensitized? Because they became depressed. They gave up. They threw in the hat, finished. I’m an animal, that’s what I am. I can’t fight it any more. I can’t take it any more, I give in, which leads to depression. And depression leads to de-sensitivity. Rav Yisroel Salanter said, “Ha iker yetzer hara yeiush hu,” the essential, most fundamental evil inclination in a person is to be despondent, to be depressed. That’s the yetzer hara himself, to get you depressed. And how does he get you depressed? He tells you to do nonsense. If you look it up you will see that homosexuals for example, are more depressed, they are more involved in substance abuse and they have more mental disorders. So the world is going to say, “Oh, that’s because they’re not accepted.” Nonsense. That’s because they’re doing the wrong thing. They’re the antithesis of Torah. They’re going completely against what the Torah represents, what the Jewish people represents.
And when a person breaks his own values, he gets depressed. He gives up. He throws in the towel. At that point he’s worshipping baal peor, he defecates in front of the idol. Everything goes.
But the problem is, it’s very enticing. The yetzer hara tells you, “Why should you work so hard? Just give in. It’s so much fun, you’re going to enjoy yourself. And it’s true. Maybe you’ll enjoy yourself in the moment, but afterwards forget it. You’re spiritually finished. You’re completely out, you’re not even a player any more. The philosophy that everything goes does not lead to happiness, it’s a trick of the yetzer hara, the trick of the evil inclination. Because in the moment you want it that everything goes. In the moment, it seems like it’s fun, easy. It’s the easy way out. But that’s not what leads to happiness. What leads to happiness is doing the right thing. Doing the right thing, that’s what leads to happiness, not all these sick philosophies that are destroying culture, destroying nations – great nations, nations with blessings. But these nations will lose their blessings.
There’s a Bereishis Rabba that says, “Rav Huna said in the name of Rav Yosef, the generation of the Flood was not wiped out until they wrote sexual marriage documents for the union of a man to a male, or to an animal.” It was written thousands of years ago. It’s the downfall of society. And why were these homosexuals using their rainbow as their symbol? They think they chose that. No, God gave it to them. What’s the rainbow? The verses say, “And it shall come to pass when I cause clouds to come upon the earth that the rainbow will appear in the cloud. And I will remember My covenant which was between me and between every living creature. And the water will no longer become a flood to destroy all flesh. And the rainbow shall be in the cloud, and I will see it and remember it in everlasting covenance between God and between every living thing.” What does Rashi say there? “When I cause it come in the clouds, when it comes to my mind to bring darkness and destruction of the world, He’ll see the rainbow and He’ll have rachmanus.” God will see the rainbow and have mercy on the people. A Jew’s not supposed to stare at a rainbow. A rainbow means God is angry and He wants to destroy the world, but since He made a covenant, He’s not going to do it.
So, what are some of the points here? First of all, the family structure is the basis and the blessing of the Jewish people. Don’t let anybody tell you that gay marriage is accepted by the Torah. Absolutely not. It’s the antithesis of Torah. Secondly, don’t think that the easy way is the right way. If you want to be matzliach, you want to be successful in life you’re going to need some discipline. And that comes from understanding that you were not an animal. It’s true that our body, physically, we’re like an animal. But that doesn’t mean you have to give in. That’s what Bilam did. He gave in, and then he became desensitized. And God is telling him, “No, no, no. Don’t go, don’t go,” four times. The donkey talks, he still doesn’t listen. He keeps going. Why? Because he gave up. He doesn’t care, he’s finished. He’s out of the ball game. He’s out of God’s world, because he thinks he’s an animal too. And thirdly, we have to fight these people who are being politically correct. Even though it sounds like a spiritual value it’s coming from people who don’t believe in God. What kind of spiritual value could it possibly be? These people don’t believe in God. They believe in Darwinism, they believe that man came from animal. They’re trying to be polite, but it’s wrong. The only way is the Torah way. The Torah tells us how to live, how to do the right thing, how to overcome our yetzer haras because little by little if you don’t give in, in the end you will be successful. You will train yourself little by little to overcome your inclinations, to create new habits, to grow to spiritual levels and to be able to create a life of purity with a family structure. What could be happier than a happy family sitting at the Shabbos table, singing Shabbos songs, and everyone feeling good because they’re living the right lifestyle and doing the right things, and growing. And that’s what Judaism is about.
A Powerful Parable
The possuk says, “Bilam set forth his parable and said, ‘From Amram has Balak, King of Moav, brought me, out of the mountains of the east saying, come curse Yaakov for me. Go and invoke the wrath against Yisroel.’” The Maggid Mi Dubno brings a moshul, parable like this. He says, “One time there was a great orator who lived in a place where there were a lot of sinners. And that’s where he normally spoke. But one time he was invited to a different city full of scholars, scribes and righteous people. This person stood up at the podium and began to speak. He started to give them thorough rebuke for all their sins and their shameful ways. But after he finished speaking, the people came to him and said, ‘What are you talking about? How could you speak to us like that?’ He says to them, ‘What, did you forget that it’s a mitzvah to give rebuke to the people?’ They said back to him, ‘Yeah, but those sins, we don’t do those sins. We don’t do all those things. It’s not applicable to us. We understand that back in your home town that’s the way you speak, but here there’s no purpose to speaking like that.” That was the moshul. What’s the nimshal? The possuk said, “From Amram ba’ah,” like the king of Moav brought me. He brought him out from Amram from the mouth of the east, which was a place of what? A place of sinners, a place of bad people. He says, “And you called me out to curse the Jewish people? The Jewish people are not like those people.”
Great Stories – Beis HaLevi
The verse says, “If Balak was to give me his house full of silver and gold, I am unable to transgress the word of Hashem.” One time they called the Rabbis to meet up with the maskilim. These were the enlightenment group in Europe, who were trying to make Orthodox Judaism modern. Some of them were against the Torah completely, but some of them wanted half way. One of the people said, “You know, I have a lot of influence in this town. If I wanted to, I could close down all the yeshivos. But I respect the Torah, and really my interest here is for the benefit of the Jewish people. I want to help the Jewish people to try to make the Torah more modern.” The Beis haLevi stood up and said, “You’re like Bilam. Bilam said, ‘Even if you were to give me all this money, I’m unable to go against the word of Hashem.’ He looked so righteous, Bilam. So, why is he listed among one of the most evil people in the world?” He explained, “If you would say, ‘Well, if you gave me 1,000 rubles I wouldn’t leave my home town,’ that we can understand. But if you said, ‘If you give me 1,000 rubles I wouldn’t stop the earth from turning,’ they’d say, ‘Who are you to stop the earth from turning?’” He said, “You believe you actually have the ability to shut down all the yeshivos, but out of the goodness of your heart you’re not going to do it. And that’s exactly what Bilam was saying. Bilam was saying he has the ability to go against the will of Hashem. He didn’t have the ability to go against the will of Hashem, and you also don’t have the ability to go against the will of Hashem. Only if Hashem decrees it can something happen. So, don’t think you can close down the yeshivos.”
Peace in Your Home
Rav Simcha Cohen explains, why is it so difficult to apologize? One of the reasons is because we’re created in the image of God. And it’s a blow to our pride. We don’t want to see inconsistencies in ourselves. When we admit we did wrong, we admit that we went against our value system, so it’s difficult. He says, “The difficulty on Yom Kippur is not the fact that we have to fast all day, it’s the fact that we have to stand and admit that we did all these things wrong.” It’s very hard for a human being to admit that he did something wrong, especially the more righteous that he is, it’s even more difficult. Not only that, but it appears that God accepts our apologies. But when a person apologizes to their spouse, they don’t always accept it. And there’s a little bit of competition there, you don’t want to admit that you’re wrong and they’re right. Another problem is, people apologize too late. They figure they could wait. But the more they wait, the worse it is because not only was the original thing wrong, but the waiting itself was wrong. So, the longer they wait, they don’t want to apologize. They can go on for years and person doesn’t want to accept the long-term consequences of what he did, that he caused family strife for all those years, just by not apologizing. It makes the apology even more difficult.
Another problem is parental influence. Many parents don’t apologize one to the other, so the kids learn not to apologize. He says, “It’s very important to apologize to your spouse in front of the kids, and it’s also very important to apologize to the kids themselves. But part of the problem here is not just the one who has to give the apology. It’s also on the receiving side. We make it difficult for the other person to apologize. For example, a person could apologize to you, and then you start talking about something else. ‘Yeah, you did this, you did that, you did this.’ Who wants to open up this can of worms? Nobody. When they start to attack the person’s character, you’re worthless, you’re a bum, despicable.” Or they start to make fun of the person’s other righteous qualities. The wife always davens, so when the wife apologizes the husband says, “Yeah, you’re davening is not worth anything,” or the woman says, “Your learning’s not worth anything.” Nobody wants to hear these side points. And they start bringing up the whole past, “This is not the first time you hurt me…” The point is, a person has to make it easy for the other person to apologize. You should limit your remarks, be very specific to the thing that they’re apologizing on. Don’t bring up other things, and don’t bring up past promises, because you’re going to stop the person from apologizing.
Also, it could be very difficult for one spouse to apologize. For the other spouse it’s easier, because they don’t appreciate what this person is doing to order to apologize and they make fun of him. Then the other person feels that they don’t even appreciate that I’m apologizing, so why should I do it again? The Rambam says, “It is forbidden to a person to be cruel and refuse an apology. He must not take vengeance or bear a grudge. This is the way the Jewish people are upright of heart.” It’s actually forbidden not to accept an apology. It’s cruel. He says, “Listen, and you shouldn’t interrupt. And you should really hear what they’re saying. Maybe you’ll learn something. Maybe you’ll see that they reacted that way because they thought things were different. They saw it from a different perspective.”
Why is it so hard to forgive? He brings an example. One time Dovid apologized to Rivka and she accepted it. But two days later, he saw she’s still sulking around. What’s going on? She explained, “Until you really sit down with me and talk to me, I can’t accept the apology.” For some people you just spurt it out and the other person accepts it. Some people, you really need to speak to them directly about this subject. They need to hear, “I’m sorry,” with feelings. Or the person can say, “Well, I didn’t mean to hurt you.” So, the other person interprets that, “Oh, you feel you didn’t do a big deal, but I feel you did do a big deal.” Or sometimes a person tries to apologize too soon. If a person does something really wrong to another person, you have to wait a while till the person calms down, and then apologize. If you apologize right away, you make it like it’s no big deal what you did. And part of the problem is that the intellect and the emotions work at two different rates. Even if the person says, “I accept your apology,” that could be intellectually. But emotionally, it takes more time to integrate. And especially for women it says, Chazal tells us, “Why is a man easily reconciled while a woman has more of a difficult time? Each one is like the place from which he was created.” Rashi explains, “Man was created from the dirt, so he’s more soft. And a woman was created from the rib of the man, which was hard. So, a woman, it takes more time to emotionally digest something. Since they also feel more dependent on their husband, and subordinate to him, they were created from him, so they’re more sensitive.”
What’s the right way to apologize? He says, “It’s best to sit down specifically for that purpose. You’re sitting down together to apologize, or to even write it down. But not that you just bump into each other in the hallway somewhere, and you apologize. That’s not going to work. And writing it down can help, because a person reads something over and over again. But that shouldn’t be the regular way of doing it, because writing it down is also a little bit of an escape. You’re not dealing with the person face to face. The other person has to feel there’s a relationship there.” That’s on the side of giving the apology.
And on the side of receiving the apology the person should say, “Wow, I’m really proud of you. I’m really happy you apologized. It makes me think better of you.” Even though outside of the marriage if you apologize to somebody they’ll say, “Oh, no big deal, no problem.” But in the marriage, it doesn’t work like that. The person has to give a real apology and the person has to receive it in the right way.
It says in the Tomer Devorah, “Just like when we apologize to Hashem and Hashem accepts our apology and he treats us in the exact same way as if we never sinned, so too a person should be divine like that. That should be our character trait, that when the spouse apologizes, it should take us back to zero or even closer.” And Chazal tells us, “If one puts aside his natural feelings of being slighted, God will put aside his sins.” God will forgive his sins. If you forgive other people, God will forgive you.
I want to end off with a story of Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz. One day during the Six Day War, all the yeshiva was in the bomb shelter of the Mir Yeshiva. And the bombs were right there. The Mir Yeshiva was basically on the front lines. Everybody was scared for their lives, and Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz heard this woman speaking. She was a woman whose husband left her 10 years ago as an aguna. He disappeared. He never gave her a divorce, she was completely stuck this woman, and could never re-marry again. The woman said, “Master of the World, I forgive my husband for all the pain, the shame and the anguish he caused me during these years that he abandoned me. So too, please forgive everyone who’s sitting here for their sins, just like I forgive my husband with all my heart.” Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz said, “If we lived through that War by being saved in the bomb shelter, it was chiefly on the merit of this woman who overcame her feelings and forgave her husband.”
Okay, that’s it for this week’s Torah podcast. I hope you enjoyed it. Please share it with your friends, and please leave me a review on iTunes.
Rabbi Eliyahu Mitterhoff