This week, we sit shiva for our shattered world.
This week we mourn our broken homes.
Our temple was destroyed, and even now we continue to watch the walls burn around us.
The Churban didn’t just happen millennia ago, but we are taught by Chazal that the damage is ongoing.
Hatred, strife, and ignorance fan the flames of destruction, pain, abandonment, and abuse.
We don’t see the fire and violence engulfing the actual Temple today, but we see countless metaphoric reverberations. Our homes are not safe here either.
When the enemy invaded our Holy of Holies, the Talmud in Yoma 54: describes, they beheld the holiest spaces, the top of the Ark, where the Cherubim were embraced in sexual intimacy. They misunderstood that erotic love, described in Song of Songs and dubbed: Holy of Holies, not only has its place in service of G-d but is used as the quintessential symbol of this sacred connection. The Holy of Holies was called “the bedroom of the sanctuary.” Love is meant to be Divine.
The enemy soldiers snatched the Keruvim from their private place. They joyfully mocked and scoffed and paraded our holy “nudity” through the marketplace (Eichah 1:8). They cried: “Look what these Jews, whose blessings are blessings and whose curses are curses, busy themselves with?”
The emperor Titus bedded a prostitute in this sanctuary, causing the curtain to the Holy space to bleed.
Their ignorant cruelty echoes in our confusion to this very day.
To this very day, holy sexuality continues to be contorted and ripped from the inside out, from the inner chamber of holies to the gritty, dirty marketplace. Our bodies are being exiled from our souls.
Instead of the mutual, consensual intimacy between committed partners, its wisdom and beauty conveyed lovingly from parent to child, in the context of home and heart, that connection and safety has been all but snuffed out.
Children and teens are not taught holy, integrated physicality, so they are relegated to the digital marketplace of distorted, corrupted exposure. They learn to hate their bodies, ignore their hearts, trade trust for lust, and barricade themselves from authentic love. And they become adults who are filled with sexual shame and confusion and shut down. Cut off from themselves, from others, and from G-d- the ultimate deprivations of intimacy and connection.
Instead, nudity, both voluntary and forced, are paraded through our marketplaces, entire industries devoted to seducing eyes and hearts, away from ourselves, our G-d, and our loved ones, away from basic human respect and decency.
At this online marketplace, women and children are routinely objectified and exploited and sold, while men are deliberately targeted by mainstream media, invited, drafted to join the army of debasement, seduced to feed this cycle of sinister consumption and humiliation of innocent humanity. And then it leaks from virtual to actual, the same pathology on the ubiquitous screens reflected and refracted through the smeared windows of our eyes and unholy abodes, and then through tears of anguish.
Why did the enemy say of the Jews in the Gemara above: “Whose blessing is blessing and whose curse is a curse?”
Perhaps because that is the dichotomy of sexual experience. One who is fortunate to find a partner with whom to share authentically, emotionally, physically, intellectually, and spiritually, has truly been blessed. There is no greater joy. For this couple, their love is indeed a great blessing and can yield the greatest blessings of all: connection and children.
But when sexual contact turns evil, becomes assault and abuse, there is no greater curse. The connection and the children become marred. Ask any survivor of sexual trauma; it is perhaps the hardest to heal. The word Neshek in Hebrew means both kiss and weapons.
Avoda zara is confusing because it can be mistaken for the worship of G-d but is the exact opposite. Pornography, licentiousness, extremist repression, human trafficking, and sexual abuse are the idolatry of sexual holiness.
They stole our blessing and turned it into a curse.
But we allow it to continue.
Our homes are often devoid of holy sexual education. This ignorance is a breeding ground for unholy exploration and abuse – both among children and teens, and into adulthood.
And just as the pre-Churban was filled with ignorance and denial, many in our communities today, vehemently reject the reality of our ongoing churban. There is somehow this sense of “if we don’t discuss it, it doesn’t exist.” But it does exist. Just ask the therapists, the hotlines, the treatment centers, and the thousands of silent, stoic survivors. The incestuous abuse, the institutional complicity and enabling, the mikvaos, chadarim, and batei knessios that, instead of being places of purity, harbor the most heinous of crimes.
Our broken, burning homes.
When will the safety of our children, our future, take precedence over our communal image-based ego?
How do we rebuild? What is the tikkun of this sin so awful that we make excuses to avoid addressing it?
How do Jews repair anything?
We face the truth.
We turn to G-d and humble ourselves.
We acknowledge the cognitive dissonance.
Teshuva. Confess. Admit this happens. Remorse. Repent. Do better. Much better.
We protect the next generation, by arming them with knowledge and boundaries.
Hold predators accountable, and support reporting.
Cameras in every classroom, monitored and attended.
Don’t bless young people to build a “bayis ne’eman b’yisrael” but then give them faulty bricks.
Teach whole, real Torah sources, with nuance, compassion, and breadth, not radical distortion and systemic pathology.
Teach children and teens about their feelings and bodies, how to respect theirs and others’ and how they work.
Teach autonomy and consent.
Teach young people communication and relationship skills, so they can create healthy families.
Let’s get to work healing and rebuilding all our homes so we can finally go home.
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Elisheva Liss, LMFT is a psychotherapist in private practice. Her book, Find Your Horizon of Healthy Thinking, is available on Amazon.com. She can be reached for sessions or speaking engagements at firstname.lastname@example.org More of her content can be found at ElishevaLiss.com