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Summertime Strategies

It is no coincidence that parshas Shelach is read at the threshold of summer vacation
As we head into the summer months, we must equip ourselves with a strategy to navigate one of the great nisyonos of our time. Toward the tail end of parshas Shelach (read this week in Eretz Yisrael) the Torah issues a commandment that, at times, can be one of the most difficult to fulfill. “V’lo sasuru acharei levavchem v’acharei eineichem,” the Torah says. “And you shall not stray after your heart and your eyes.” This is counted as one of the 613 commandments, the obligation to refrain from looking at that which is indecent and immodest. It is no coincidence that parshas Shelach is read at the threshold of summer vacation; it serves as a resonant reminder of our mission to think higher, see higher, and, ultimately, live higher.


Rabbeinu Bechaye (Yisro, 19:3) teaches us that the performance of a mitzvah inspires an eis ratzon, a moment of auspiciousness, in Shamayim. Any tefillah offered during those precious moments is incredibly powerful. Women daven when lighting Shabbos candles, says Rabbeinu Bechaye, for precisely this reason. Lighting Shabbos candles is a mitzvah, and thus an opportune time to daven. Imagine, then, how much greater one’s power of tefillah is when the mitzvah being performed comes with mesirus nefesh!

Turning away from an improper image is a prime example; it’s not just a mitzvah, it’s a mitzvah that demands sacrifice! Shomrei Emunim writes that any tefillah uttered at the time of overcoming a powerful challenge in shemiras einayim will not go unanswered. So, when confronted with a nisayon, take a deep breath and… daven! This focus will help dull the temptation, and in the process, merit so much blessing.

Try taking this perspective: This experience isn’t a challenge, it’s an opportunity! Hashem wants to give me special brachah, and here is my key to access it. Rather than look, let me daven, and merit brachah that I never could have imagined possible.


The Gemara in Yoma (86b) shares an alarming teaching. Although we know that Hashem will always accept our sincere teshuvah, certain sins require additional elements. Some require suffering, and in the case of chillul Hashemchas v’shalom, even death. It’s a frightening teaching, but there is no need to despair.

In his sefer Darkei Hateshuvah, Rav Eliezer Nachman Puah (a student of the Rema MiPanu), quotes the Gemara in Nedarim (64b) which tells us that a blind person is considered as if he’s dead. Says Rav Eliezer Nachman Puah, if a person who physically cannot see is considered dead, then certainly one who chooses to be “blind” for the sake of Hashem is given that same status.

The moment one shuts his eyes, the gates of teshuvah — even for the gravest sins — are open. Use that eis ratzon to think to yourself, “Hashem, I want to do teshuvah!” And Hashem will then bring atonement for all sin.


AT the close of Sefer Bereishis, the Torah tells us a detail that doesn’t seem to be especially important. “Vayar Yosef l’Efraim bnei shileishim, gam bnei Machir ben Menashe yuldu al birkei Yosef— Yosef saw children of the third generation of Efraim; the children of Machir son of Menashe were also born upon Yosef’s knees.” What is the Torah teaching us with this detail?

Earlier, in parshas Vayeishev, we learn of Yosef’s severe challenge with the wife of Potiphar. Yosef resisted, in the Torah’s words, “Vayema’ein — and he refused.” On the word “vayema’ein,” there is a cantillation note (trop) that is found only three other times in the Torah — the shalsheles. The word shalsheles can be translated as a lineage — a chain of dynasty. The shalsheles appearing here on the “vayema’ein” teaches us that, through refusing to capitulate to temptation, one’s merit reverberates through the generations and he will live to live to see a rich descending lineage.

For this reason, the Torah concludes Sefer Bereishis by telling us that Yosef merited to see three generations from Efraim. “Bnei shileishim,” the Torah calls it — the word shileishim sharing the same root word as shalsheles. This is the final message of Sefer Bereishis. If one stands strong in his resolve, he will merit to see blessed generations.


One of the great undercurrents pushing us to succumb to the immediate rush is the “fear of missing out,” colloquially known by its acronym, FOMO. In our minds we think, “if I don’t look, then there’s this fleeting moment that will be gone forever.” This apprehension can be challenged by a simple concept. And that is — you never miss out.

The Gemara in Menachos (44a) tells of a fellow who couldn’t resist the temptation to engage in an illicit relationship with a woman of Roman royalty. Miraculously, his tzitzis hit him in the face and that jolted him to the reality of the gravity of the sin he was about to commit. The woman, inspired by what she had witnessed, approached Rabi Chiya and told him that she wished to convert to Judaism. Once Rabi Chiya was able to ascertain that her aspirations were sincere, he advised her that, upon conversion, she should marry this very man who had almost sinned with her.

This gemara teaches us a truth articulated by the Vilna Gaon (Even Shleimah, 2:1). And that is that resisting sin never results in actual loss. Ultimately, whatever it was that you stood to gain will come back to you, in a permissible manner. The Steipler, in Kraina D’igarta (1:133), repeats this lesson. You never lose out. It will always come back.


Rabbi Daniel Glatstein is the mara d'asra of Kehilas Tiferes Mordechai in Cedarhurst, New York, and author of numerous seforim in Lashon Hakodesh and in English for ArtScroll. He is an international lecturer and maggid shiur. His thousands of recorded shiurim are available on Torahanytime.com, his website rabbidg.com, and other venues.


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 964.

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