All Sins Are Sexual

Double Mitzvah Jewrotica Parsha

Written by Sender Rozesz. Sender Rozesz is a practicing attorney with a background in Jewish pluralistic education for adults. Sender Rozesz is Jewrotica’s resident Double Mitzvah columnist. The views reflected in his writing represent his own personal views, and are not intended to reflect the views of any organizations, institutes or associations with whom he may be affiliated.

Rated PG-13

Yom Kippur is almost upon us, and there are few days that are quite as interesting, or that contain within them such contradictory elements as those that characterize Yom Kippur.

Thematically, Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the year. We dress in white, reminiscent of angels, and we avoid any of the distractions of our corporeal existence: we don’t eat, we don’t drink, we don’t anoint ourselves, we don’t have sex. We spend our day in prayer, and in ascending levels of spirituality. Beginning with the solemn Kol Nidrei prayer at the commencement of Yom Kippur, we move upwards in a crescendo of spiritual height until the climax of the Neilah prayer, in which G-d closes the heavenly gates behind us for a few last minutes of Divine intimacy with His people.

At the same time, Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement, and much of its prayers involve seeking atonement for our many sins. Indeed, almost ad nauseum, we confess our sins with a great degree of specificity and repetition. Theft, subversion, immorality – we discuss it all. Thus, we effectively spend the holiest, most sublime day of the year talking about our lusts.

Why discuss sinning on the holiest day of the year?

Last week, we touched lightly upon G-d’s ten Sefirot, His ten Divine attributes.These ten Sefirot can be grouped in many different configurations.One of the most common configurations, however, is as follows:

Chokhma, Bina and Da’at – Wisdom, Understanding and Knowledge – reflect G-d’s intellectual manifestation.

These, in turn, inspire Chesed, Gevurah and Tiferet – Kindness, Strength and Beauty – G-d’s emotional content, sometimes referred to as the two arms and torso of the Divine body.

The intellectual and emotional manifestations are processed through Netzakh and Hod – Victory and Splendor, sometimes referred to either as the Divine body’s two kidneys, which separate the nutrients from the waste, or as its two legs.

Then comes Yesod – Foundation. This represents the bond between Giver and Recipient that enables the anticipated transmission. A parent and a child have a natural connection that forms a bridge for a parent’s lessons and teachings. Between a man and woman, sexual chemistry and arousal creates the portal through which they will join, and the male’s seed will be be ejaculated into the female.

Finally, Malkhut – Kingship – reflects G-d’s thought and speech, His tools of ultimate expression.

As we discussed here, Yesod is sometimes referred to as the penis. As it states in Tikunei Zohar, Introduction II, recited every Friday afternoon, “Yesod Siyuma D’Gufa, Ot Brit Kodesh” – “Yesod is the end of the body, the sign of the Holy Covenant.”

Yesod is thus the Sefirah in which the powers of the preceding Sefirot coalesce into a concentrate – the semen, which is then transmitted into and via Malkhut. Malkhut, which is G-d’s feminine attribute, often referred to as the Shekhina – the Divine presence – takes the semen, nurtures it, develops it, and ultimately expresses it in the form of the “birth” of a new reality, with the holy purpose of increasing the awareness of G-d’s presence in the world.

The ten Divine Sefirot are mirrored in the corresponding ten attributes of the human soul. A human being, however, has the capacity to make wrong choices, and thereby to interrupt the proper flow of energy through the Sefirot. This potential for abuse is especially pronounced when it comes to Yesod, i.e. the misuse of the spiritual penis. If a person chooses not to direct his energy into Malkhut, but instead to divert his soul’s energy into non-holy channels, he betrays his covenant with G-d, by taking his G-d-given gifts (whether his vital seed or any other gifts, resources, or talents he possesses) and using them for self-indulgent or egocentric ends.

The Torah‘s account of the Jewish people’s journeys through the desert is replete with examples of crises instigated by the Erev Rav, the Mixed Multitude. The Mixed Multitude were a people that attached themselves to the Jews when they left Egypt, and Moses accepted them and took responsibility for them. Ostensibly, the Mixed Multitude were Egyptians that chose to throw in their lot with the Jewish people.

Kabbalah has a different perspective on the source of the Mixed Multitude, however, which helps frame their subsequent mischief and the deleterious impact of their actions and attitudes on the Jewish people. According to the Arizal, the souls of the Mixed Multitude were founded by the Divine sparks in the seminal emissions of Adam, the first man, during the 130 years that he was separated from Eve after their expulsion from the Garden of Eden. During that period, Adam continued to ejaculate, only this time there was no female recipient or counterpart; there was no Malkhut into which his energy was directed. Consequently, his misdirected seed resulted in a host of spiritual souls that would later torment his descendants, and seek to undermine their fulfillment of their G-dly mission.

In other words, all sins are ultimately sins of misdirected sexuality, which, in a sense contains, within it all other sins. This is why circumcision – and a circumcised penis specifically – is called a Brit, a covenant, which is also a word that describes the whole Torah as G-d’s covenant with the Jewish people. This is also why, in this week’s Parshah, Vayelech, when G-d forecasts that the Jewish people would sin after Moses’ death and turn to idols, the Torah states that they will “stray,” using the expression “V’zana,” from the word “Z’nut,” a word indicating sexual immorality. This also why the transgression of the Torah’s commandment is seen as a betrayal of the covenant of Yesod. Yesod is our connection with G-d; our intimacy, our sexual chemistry. When, instead of us reciprocating, we spend our energies elsewhere, it is the Sefirah of Yesod that bears the brunt of the offense.

Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement. It is the day that we are given, each year, as a gift, on which we can erase our sins, and renew our relationship with G-d afresh. It is the day on which we strengthen and rejuvenate our Yesod, and the day on which we ask G-d to inscribe us for a year of positive sexual energy – both with G-d and with each other – and for that positive energy to overflow and imbue every other aspect of our lives and existence with health, life and blessing.