Positive Vision - Day 33
Rabbi Avrohom Neuberger
Our weekly excerpt from the book "Positive Vision"
Day 33 - Dying for the Cause - Yeihareig V'al Ya'avor
The Torah's punishments serve a twofold purpose.
On the one hand, like all punishments, they serve as a deterrent. Fear of punishment sets us straight.
But they serve another purpose as well. They convey the severity of the crime.
For instance, flipping a light switch on Shabbos seems like a pretty trivial thing, but if you would see your six-year-old son doing so (ch"v), you would quickly and forcefully "explain" to him that he must desist. If your non-Jewish neighbor happened to be in your house and observed you getting bent out of shape over such a seemingly insignificant matter, he would doubt your sanity. A frum neighbor, however, would not be surprised at all. For the latter, teaching a child not to flip a switch on Shabbos is like training him not to walk into a busy intersection. The magnitude of shmiras Shabbos has been burned into our collective consciousness, and all Jews instinctively know how critical observing Shabbos is to a Jew.
But how did we get here? How did Hashem convey to us the significance of keeping the laws of Shabbos? How does every Jew know how consequential Shabbos really is?
Hashem communicated it to us by (among other things) assigning the harsh punishment of stoning for one who performs melachah, forbidden labor, on Shabbos.
We don't often think about it, but inyanei kedushah are also subject to extremely harsh guidelines. Arayos is one of three capital sins for which one is obligated to give up his life. This requirement extends not only to the sin itself, but even to something related to sins (abuzrayu d'arayos), where the actual sins will not be committed.
This law impresses upon us the severity of the prohibition with which we are dealing. In certain cases, one must be willing to sacrifice his life in order to preserve his kedushah!
We also catch a glimpse of the severity of the transgression from the fact that the Torah generally leaves it to Chazal to construct safeguards for sinning, but in the case of arayos, the Torah itself constructs safeguards, and thus prohibits touching, seeing, and even thinking about arayos.
These restrictions are like signs stating, "Danger! No Trespassing! High-Voltage Wires!" Do not even approach the sin of arayos because the damage done is unfathomable.