Intimacy, modesty and sexuality
When two people get
together in an attempt to create a oneness as it says, and they
shall become one flesh - how do two human beings, both being
physical beings, how do two physical beings become one? The literal
meaning, the simple meaning is, you have a child. When two people
get together and a child is born, in that child, the two have become
one. Actually, numerically, when two becomes three, then thereís an
oneness. Thereís a oneness in the child.
But in the husband
and wife, in the man and woman themselves, how do they experience a
So we might say,
that when the Torah says, that a man and a woman should become one,
the instruction is not addressed to the two of them, it is addressed
to each of them separately. So G-d is saying to the man become one,
and He is saying to the woman, become one.
In the same way, or
in the same analogy of experiencing G-dís Oneness to the exclusion
of ourselves, in considering that itís His world and His kitchen and
His plan and His reality and we are guests, in the same way when you
enter someoneís life, particularly someone elseís intimate life,
that realization that you are in someone elseís kitchen and that you
donít belong there and you donít become a partner, in any way at all
- that is an experience of oneness. Not - you feel one with - you
experience the oneness of the other. The exclusive reality of the
other in which you are present but you donít belong. Just like in
the world, we experience the Oneness of G-d, meaning the
exclusiveness of G-d, in whose presence we are but donít belong.
In the times of the
first Bais Hamikdash, the work of the Kohen Gadol was to go into the
Holy of Holies once a year, to bring in the burning incense, and say
a short prayer. Other than that the Holy of Holies was off limits to
everybody because unlike the front chamber, the outer chamber where
the average kohen did his work every day - lighting the menorah,
changing the bread and so on - in the Holy of Holies no one was
allowed, not even a kohen. Because the Holy of Holies is G-dís room.
Thatís G-dís place. And so if itís G-dís, nobody else can come in,
Now in the times of
the Second Temple, we are told that the caliber of the, of the kohen
was not as great during the First Temple, during the first Bais
Hamikdash, and so what would happen, the Kohen Gadol being unfit for
the, for the position, would go into the Holy of Holies on Yom
Kippur, and have an inappropriate thought and would die in the Holy
of Holies. Which would create a great problem, because how do you
get him out? So they instituted this custom of tying a rope around
the Kohen Gadolís ankle when he went into the Holy of Holies, that
should he die, they just drag him out. Thatís how predictable, how
common it became for the Kohen Gadol to die.
So the Rebbe once
pointed out that though itís generally a negative description of the
kohanim in the times of the Second Temple, but on the other hand the
Rebbe said, look how much they were willing to risk for a few
moments in the Holy of Holies.
What does it mean
that a person is selected out of the entire nation to be the Kohen
Gadol, and this Kohen Gadol was unfit for the job, and so he died
because of inappropriate thoughts during those fifteen minutes in
the Holy of Holies. How special do you have to be? How great do you
have to be, to be able go into the Holy of Holies and, and keep your
mind on what youíre doing for fifteen minutes? So even if they
werenít of the same caliber as previous generations - they werenít
as holy - you canít do something for fifteen minutes without your
You say to the
Kohen Gadol, I understand that youíre the only person that goes into
the Holy of Holies. He would say, the Holy of Holies is off limits
and nobody goes there, nobody. You say, but I heard that the Kohen
Gadol is the exception, the Kohen Gadol goesÖ. And again he says,
ďNobody goes there.Ē You say, let me get this straight, were you in
the Holy of Holies last Yom Kippur? He says, yes. And the year
before that? Yes. How many years have you been Kohen Gadol now?
Letís say he says eighty. There was a Kohen Gadol who, who was Kohen
Gadol for eighty years, which means he must have lived to be a
hundred at least, because you donít start until youíre twenty.
So he was a Kohen
Gadol for eighty years, so eighty times you have gone into the Holy
of Holies, is that right? ďYes.Ē So youíre the guy who goes there.
Again he says, ďNobody goes there. Youíre not allowed to go there -
even, even the suggestion is horrifyingĒ. What do you mean nobody
goes there? ďNobody goes there. You die if you go there.Ē But youíre
the exception. ďThereís no exceptions - nobody goes there - never.Ē
So whatís the
story? The story is very simple. By the very definition the Holy of
Holies means no one belongs there - no one. Because itís the Holy
of Holies. So even if you are a holy priest, a holy kohen, this is
the Holy of Holies - you donít belong there. Angels donít belong
there. And therefore nobody goes there. And anyone who goes there
dies, from the holiness. Not as a punishment, but simply dies from
the holiness. On Yom Kippur, G-d asks the Kohen Gadol to come into
His room. The Kohen goes in, does whatever it is G-d wants him to do
and he walks out. He backs out.
If the Kohen after
the third, fourth, fifth, tenth time walks into the Holy of Holies
and experiences a slight feeling of recognition, the room is
starting to look familiar, itís starting to feel a little bit
comfortable, because heís the Kohen Gadol and the Kohen Gadol does
go into the Holy of Holies, that thought, that feeling, was the
inappropriate feeling that they would have, for which they would
die. Because the way it should be, properly, is when the Kohen Gadol
goes into the Holy of Holies he is keenly aware of the fact that he
doesnít belong there. While heís there, he feels I donít belong
here. As soon as he starts to become a little bit comfortable, as
soon as he starts to become a little bit familiar, he dies. Because
he is violating the privacy.
Very much like if
when someone invites you to the house and says make yourself at
home, as long as you behave yourself, everything is fine but as soon
as you start becoming a little too familiar, now youíre not a guest
anymore, now you are an intrusion. Itís different. You can have a
guest in your house, and your house is still your private domain.
But a guest that starts rearranging the furniture, itís not your
private domain anymore. The privacy is being tampered or compromised
and that canít be.
So when somebody
compromises your privacy, you could lose it. It stops being private,
it stops being yours. But with G-d, you canít compromise His
privacy, itís absolute. So any compromise of the privacy, ends up
not in His loss, but in your loss. So with the Kohen Gadol, it
wasnít the room that was violated, it was him - he died. Because you
canít compromise an absolute privacy. So the proper intimate
experience of the Kohen Gadol going into a place where no one goes,
including himself, the experience is a mixture of awe and joy.
Rejoicing in awe. Interesting combination - sweet and sour.
Rejoicing in awe.
On the one hand,
the awe is because I donít belong here at all - I donít fit, itís
not proper, Iím not qualified, I donít deserve, I donít belong, Iím
way out of my league here. And on the other hand, what in the world
is more exciting than being where you cannot go. So thereís that
mixture. And when the Kohen Gadol would come out of the Holy of
Holies at the end of that Yom Kippur, he would make a party.
Technically, he was partying his survival. He was celebrating his
survival. That he got out alive. There must be something a little
deeper than that as well. He was celebrating because the experience
calls for a celebration.
By right - not by
religious principle nor by spiritual sentiment - by definition, one
human being may not ever enter another human beingís intimate life.
By definition, intimate means exclusive. You cannot say almost
exclusive. Thatís an oxymoron. You canít have an almost exclusive.
So if intimate means exclusive, there canít be an exception to where
itís mostly exclusive, almost always exclusive - that canít be. Then
itís not exclusive at all.
So by very
definition, a personís intimate life is exclusive and off limits
always and to everyone. If itís shared, if intimacy is shared, it no
longer is intimate and it immediately dies. In this case, itís not
the person that dies but the intimate space that dies. That which
once was intimate or sacred or exclusive is no longer intimate or
sacred or exclusive. Why? Cause someone was there. It has been
permanently removed from the category, from the classification of
sacred or exclusive. How then are two human beings supposed to
Exactly the same
way the proper Kohen Gadol enters the Holy of Holies. When youíre
invited into the intimacy of another personís life, the deadliest
thing, the most damaging thing is a little bit of familiarity. The
Kohen Gadol can go into the Holy of Holies without compromising it.
If while he is there, he is keenly aware of the fact that he doesnít
belong, then he hasnít compromised it at all. He entered there by
invitation, not by right. He entered the Holy of Holies, out of
obligation, out of service, not out of familiarity.
So even after
eighty years, he is horrified if you suggest that he goes there - he
doesnít go there, itís a place he does not go.
And itís true with
entering the intimacy of another personís life. Everybody knows that
a married couple share intimacy. And yet, common decency dictates
when in public behave as if there is nothing intimate going on. Why
do we do that?
That is a
misunderstanding of the whole notion of intimacy. Intimacy is not a
secret. Itís not hidden. Intimacy is the recognition that one never
belongs in another personís intimacy, never. The fact that there is
an occasion where an intimacy does take place, doesnít change the
fact that this is something we do not do. Because as soon as it
becomes something we do, you changed its, youíve changed its
definition - itís no longer intimate. So hereís an interesting
definition. Intimacy means two people doing something they do not
do. They do not do. But as soon as it becomes something they do,
itís dead. Itís finished.
Hereís the oneness
- when at that moment of intimacy between husband and wife, you are
keenly aware of the fact that this is an exclusive place - you donít
belong there. Only one master to this palace, not shared, no
partnership, no familiarity that repeats itself for eighty years. In
the eightieth year it is as sacred, as off limits, as exclusive as
the first day.
Thatís G-dís Oneness
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