Yisro: The Point System
Everyone understands why adultery is a sin. But what's the big deal about socializing with, talking to or looking at the opposite sex?
by Rabbi Lazer Brody
"You shall not commit adultery...You shall not covet your fellow's wife." (Exodus 20:13-14)
All of society understands the importance of the Seventh of the Ten Commandments, the prohibition of adultery. Adultery leads to a complete breakdown of society and to social anarchy. What's more, as we learn in the Mechilta, the reason adultery is subject to capital punishment the same way idolatry is, teaches that anyone who betrays the marital relationship can be expected to betray G-d. Adultery therefore is a quick way to self-destruct, Heaven forbid.
The above concept is crystal clear.
Yet, many find it hard to understand what the big deal is about socializing with, talking to or looking at the opposite sex. Let's put it this way: if you walk along the edge of a cliff, you might fall off. If you stick to the path that's fifty feet away from the edge, you're on safe ground. In our case, if you don't socialize with, talk to or look at the opposite sex, you don't create the possibility of coveting another person's spouse.
Whenever I teach the above concept to those who really want a "Judaism Lite" lifestyle, they still refuse to accept it. The typical question is, "So what's the big deal? Suppose in my heart, I'm turned on by the neighbor's spouse. I didn't do anything; didn't lay a finger on anything, didn't take anybody away from anyone. So why is this the Tenth Commandment? There's no robbing, stealing or bloodshed!"
The Tenth Commandment is a commandment that's based on emuna, just like the First Commandment. How?
There is no legal system in the world where coveting is prohibited. Why? Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch explains that a mortal can legislate against murder and theft, but only a Divine Lawgiver can demand that we sanctify our desires and thoughts. Only He is capable of judging a person as to the fulfillment or breach of this commandment.
One who therefore is careful about guarding his eyes, behaving modestly with the opposite sex, mingling in only minimal necessary ways and sanctifying his thoughts therefore shows that his belief in God is complete.
Let's make coveting even easier to understand.
You know about the "point system" in driving. A point system assigns point values to respective traffic violations in each state. When the Department of Motor Vehicles in a person's state receives a conviction notice from the court, the offense he/she committed is entered on their driving record and points are assigned. These points are counted during a specified time period. Once they accumulate a certain number of points, their license may be suspended; they might be required to attend a hearing, take a driver's education course, undergo a driver assessment reexamination, have their license suspended or lose their license altogether!
Coveting another person's spouse has a devastating effect on one's own marriage. The Zohar teaches that under the chuppa, a couple receives a bond of love that unifies them like one soul. This is a gift from Hashem to get the couple started in married life. But later, the couple must work hard to solidify and preserve this bond, for it is vulnerable. How so?
Imagine that the bond between a husband and wife is worth 100 points on their wedding night. They are enamored with each other and everything looks rosy. But, as the newness of their marriage wears off, or if routine sets in, Heaven forbid, or if they fail to guard their eyes and sanctify themselves especially in their interactions with others of the opposite sex, their bond is weakened. How? The Heavenly Court enacts the point system.
Looking at another woman is like going through a red light. Both are dangerous and both are penalized with 4 points. Just as the violator loses four points off his license (8 points usually requires remedial driving instruction while 12 points leads to suspension), a person loses 4 points off his bond with his spouse. They are now at 96 instead of 100. The more points they lose, the more they bicker. When the bond is further weakened, separation might occur, which is the marital version of a suspended license. In extreme cases, the marriage breaks up like losing one's license altogether.
A husband comes home and his wife yells at him, for what he thinks is unjustified. He doesn't realize that he looked at ten women that day and flirted with a secretary. He now comes home with only 56 points instead of 100. The wife's soul can feel that her husband's connection to her has weakened, and this makes her upset and jittery. No wonder she's yelling.
Hashem's point system is really accurate and it works everywhere, for His radar cameras can record exactly what's going on in our hearts.
Here's the good news: Rebbe Nachman says that if you believe you can ruin something, you must also believe that you can rectify it. There's a great remedial course that can restore all your points. It's called The Garden of Peace and The Garden of Purity. Read them and you'll have a 100-point marriage.
We can also understand why this week's Torah portion falls during the Shovevim Weeks – there's no time like the present that is so conducive to enhancing our personal holiness and to getting close to Hashem. That's what life is all about.
 - Midrash on Book of Exodus
 - A violation of the Second Commandment, "You shall not have any other god".
 - The 1st Commandment is the mitzvah of emuna, the mitzvah to believe in G-d
Rabbi Lazer Brody was born in Washington, D.C. in 1949. After receiving his bachelor's degree in agriculture from the University of Maryland in 1970, he moved to Israel and joined the Israel Defense Forces regular army, and served in one of the elite special-forces units. He is a decorated combat veteran of two wars and numerous of counter-insurgence and anti-terrorist missions on both sides of Israel's borders.
Rabbi Brody is the English-language editor of Breslev Israel's highly popular English-language website at www.breslev.co.il, and the founder and director of Emuna Outreach. Between Breslov Israel and Emuna Outreach, he devotes his time to spreading emuna and particularly the teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslev around the globe.
"Lazer Beams," Rabbi Brody's award-winning daily web journal, has been instrumental in helping tens of thousands of people around the globe find joy and fulfillment in their lives.