Our Duty to Protect the Our Youth’s Purity

[Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah – Ki Tisa 5773 – translated by R. Blumberg]


Religious youth, say the educators, face enormous difficulties and harsh struggles against the evil influences drifting towards us from the West. It truly is not easy to grapple with those challenges, and there are no tricks that will solve the problem of those constant temptations.

One thing is clear however. It is forbidden for us to embroil our youth in frameworks that contradict Halachah, in other words, mixed-gender youth groups. The existence of a mixed youth group has not been permitted by any Torah-learned decisor of Jewish law. No halachic responsum could rule, based on sources from the Talmud or Shulchan Aruch that this is permissible. Sometimes, however, says Rashba, we need to look the other way (Shut Ha-Rashba 5:238). It is not always possible to rectify everything at once. Sometimes gradualness is needed. If instead of massive corruption we get partial or minor corruption that too an be considered progress.

At first, religious youth were drawn towards secular youth movements, right wing or left.

Ultimately, there arose a possibility of joining a religious youth movement. True, it was mixed, but so were the secular youth movements. Thus, our youth were being saved from a greater prohibition by a lesser prohibition. This is the reason that the Rabbis averted their gaze, and sometimes even viewed this youth movement as a blessing or as progress in the direction of saving youth.

Yet the moment this is transformed to ideology, to something good a priori, we are lost.

After all, shortcomings are found everywhere. There is no person on earth so righteous that he does only good and never sins. There is no youth movement on earth which does only good and never sins. Yet when it admits that it is duty-bound to advance and to improve, then it is  worthy of its name. If it calls bad “good,” what will its future be?

There is a ruling in Shulchan Aruch: “A man must distance himself greatly from women” (Shulchan Aruch, Even Ha-Ezer, 21:1). Obviously, this does not apply to a married couple, who must become exceedingly close to one other. This is not the place to elaborate on the meaning of “distancing oneself greatly.” For that we must study Jewish law. One thing is clear, however. A mixed-gender youth group is not an example of males and females “distancing themselves greatly” from each other, but of their “becoming exceedingly close,” something that is forbidden from every possible angle.

Even in the water-drawing celebrations of Succot, there was rigid separation of the sexes, despite such celebrations constituting holy occasions in the Temple, as our sages explained at length at the end of Tractate Sukkah (51-52).

There is no dispensation to allow for mixed youth activities, either in the home or school and certainly not in the youth group. I am not saying that we should take a staff and smite youth who mingle co-educationally, but the situation must be rectified. The first step is to teach that something here requires rectification. It is true that this is not the only thing that requires improvement, but this process of rectification will add much purity and holiness.

Thank G-d, we must rejoice over the constant improvements taking place among religious Zionist youth. There is already a non-mixed youth movement, and even among the mixed youth groups, non-mixed branches are being established where separate activities are run. This is an exceedingly blessed development which must be strongly reinforced.