Part 19 – Fighting the Behemoth when you are at your Weakest
Let’s recap what we’ve learned.
In order to fully accomplish this mitzvah, all you have to do is control all of your actions, thoughts, your eye movements, speech, and even your dreams against the biggest urge in existence, for the rest of your life.
Sounds easy, right?
It’s not impossible. You may be telling yourself this, but it’s not. Many people feel this way at the beginning. Many people feel this way after they have been successful in the mitzvah of Shmirat HaBrit for years and are suddenly faced with a tempting billboard. The urge never leaves, the temptation is always lurking. The Satan wasn’t designed to take breaks.
What happens when we fail? What happens when we give it our all and, despite all of this, we still fall into the grasp of impurity? The sages talk about the greatness of this mitzvah. They warn us about the dangers of acting in contradiction to what is Commanded us. Do they have anything to say for those who sincerely wish to improve their lives, yet constantly fail every time they make a serious attempt?
Rabbi Nachman stated that every person, no matter how many sins he committed in the past can always turn it around and start over again. If a person continues trying over and over again despite all of the obstacles that are in his path, he is guaranteed that he will emerge victorious. Rabbi Nachman reminds us that part of the process of spiritual growth involves ups and downs. Some days you will feel spiritually strengthened. Then, when you wake up the next morning, you may not feel as strong as you once did. Don’t be alarmed, it’s natural. Hashem is merely taking off the training wheels and testing your ability to continue with less assistance. You have passed the test and now Hashem is “raising the bar” so to speak. This is especially applicable to people who exert themselves as much as they can, and still do something forbidden. We can pass 100 tests, and then face a greater temptation because Hashem is proud of us and wants to give us the opportunity to pass a harder test – and fail the first time. It’s okay. They key is to NEVER GIVE UP. Even if you try and fail hundreds of times, you need to keep getting up. You need to assess what it was that went wrong and determine what needs to be done to fix it. If you sincerely regret what you did, and do what needs to be done to prevent sinning in the future, even if you have to go through the process many times, in the end you will win.
After holding the laws of Shmirat HaBrit, I have noticed some recurring patterns. Every four to five months I get a “Niuf attack” (Niuf are impure fantasies). For whatever reason, all I want to do is think about sex. One part of my mind is daydreaming impure thoughts all the time, and the other part of my mind is screaming to Hashem that I am so sorry for thinking these thoughts. These periods in my life are extremely challenging. I can go for so long on such a comfortable spiritual level, and in a moment I am at war. I have consulted several Rabbis about this. One Rabbi told me that niuf is an emotional reaction to the uncertainties of life. If I am in a stressful situation, the “control” I “experience” during the fantasies put my mind at relative and temporary ease. He suggested O take an accounting of everything that was going on in my life and find out what was causing me the stress.
It worked, or so I thought. The niuf went away and I recaptured my mind. Five months later, I got another attack. This time I beat it by reciting Tikkun HaKlali every morning. After going through 3 of these phases of these attacks over 2 years, I came to an amazing conclusion. Every niuf attack preceded something wonderful in my life. In some cases, the attack happened right before I experienced a surge in spiritual energy. Sometimes it happened right before a great event in my personal life. It felt like right before Hashem blessed me with something spiritual or physical, the Satan was given the opportunity to give it his all to defeat me. This is wonderful news for all of us. It implies that if you are on the right path and suddenly it feels like you are about to lose everything – like you are up against something you can’t possibly beat – HANG ON!
It is at that very moment you are about to claim victory.
Whatever you do don’t fall into despair -- especially when you have a relapse. After we have an emission – for any reason – our first instinct is NOT to study. Not to pray. Not to go Shul. We say to ourselves that we are too dirty. We have sullied ourselves. This is the yetzer talking. It is precisely during those moments after you sin that you should run to the Torah. You should run to Shul. The morning after you make a mistake, you need to say to Hashem that you regret what you did. That you made a mistake. Make no delay in saying to yourself and to Hashem that you acknowledge you did something bad, and that you want to do tsuva for it as quickly as possible. There is nothing that says you cannot perform a mitzvah minutes after doing an avera. The key is to get right back up and fight.
Rabbi Nachman of Breslov stated that if you have a nocturnal emission during the night and the next morning you go to a mikveh and recite the Tikkun HaKlali psalms – you have nothing to worry about. Rebbe Nachman is prescribing tsuva within hours of this sin. Not only is it okay to do tsuva the moment after we commit a sin – it is encouraged!
When you perform a mitzvah, your soul is elevated. As your soul gains strength, you are given bigger tests. As you pass these tests, you get spiritually stronger, and stronger. Challenges that used to seem difficult are now simple. A lifestyle that once seemed impossible is now reality. As you go higher and higher, you can do more and more. Then, the unexpected happens. You fall down. You make a mistake. Immediately, your soul temporarily falls down to the level is was on before you began to strengthen yourself. Instinctively, you fall into despair. You feel bad that you committed this sin. You also feel as if it will be impossible to get up again. What was once a better reality is now, given the state of spirituality you have just fallen into, an impossible spiritual level to maintain? This is the easiest trap we can fall into. It is natural to look at the mountain we just fell off of and decide that it is too much effort to try to climb up it again. You need to remember that, this it is a big test. The first tsuva you can do in order to rectify the sin you committed is to look up and not down. The second tsuva is to immediately open a sefer, go to a minyan, or confess your sins directly to Hashem.
Don’t fall into the lie that this world has too many temptations for us to overcome. Don’t fall into the falsehood that because we don’t learn in Yeshiva 18 hours a day, this mitzvah is not for us. In fact, it is immensely harder for us to keep this mitzvah while dealing with everything we see in the city than it is for many Yeshiva students who never venture far from their modest communities. It is these tests that demand more from us which can bring so much light into the world. We have opportunities that very few people do. We are fighting a spiritual war on a battle front that can bring unparalleled victories to the Jewish People. There may be losses. There may be casualties. But this is a war of life and death. Don’t kid yourselves. Given the tenuous state of Jerusalem, the nuclear ambitions of Iran, and the serious dangers the Jewish People face all over the world, this battle is one of life and death.
Can any of us afford to give up?
When I was in basic training, I fell out on a run once. It was very embarrassing. That night, my Commander pulled me into his office and spoke very calmly. He said to me simply, “Dave, you can be slow, stupid, or sluggish. Our army can deal with almost any type of human frailty people have. The one and only one thing you can NEVER, EVER, do, is quit. The best soldiers are not the ones that run fast, shoot straight, or shine their shoes well. They are the ones that never stop fighting.”
We need to remember that forgiveness and salvation are still obtainable. Hashem is Merciful and Compassionate. The key is not to despair and to get up and try again. Desires are not eradicated. They come back from time to time. Sometimes, you can battle them, and defeat the forces of the Satan. The yetzer harah is turned back and Hashem is smiling from His throne in Heaven.
Then, when you least expect it, the satan attacks again. This time the assault on our senses is even worse. The urges are way over our heads. It feels like we cannot possibly overcome them. Sometimes, when you are alone, and you feel a little, well, heated, you cannot help but start fantasizing. You are truly overwhelmed with the irresistible urge to go onto a forbidden website, or see a forbidden image, and do a forbidden act.
Sometimes these massive urges hit us and it feels like we will go completely insane if we don’t obey them. What do we do in those situations? How do we combat them? Is there anything we can do?
When this specific urge hits us, it really hits us.
There are several things you can do to fight it right off the bat. The first is to run. Seriously. Promise yourself that whatever it is you want to do, you will do it, but in three hours. The urges are always fleeting. If you can resist them for as short as an hour, by the time the hour passes, you will be thinking about something else. If you can hold out for three hours, while the urge may or may not still be there, it won’t be as insanely intense as it was during the time you made the promise. These intense urges are not for long periods of time. Second, realize that you are in a wonderful position. As hard as it may be to contemplate at that very moment, you need to remember that the more strongly you are attacked by sexual urges, the greater rectification you perform when you fight and break them. Holiness is released from the power of the darkness that previously engulfed it. Sexual fantasies are sent to a person so that he will extract from the worst concentrations of darkness, the greatest sources of Divine light. The victory is Holy, but the battle is gruesome – and everybody gets dirty when they fight. Another way to escape when your urges rise to insane levels is to leave your home. We commit most of our sins when we are alone. Get out of the house. Go for a walk. Go to the diner and read a book. Go to a corner and talk to a friend. Go to Shul! Whatever you do, don’t turn on the TV, or go on the internet. Just go out and try not to be alone for an hour. One who breaks his sexual desires will have holy dreams.
Keep striving to be Shmirat HaBrit. Even if you fall, every day that you struggle, you are strengthening the foundations of your soul. Over time and it can be months, or years, or decades, the foundations of your neshama will be able to combat these urges – no matter how powerful they get!
It’s kind of like fighting a bully. Every month, this bully picks a fight with you. Every time he attacks, he beats you up. Knowing that you are easy prey, he keeps coming at you and you keep getting knocked out. One day, you can’t take it anymore. You go to the gym and start training. Every day you are in the gym – 30 minutes of weights, running, and hitting the punching bag. It’s not a lot, but gradually you begin to feel improvement.
Then, the dreaded day arrives. You are a little faster and a little stronger. The fight begins. Two minutes later you are lying on your back with a bloody lip. Instead of crying on the pavement, you pick yourself up. The next morning you go back to the gym. Diligently, you spend the next 30 days putting in the effort to get stronger for the next fight.
A month passes. Your lip has healed, and you are feeling better. The bully comes back and the fight begins. You can feel the improvement. This time it takes him 5 minutes to knock you to the floor. Once again, you are faced with the prospect of despair and you don’t succumb. You haul your bruised body back to the gym and promise yourself to work even harder for the next fight. It’s back to the gym for the 30 minute sessions.
Months and months of consistency have finally paid off. When the bully arrives, you are in the greatest shape of your life. You feel bigger, and faster, and the bully is going to have his hands full today. The fight begins. For 20 minutes, the bully hits you with everything in his arsenal. As you fight back, you sense his knees about to buckle. You feel as if victory is in sight. You never fought this hard for anything before. All your efforts have led up to this moment. The moment where you are about to experience the greatest victory of your life. Just as you are about to deck the monster for the very first time –
He comes at you with an uppercut from nowhere.
Like every other month, you are lying on your back. All you can do is say to yourself that it doesn’t matter. You can try as hard as you can end exert yourself to the max, but it doesn’t matter – he still gets the best of you. Why bother trying if the results are going to be the same? It would be easier to just let him win. That way, you would have an extra 30 minutes each day to do whatever you wanted.
This is the moment of truth. This is where the ultimate battle is won or lost.
You realize that if you quit now, he will get the best of you for the rest of your life. He will literally ‘own’ you every time. If there was ever a time to reach deep inside yourself for strength, this is it.
You decide to do the impossible – you keep fighting.
Against a beaten body and a broken spirit, you get yourself to the gym. Every day, no matter how much your willpower has betrayed you, you force yourself to the gym for your 30 minute workout. Mentally and physically, you exert yourself like never before. When the month is up, you are in peak physical condition.
Then, the dreaded day arrives.
The fight begins. Five minutes pass and you are still on your feet. Then 10 minutes, then 20. This goes on for 30 minutes. The bully hits you harder and harder. You fight back with every ounce of energy you can muster. Forty five minutes into the fight, right when you are getting your second wind, something happens that you have never seen before.
The bully stops fighting. He simply gives up and walks away. It is the greatest victory of your life. For that moment, you feel ten feet high.
I wish I could say that you have beaten him for good. I wish I could tell you that he will never return to fight you again.
That’s just not the world we live in. Hashem didn’t create the world so we could come close to Him just once in our lifetimes. He didn’t create man so we could fight for His Light and then call it a day. He wants us to always win battles for Him. He wants us to constantly build merit for ourselves, the people we love the most, all of our brothers and sisters in the Nation of Israel.
Only Moshiach can kill the bully. In the future, only he will be able to defeat the Satan and destroy the yetzer hara for good.
As for us, we will have to go back to the gym tomorrow. The bully will be back. He will be bigger and stronger and you have to keep fighting every day to be fit enough to fight him off the next time he attacks.
Each time you push a lustful thought out of your mind, or turn away from an erotic image, or break free from the prison of insane urges, you are making a great tikkun in all of the spiritual worlds. Every victory over the yetzer hara weakens the power of the forces of darkness in the world, and exalts the Name of Hashem more than any other action. This comes directly from the Zohar.
This means that we can do so much good for the entire world every time we fight the bully. Baruch Hashem!
Have confidence that a person who comes to purify himself is granted Divine assistance. A small victory that one achieves while battling the forces of darkness on the streets of Manhattan, can be more precious in the eyes of Hashem than a big victory achieved in streets of Meah Sharim.
What if you are a senior citizen? What if you have been faithfully married for decades? Are you someone who needs to learn this? An elderly man can have sexual thoughts. He can look at immodestly dressed women in the street or on the internet. We must remember that the sin of pgam habrit is one of the mind. The mind has a greater propensity to work at full capacity long after the body is capable of. The sins and tikkunim for these specific acts are just as close to someone who is 80 as it is to someone who is 20.
Everybody is involved if this battle between the Children of Edom (Greece – Rome – Europe – America) and the Children of Israel.
David Fink is the Editor-in-Chief of the daily investment newsletter, Real Wealth Recon. In 2008, his Real Wealth portfolio MADE MONEY, outperforming the three major indices by 38%, and the average Hedge Fund by 25%. For $99 a year, you get David’s daily market commentary, instant emails for every trade he makes, total access to David’s portfolio, and a weekly review of the major articles published around the world. Why hand over your hard earned money to someone in a suit saying “trust me.” Keep your money and trust yourself. Join the elite investors who are making money this year, and tell Wall Street: YOU’RE FIRED!