Part 16 – Focus you mind
Great is penitence for it brings healing to the world, and an individual who repents is forgiven, and the whole world is forgiven with him.
Talmud, Yoma 86A
It is illegal in the US to touch women if she doesn’t want to be touched. There are also laws which prevent a man from talking with a woman in an inappropriate manner. However, there are no criminal laws against looking at them. You are not physically making contact. Nor are you saying to her word one. Legally, you can glue your eyes to her as she walks by, drink in her physical appearance, and walk away without fear of an arrest or lawsuit. It may be legal according to the law of the land, but it isn’t according to the Torah. This is a big sin. Looking at a woman’s beauty creates seed in the brain, which seeps down the spine, and rests in ones bowels until it is spilled out. This built up seed can be expelled through a dream, after urination, or from masturbation – May Hashem forgive us!
Admittedly, this sin is very difficult for our generation. There is intense social pressure for a woman to show off as much of her physical appearance as possible. There are no mores that suggest a female cover up anything anymore. For a man, simply walking on the street invites a lot of visual temptation that is very difficult to overcome. This temptation is compounded with thousands of billboards all around us with pictures of inviting women. You can’t look at a storefront, newsstand, or bus without having to combat the desire to stare at the advertisement. Television is especially hard because even the shows “rated G” have women who may not be totally revealing in what they wear, but are suggestive in how they present themselves. This makes the challenge of shmirat ainayim, or, guarding the eyes, a very formidable one.
With all of this imagery around us, what do we do?
There is a great tikkun for this. Look at the tip of your nose. When you are walking by and you sense something attractive walking towards you. As much as you want look up – try resisting it. So what if you miss seeing the image. So what if you never get to see what this person looks like. Look to the left, look up, look at the tip of your nose. As long as you consciously try to focus on anything else, you are doing a great act of tsuva. According to the exertion is the reward for the mitzvah. In those few moments, you are significantly affecting all of the spiritual worlds all around us. Not bad for five seconds of work. This is one of the most amazing spiritual opportunities we have in this world. We can do so much in such a short period of time. We can exert ourselves and bring down masses of Divine Light for neshamot and our brothers and sisters HUNDREDS OF TIMES PER DAY! By putting on a baseball cap, and looking at the rim of the cap every time we want to stare at something, we can turn the subway into a Yeshiva with the amount of mitzvoth we can perform in just our morning commute!
Cleaning your home and guarding your eyes amounts to about 93% of all the temptations you face. The final step is the hardest. The ultimate battle for sexual morality is in the mind. The greatest challenge is to push back images of sex inside our heads.
You must be saying to yourself – How on earth can I accomplish that?
At least with one’s eyes, you can physically control what you see. With the TV, internet, and magazines, you have the ability to throw them out. We can physically eliminate over 90% of the temptations in our immediate surroundings.
This cannot be done with the mind.
In the words of Rabbi Yossi Mizrachi of Divine Inspiration, the human mind has over 10 trillion electrical connections to it. The dumbest man on the planet has a more sophisticated piece of hardware inside his head than the most complicated intercontinental telecommunications network.
Any image you see is burned in the mind – you never lose it. You can’t get rid of porn in your mind. Once you put it there, it’s there forever. It wouldn’t be unprecedented for man to fanaticize about something he saw 20 or 30 years ago.
You can’t erase it, but you can refocus it. The most important thing you need to know is something I learned at a shiur on Torah Anytime:
THE MIND CAN ONLY FOCUS ON ONE THING AT A TIME!
Remember this every time you start fantasizing about something inappropriate and you want to stop.
As long as you can think of another topic, your mind will divert away from that place of mental impurity.
Easier said than done, right?
Even if you consciously focus on business, politics, or on a Torah subject you learned, the fantasy is in the background of your mind. It is constantly at the door of your mind – pounding on it to get inside.
This is where the battle lies. The longer you focus on something else, the more the immoral fantasy will drift away in to the far recesses of your mind. Don’t be upset if the fantasies pop back into your head after a couple of minutes. The Satan tries to hit you when you least expect it. Some of these images are of your own doing. You will see something, and follow up those images with impure imagination. Sometimes these erotic sequences are not engaged by you. Your yetzer hara started it. The Satan was commissioned by Hashem to bring us to sin. Only in being tempted like this can we do a great tsuva and heal the world. According to the exertion is the reward. To control one’s mind is the ultimate exertion – especially in our generation. Do you realize how revolutionary this concept is? It means we don’t have to raise money, petition our congressman, or storm al-qaeda’s headquarters to change the world.
We can make the world a better place for everybody without even lifting a finger!
The Rambam states that a very big tsuva for a past sin is when we are put in the exact same situation where when we sinned, but this time we overcame the temptation.
There are so many sins that come from niuf (sexual fantasies).
How many of us start with niuf and end up masturbating?
How many of us start with niuf and end up watching porn?
How many of us start with niuf and end up at a strip club, massage parlor, or brothel?
Sexual thoughts are always entering our minds. If we can combat them, we are performing tsuva not only for the times we fantasized, but for all the actions that resulted from them.
It all starts with the mind – so let’s end it there!
It is best to always replace a thought with another thought. Try carrying a magazine or a book around. Whenever you start thinking impure thoughts, immediately recite the first two verses of the Shema – do it verbally or mentally. Then find a good article, whether it is Torah, politics, business, or sports, and start reading.
Every time you knock a sexual thought out of your mind you make a big impact on all of the spiritual worlds.
Once you have gotten to the level of annihilating temptation from your physical and mental worlds, you need to hold where you are. This is hard at first, but it will not remain impossible forever. The Satan will launch a counterattack. As you begin to raise your level of connection to Hashem, it will be very challenging. The Satan will fire at you by saying ‘Hey, you think you can hold this up forever? Can you really lift a 200 pound weight and keep it above your shoulders for all eternity?’ These moments will come. After you have won many victories against your lesser parts, you will see a drop dead gorgeous woman. Every impulse inside you will want her. By the time the moment arrives when you remind yourself that you no longer engage in the acts you are planning with her, you may realize how truly difficult remaining Shmirat HaBrit is. You may say to yourself that even if you find the strength to win this time, there is no way you can keep up this persistence forever.
There will be moments where you ask yourself ‘can I really do this? Can I really keep the 200 pound weight above my shoulders for all time?’
The answer is YES. Guarding the Brit isn’t about keeping a 200 pound weight above you forever. It is more like running 5 miles every day. The first couple of times you do it, you feel like it is the hardest thing you have ever done. When you are, you don’t think you can possibly do it again. The next time you go out, the runs seem less intense. After running 5 miles a day for 3 weeks, the challenge becomes easy. The run even feels pleasurable. By six weeks, it’s like a walk in the park. For Shmirat Habrit, the process is much the same. If there is a specific act that you want to refrain from, the first 40 days will be the hardest. It takes 40 days to fall into a good habit. Those are the days where the five miles will be extremely difficult. As time moves on, you get stronger and stronger.
Once the forty days are up, you have significantly distanced yourself from the act, and you will have amassed enough strength where staying away from a certain behavior will seem like a walk in the park. When the yetzer hara attacks with the excuse that you can’t keep this up forever, just remember that you don’t have to.
Just hang in for a little while and it will get more manageable. The Talmud teaches, “A man has a small organ – when it is starved, it is satisfied; when it is fed, it is hungry”
Every day will be a battle for the holiness of your eyes and your mind, and for all of Israel. Every day is also the opportunity for hundreds of victories for the forces of Hashem and His people. The Talmud tells us (Yoma 86A):
“Great is penitence for it brings healing to the world, and an individual who repents is forgiven, and the whole world is forgiven with him”
What happens when we fall down?
What happens when we clean up our homes, our eyes, and our minds. Very quickly, everything in our life becomes unbelievably better. We sleep less, we are more focused, and when we pray, we feel an intimacy with Hashem we never felt before. We find an inner joy we never knew existed. We are so happy, we thank Hashem every day for the joy of living.
And we still fall down? We still succumb to temptation?
What do we do?
For starters – we don’t give up. We figure out where we went wrong, what we need to fix, and get right back onto the battlefield. The greatest victory the Satan enjoys against the Jewish People is depression. The absolute worst thing any of us can do is to feel that all is lost.
It would be ideal if the path to redemption was like an elevator straight to heaven. Jewish history tells us that it just isn’t so. It would be wonderful to claim that the greatest Jews in the world never fell themselves. The Torah teaches us that out of the billions and billions of people who roamed the earth over the history of mankind, the total number of people that lived their entire lives and never committed a sin is four.
Everybody falls down. The great ones are those who get up every single time.
Every time you take a step towards Hashem, the forces of evil will double their efforts to stop you. As soon as you get comfortable with a mitzvah, and the Satan will launch a major counter offensive against you. You will be tested in every which way. Don’t be surprised if, in the process of stopping forbidden emissions, you have more ‘wet dreams’. This will go away. The sexual urge is the greatest one we have, and resisting it is the greatest challenge in our lifetimes. When you keep this mitzvah, you are winning the ultimate cosmic battle between good and evil. You are successfully resisting the desire for self gratification, and you are deflating your ego and literally sacrificing it to Hashem.
If we do tsuva, and then fall again, can we still do another tsuva? Will it be accepted? Do we get another chance?
The answer lies with King David. King David led an exemplary life. He was one of the few Jewish leaders who was a king, and a prophet. Despite the greatness of creating the first Jewish empire, he was the most humble of men. He feared his wealth because he didn’t want to receive all of the benefits of his righteousness in this world, but in the next. He allowed himself to be publicly reproached by Jewish Holy men, the prophets of his day. He made sure that the law of the land was not his law, but Hashem’s law – the law of the Torah. He was destined to build a Temple in Jerusalem where the Mishkan would permanently stand and the Jewish people would be able to perform hundreds of the 613 mitzvot in the Holy City.
Then he met Bat Sheva.
He saw her from a distance and like all of us, fell victim to a massive onslaught from the forces of evil. Even King David, who was the greatest, couldn’t resist this temptation. He had Bat Sheva’s husband sent to the front lines of battle to be killed. Once he was out of the picture, King David married Bat Sheva. The prophet Natan publicly criticized King David for sinning in such a matter. What would happen today if a national leader was accused of something like this? First, he would deny it. Then, he would find out how to humiliate the accuser with whatever personal information the leader could dig up about the person’s past. If that didn’t work, he would cut as many political deals as necessary to stay in power – even if those deals were at the expense of the welfare of his nation. King David was above all this. Instead of rebuking Natan King David remained true to his great humility. He publically admitted that he sinned against the Lord. This sin of sexual immorality created a stain on King David’s soul. He was punished in the worst way possible. He was forbidden from building the Temple. He would not be able to realize the ultimate dream of the Jewish people.
King David was a man who always worked on himself. He dedicated his life to coming close to Hashem. After he reached the level of national monarch and divine prophet, he fell down. He committed a sin and was punished for it.
Did he stop learning Torah? Did he give up all hope? Did he feel that he was no longer “Holy enough?” to pray and learn because he was now a “hypocrite?”
Just the opposite. He got right up off the floor and began doing tsuva for his actions. He spent the rest of his life atoning for that sin. This is the exact type of sin that we commit all the time. How often do we lie, cheat, and manipulate others to get what we want from them? How many people have suffered from our pursuit of sexual desires? The girl who wants endlessly for a phone call that will never come. The woman who has given up all hope of finding someone because the men only go out with her for a month. The poor soul who is forced into prostitution against her will because there is such a demand for it. The consequences of our actions show the ultimate result of what happens. Like King David, we can conquer Jerusalem, but we can’t build it.
Is there ever atonement? If we refuse to quit, and always struggle for tsuva, will it be fully accepted?
The product of King David’s marriage to Batsheva was his son Solomon. Of all of David’s wives, the successor to the throne would come from the very wife with which King David sinned. The tsuva he performed was so great that it would be King Solomon, son of David and Bat Sheva, who would build our Holy Beit Mikdash. We learn that if you fall, your tsuva can bring you even higher. This story is so important. You see, Solomon had a brother, Caleev. Caleev, was one of the only four men in all of mankind that never sinned in their lifetime. Why didn’t Caleev succeed his father David? Why didn’t Solomon step aside? Why wasn’t it the merit of a man who never sinned in his lifetime instead of Salomon who would build the Temple and to reign over the greatest era in Jewish history? What is history telling us? What does Hashem want us to learn?
In the place where the penitent stand, even the completely righteous are not able to stand.
This is how powerful Tsuva is!
To regret your past actions and actively try to improve yourself. To fall down, and to them get back up. To never say, “This is too holy for me. I’m not worthy to do this.” To not fall into despair and surrender to a life of mediocrity. This is tsuva. This is David ben Yishai. This is Solomon. This is US! The challenge to conquer sin is so great, the light we bring into the world is SO BRIGHT, that not even the completely righteous can attain it. We, sons of David, are here to fulfill this mission.
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!