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True Confession

By Tzvi Fishman
11/17/2009, 12:00 AM

Readers who don't like blogs dealing with sexual transgression can skip this letter sent to our jewishsexuality.com website. Others who realize the scope and seriousness of the problem, will find certainly appreciate its candor and insights:

Dear Site Adminstrator:  

I thought I would share some of my own thoughts and experiences with
this forum. I think it might be valuable to some of you. My intended
audience are people who are basically believing Jews - who know that G-d
rewards and punishes and all of that, yet who cannot always overcome
their temptations.

I'm imagining that many of you are basically ordinary people, say who
are young and single. Your urges are pretty strong at this stage of life
-- we all went through that once upon a time -- and they often get the
better of you. Yet eventually you would like to outgrow this stage,
settle down and get married. You'd certainly rather enjoy a kosher and
healthy married life -- with a real-life partner -- rather than the
lewdness and emptiness of closeted pornography.

Now, for most of us, thinking about the rages of Hell -- although we all
believe in it with full hearts -- really does not help us all that much.
It's far too remote and distant, and the Internet delivers addictive
gratification much sooner. Although we all know we'll pay up one day in
full currency, it's too hard to really conjure up such thoughts and
modify our behavior on account of it.

I would therefore like to suggest a different and more immediate
scenario -- because it's exactly what happened to me.

Rather than imagining after 120 years, imagine say 5-10 years down the
line. You hope to be married to a beautiful woman and enjoy a loving,
romantic, and completely kosher relationship with your life partner.
Nothing wrong with that; it's 100% permitted. Every young man wishes for
such. Now I could go on that the relationship will not really be as
special as it should if you have much-more-enticing pornographic images
floating around in your head, but that kind of stuff is too intangible
to bother us much either. Yes, it won't really be the same -- and you
may even still be lured to peeping at more attractive bodies on the
side. (Your wife will *not* appreciate it if you spend a lot of time
ogling at her like a physical object.) And also -- as I'm sure you've also heard -- the
chances of building a strong and lasting relationship with a single
spouse is that much less likely since you'll long for cheaper, dirtier
thrills. But let's suppose you'll manage to outgrow your immaturity and
build a lasting and meaningful relationship with a woman you love. Will
your troubles be behind you?

One possible answer -- and it's one that happened to me -- is no. There
is another issue, entirely in the good L-rd's control: children. Whether
or not we merit having children -- and the health and quality of them --
is entirely in G-d's hands. Imagine that six months, twelve months,
eighteen months go by, and your wife does not become pregnant. Topping
it off, all of her friends are. You start going to doctors -- that in
itself a mortifying experience. And they don't find anything concrete or
easy to fix the matter (which is quite often the case in the field of
fertility). Just for some strange reason, conception is not occurring.
You try treatment, lighter treatment, heavier treatment, invasive
treatment --  with tortuous waits for the results, and nothing is
working. And the doctors really do not know why or what to do about it.
Fertility treatment is a very iffy field. So to speak, the doctors can
only lead the horse to water, but they cannot *really* make a woman
pregnant.

All the while your wife is becoming more and more and more miserable.
She wants to have children of her own. She doesn't want to be different
from virtually all of her friends. She wants to live the married life
*she* was dreaming of all her years. And instead of enjoying a romantic,
exciting sexual relationship with your wife, you'll spend your evenings
with a crying, miserable woman, attempting yourself to console her and
give her strength -- even though you are so unhappy yourself. And what
should have been the warmest, most loving -- and happiest -- part of
your life will become the most miserable.

And the worst aspect of it is that you will know deep down that you
yourself are the cause of your beloved's suffering -- because of that
stupid pornography you could not resist years back. When you're older
you'll find out that the worst form of suffering is vicarious suffering
--  when you see your loved ones suffer -- especially when you know you
are the cause of it. And you will not even be able to tell your wife and
tearfully apologize to her, for how could you ever tell her of your own
past lowliness and weakness and the damage you caused?

And above all else you'll be wishing in your head: "Why couldn't I have
controlled myself back then? Why did I have to ruin my own life and that
of my beloved whom I care for so dearly? Had I only known how much pain
and suffering my sinfulness would have caused, I would have never gone
that way. I could have saved myself then and felt *good* about myself
today. And today I'd be eternally reaping the benefits of my willpower
-- in both this world and the next."

Let me take a moment to describe my own experiences. At 44 today, I
thankfully came of age long before the World Wide Web with all its
ugliness existed. Yet my home was not without temptations. Although I
was a serious, upstanding yeshiva student, I succumbed to my own
passions occasionally. For a while I resisted, but then my resolve
weakened. There was a period of about three years in which I didn't have
control of myself -- where I slipped and constantly regretted it, hating
myself all the while. They were tough battles. I didn't go down without
a fight. And thank G-d, I won many of them too.

And then my married life thank G-d came along. After not too long we
merited two children --  well below the norm for the Orthodox
neighborhood(s) in which we lived, and far fewer than my wife, herself
one of seven, wanted. But more children did not come. Years and years
went by. And we endured such misery and crying night after night, that
none of you would ever want to experience what we did during those
years. (And we received much less sympathy than we would have wanted as
many couldn't understand what was so terrible about having two children.
We're not *childless*!) And we went through treatment after treatment to
no avail. Finally, after over seven years -- double my own weak period
-- we were blessed with another daughter. And -- corresponding to the
time I regained control -- we have since merited several more children
-- one without treatment at all.

That's about my story. In the end we survived it all, and apart from a
curious gap in our children's ages, I'd like to feel we merited to live
happily ever after. But the pattern between my weak periods and our
childlessness are unmistakable. The Midrash, quoting an earlier ethical
work, states: "If you forsake Me one day, I will forsake you for two."
G-d paid me double for my slips. And I thank G-d every moment for the
times that I did regain control.

One quick related postscript. Many Jewish sources, both Kabbalistic and
non-Kabbalistic (see for example Maimonides, Laws of De'os 5:4-5), write
that the quality of your children will depend on the modesty and
selflessness you exhibit during sexual relations. Your fantasies may
make you think in terms of very loose and dirty married behavior -- the
sort most wives would hardly appreciate, being treated like a filthy sex
object rather than an equal partner. But the more you're in it for your
own pleasure, the smaller, weaker, less healthy, and certainly less
spiritually-inclined your children will be. Marriage can and should be
beautiful, but as the innocent and heartfelt coming together of two
loving spouses. If, however, sex with your wife will be an act of
selfish taking -- the sort of stuff you're living for today, you can
expect --  even if you do merit children -- to be granted the sort of
children you deserve.

Anyway, I hope this was helpful to a few of you.