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Ask the Rabbi
News & Call-In with Tamar Yonah
Before making Aliyah to Israel, Tzvi Fishman was a Hollywood screenwriter. He has co-authored 4 books with Rabbi David Samson, based on the teachings of Rabbi Kook, Eretz Yisrael, Art of T'shuva, War and Peace, and Torat Eretz Yisrael.
A year ago, a Rosh Yeshiva phoned me, asking if I would meet with a depressed and troubled yeshiva student who had sought out his help in a private matter. The youth confessed to him that he had a big problem with masturbation. Before coming on aliyah from America, he had been to several Sexaholics Anonymous meetings, but it hadn’t seemed to help. The Rosh Yeshiva asked me to bring my book, “Secret of the Brit,” and sit and learn with the boy.
Every now and again, I receive similar phone calls. Although the problem is very widespread, most people are embarrassed to speak about it. The fact that this lad had the courage to admit his addiction was a good sign that he really wanted to be cured. Confessing one’s transgressions to a Torah scholar is a powerful step forward in the pathway of t’shuvah. The shame that the penitent feels effects a great cleansing. Since G-d is always willing to forgive those who return to Him in sincere repentance, the boy had already achieved a big chunk of his atonement. Like so many others, he simply needed a ladder to clutch onto, in order to climb out of the abyss into which he had fallen.
Though I have a long and impressive beard that may even seem formidable to some, I can still speak the language of the “chevre,” so I was able to put the boy at ease and make him feel that his problem was a common one that could certainly be overcome. Like so many others, he was a victim of Internet pornography, not the hard stuff, but the girly photos and clips that are everywhere available in cyberspace.
Typically, while the 20 year-old baal t’shuva had given up cheeseburgers and bacon, he was still addicted to pretty women and spilling semen in vain, considered to be among the gravest of sins. Many times, offenders simply don’t know the gravity of their wrongdoings, since the matter is not openly taught. So I explained to him many of the devastating blemishes which masturbation causes, including the feeling that one is caught off from the Torah, prayer, and everything holy, a feeling that he readily confirmed.
After getting an idea where he was holding and what remedies he could handle, we worked out a t’shuva program to help reduce the powerful sexual tensions which brought him to succumb again and again. First, he agreed to download an Internet filter without knowledge of the code, so he couldn’t by-pass the blocking of all erotic content. He also agreed to increase his Torah learning; immerse in a mikvah twice a week; followed by the recital of the “Tikun HaKlali” and a session of “Hitbodadut;” and to recite once a week the midnight lament, known as “Tikun Hatzot,” over the destruction of the Jerusalem and the Beit HaMikdash, to increase his giving of charity, according to his means, and to faithfully follow a daily work-out routine of jogging, push-ups, and any other exercise which he enjoyed. Finally, we spoke a little about the benefit and beauty of marriage, as the ultimate tikun.
During the time we learned together, I explained to him the practical and mystical importance of these measures, and the importance of exercise in the battle against the “yetzer hara,” a struggle that demands a strong and healthy body to win the fight. After that initial meeting, he phoned me a few times with questions, and then I didn’t hear from him again.
B’kitzur, to be concise, he called me this week with the good news that he has been clean now for more than half a year and that he had gotten engaged!
It’s a difficult battle, but it’s a battle which can be won. Now, during the time of Shovavim, it’s a good idea for everyone to pick at least one of the items on the list and add it to his spiritual repertoire. Our Sages tell us that even the righteous amongst us are prone to fall in this area, so don’t pretend that you don’t need to do any t’shuva. Doing a little extra reading at www.jewishsexuality.com is a good place to start.
There’s only two more weeks to “Shovavim,” so if not now, when?