Posted on | October 24, 2006 | By Akiva | 40 Comments
Sexuality is a very touchy subject within the religious world, and understandably so. As I’ve tried to explain to my teenagers, this drive, right after the basic need for food and water (and those needs are met for most people most of the time) sexuality is the strongest natural (aka animal oriented) desire that humans have.
Though this subject is very touchy and must be discussed with the utmost discretion and care, still the religious world does a good job of educating those less knowledgable about kosher relationships, the mitzvot related to close contact between men and women, the obligations of family purity (those mitzvot regarding use of the mikvah for women and appropriate times and boundries for a kosher marital relationship).
However, there is a touchy subject within this touchy subject that is rarely dealt with, sexuality for men, especially the single man. Given that this is a more appropriate topic for a private discussion, it’s going to be tricky to get across some important concepts and still maintain the absolute G rating of this forum. But, I’m going to give it my best as I feel this is critical information that is, unfortunately, rarely shared.
Shemirat HaBrit, maintaining male purity is amazingly important and also amazingly spiritually powerful. It’s powerful exactly because the ta’ava, the desire to do otherwise can be so strong. Clearly we have mitzvot from the Torah that directly discuss prohibited actions. Yet, among men, especially among young unmarried men, the drive for these actions can be very strong.
If one is hungry and learns you can’t eat pork, for most this is rarely a problem, just substitute a nice steak. For many prohibitions of drive, there are easy kosher substitutions. In other prohibitive mitzvot, such as Shabbos, while there are many actions one may not do, there are many very positive replacement actions that redirect the energy.
But for men and shemirat habrit, maintaining male purity, there is no easy kosher substitution or replacement prior to marriage. Hashem YeRachem, G-d have mercy, this leads many to violate this strong prohibition.
So what’s a guy to do? I’ve got to tell you, many years ago I actually approached my Rav with this question, to which I only got a response of “Oh My G-d, you want to talk to me about what???”. But there is something to do.
First, of course, a man should realize that this need is very much driven by thought and vision. He should avoid the types of mental input, visual or otherwise, that remind or reinforce this. This is physical protection, avoiding, averting, filtering, be aware of what you are seeing and make a point to avoid such material or sights, turn away from it when such sights enter your vision, and filter what does (select appropriate books, magazines, news sources, and Internet sites). Some web sites such as TikunHabrit.Com offer tools (many free) to assist with this for protection on the Internet, which can be very dangerous territory. Highly recommended (for everyone!)
Next is the spiritual. Within Breslov chassidus they teach a specific set of tefilot (prayers), both to protect one from this trouble and to help rectify oneself. These tefilot are called Tikun HaKlali, the General Repair, and in Hebrew/English can be found in the book Rav Nachman’s Tikun. In general (not specific to Breslov), tefilot and rectifications for this prohibition are called Shemirot & Tikun HaBrit, and again these tefilot (prayers) strengthen one against a violation and, G-d forbid, help rectify stumblings if needed. The site BrisKodesh.Com provides links to resources in this area (as well as a free mailed copy of Tikun Klali in Hebrew).
Gentlemen, in our time when society leans so much the other way, we must take proactive steps to protect ourselves. Both physically, protecting our computer and Internet use with good filters (if one is using the computer at all, which you obviously are if you are reading this) and spiritually, with appropriate tefilot (prayers), shemirot (protections), and tikunim (repairs).
May Hashem strengthen us to avoid averot and forgive us for our weaknesses.