Advice For Shemiras HaBris [#2017]

Question:

The topic of shemiras habris [guarding the Holy Covenant – safeguarding one’s personal holiness] is very difficult in our generation. The closer I become to Hashem and the more I learn Torah, the stronger the evil inclination becomes. So how is it possible to completely guard the Bris? Even if a week goes by [without sinning in this area], the next week I am suddenly attacked [by my yetzer hora in this area]. My mind begins to go crazy even as I’m in middle of learning Torah. What do I do about this?

Answer:

This generation is the most unbridled kind of society in all of history. Besides for all of the forbidden deeds and sights that fill the world in every corner, the fact is that there are tools of technology which cause tumah (defilement) and they are found in every place. These tools are the very primal root of tumah. Therefore, even if a person doesn’t see, hear, smell, speak, of touch anything forbidden, [he is still negatively affected, for] the very air of the world is still filled with tumah. It is the “50th gate of defilement” [the most depraved level possible]. The Other Side of Evil is at work, from all directions. That is the “50th gate of defilement”, where tumah penetrates from all of the surroundings.

In previous generations, the main kind of evil was in the area of inappropriate sights, as Chazal state, “The eyes and heart are the two tools of sin”, and “The evil inclination does not take hold except in what the eyes see.” The Gemara says that if a person said the name of the harlot “Rachav”, he would immediately become defiled. But in this generation, our very being here on this world means that we are in place of the worst level of defilement, which is making itself known to us from all directions, with nothing stopping it. The more spiritually refined one is – the more that one reveals his neshamah – he can sense how being here on this world, and in this generation especially, is a state of terrible spiritual suffering. For it is then that “you see an upside-down world”, where all holiness has been overturned, completely and in a terrifying manner.

Practically speaking:

  1. It is recommended that a person should minimize, as much as he can, how much he looks at the physical world – even to refrain from looking at things that are not forbidden to look at. A person can make an exception when it comes to looking at things that calm the soul. This is a matter that is different with each person, depending on what level he is on. One should be very careful not to act above his actual level, though, because that will only backfire.
  2. One should become attached to an inner kind of thought, mainly a thought of Torah or an insight of avodas Hashem.
  3. The more a person penetrates into his inner world, the more his soul becomes enveloped by the inner world, and he will be less found on the outside world. This is the proper way of life which a person needs to direct his life towards.
  4. When one feels that he is burning with a desire to commit an act of sin or when he feels like his intellect is confused, he should immerse himself in cold water, or at least he should bathe his body in it. This is way to weaken the yetzer hora when it gets strong. One should also review holy verses, with enthusiasm.
  5. When one is amidst a weak, confusing moment, he should try to focus his vision on a certain point, and if possible, on a letter of Torah [any of the letters of the Aleph Beis]. This is the inner way to remove one’s thinking from any bothersome thoughts, in order to come out of a scattered state of mind. And certainly it is better if a person can get his mind busy with Torah thoughts, and if not, at least he should divert his mind to think about anything else – that is also good.
  6. There is also a piece of advice that is meant for individuals to practice: to be willing to sacrifice one’s life in order to sanctify Hashem’s Name, amidst the intensity of the difficult temptation – on a specific level, to be willing to die rather than think the sinful thoughts, and on a general level, to be willing to give up one’s life for Hashem. One should cry out to Hashem, intensely, from the depths of his heart, to the Creator, to be saved from sin, when he is amidst the climax of the temptation.