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Overcoming the Yetzer Hara
Once, when Rabbi Pinchas of
Korets entered his Beis HaMidrash
he noticed that his students stopped conversing and then started again. He asked
them what it was they were talking about. They responded to their Rebbe that
they were talking about how they were afraid that the yetzer hara
would pursue them. The Rebbe responded, “Don't worry. You aren’t on such a
high level. You’re still pursuing him!”
When I first
heard this story, it really hit home base for me. Every time I have told it
over, it has almost shocked the listeners. It’s funny how the simple words of
Rabbi Pinchas of Korets contain, for most, the antidote for to overcoming much
of their struggles with their Yetzer Hara.
Hara, guided by the Satan, is said to get stronger everyday as one
grows in their level of Yiddishkite.
Someone once said to his Rebbe, “I wish I had your Yetzer Hara.”
The Rabbi taken aback said strongly, in a stern voice, “Chas V Shalom.”
The student innocently thought that because his rabbi was so pure it must
be that his Yetzer Hara wasn’t so strong. The real truth is that the
higher ones level of piety, the stronger their Yetzer Hara has to become.
After all, aren’t we supposed to struggle in life with free choice! Without a Yetzer
Hara, being a pious man would be easy and therefore have little value to Hashem
and us. To value something you must work for it. One should also take
precautions to prevent themselves from falling into a trap by their evil
Rabbi Menachem Mendel, of Kotzk, was walking down the street with his
friend Reb Yitzchak, of Vorki, when they encountered an old woman who was
peddling knives. Reb Yitzchak wanted to purchase a small knife for himself, for
which the women wanted four coins. Wanting to save some extra money, he offered
her three coins for it. His friend, Rabbi Menachem Mendel, called him by his
nickname, “Itshe! The Mishna teaches us: ‘Do not converse excessively
with women.’ Now isn’t that worth one copper coin?”
This is an excellent example of guarding ones self so as not to fall prey
to the evil inclination.
The evil urge is similar to a prankster running through a crowd showing
his tightly closed hand. No one knows what it is he is holding. He goes up to
each person and asks, “What do you suppose I have in my hand?” Each person
imagines that the closed hand has in it just what he desires most. They all
hurry and run after the prankster. Then, when he has tricked them enough that
they are following him, he opens his hand. It is completely empty! The same is
true of the evil one. He tricks the world, fooling them into following him.
Everyone thinks that their hand contains what they need. In the end, the evil
one opens his hand. There is nothing in it and no desire is ever fulfilled.
Worldly pleasures are just like sunbeams in a dark room. They may actually seem
solid, but when a person tries to grasp a sunbeam they find nothing in their
hand. The same is true of all worldly desires. (Reb Nachman’s Wisdom #6)
One of the things the Satan has us believe is that we are alone in
our sin. We have sinned, and we cannot make amends. This is not true. Rebbe
Nachman says, “If you believe you can damage, believe that you can fix. There
is not a sin in the world that you can’t repent for. The Rebbe also says that
no matter how far you are from Hashem and Judaism you can always return
to the ways of the Torah. Of course the Satan doesn’t want you
to know this and even if you do know it, he tries to give you doubts about it
and make you loose hope in ever truly repenting.
It’s interesting to note that most of us think that the
mistakes we make, are never done by our fellow piers. We think we are alone in
our errors and we look at ourselves with little confidence. Even the greatest
Rabbis and Rebbetzens accidentally stumbled in horrible immoral sins and then
repented completely for having committed them. Maybe they were stuck in these
sins for years just like you are. You’re never alone my friends, and with
perseverance you will overcome your taivos as well! The first step of
course is to stop repeating this sin. If you try and can’t overcome it, then
ask for help. For all you know, your friend or Rabbi stumbled on the exact same
sin and can help you out of it. Stop looking down upon yourself for your sin’s
as sometimes this is all the trick of the Satan to make you depressed.
Don’t dwell on the mistakes you have made but rather use that energy to do
something about it. Repent by talking to Hashem and asking His
forgiveness. Take a trip to a great tzaddik and confess your sin to him. Ask for a remedy. Confessing your sins in the presence of Torah
scholar produces good thoughts.
The sins a person commits are engraved on his very bones.
When he confesses them before a Torah scholar, the entire accumulation of
evil engraved on his bones is lifted. All his sins are forgiven and he is
If you can’t handle going to a living tzaddik, then go to the
grave of a tzaddik and ask him to pray for you and tell him of your sin.
I have met too many people in my life that kept secrets bottled up inside them
for their entire life. When they finally release their pain to someone, it gives
them new life and vitality. Therefore, don’t wait any longer holding things
Many wonder why Hashem created evil in the world as well as good.
If we didn’t have an evil inclination then we would be like robots. We would
be doing the will of Hashem like it was nothing, without meaning or
heart. It is our free will that gives us the ability to be true servants of Hashem.
Rebbe Nachman once said, “Whatever you observe in the world exists just for
the sake of free will. The entire world and all it inhabits were created only
the sake of free will.
I think it’s the will of Hashem that I be blunt with you at this
point. The Satan knows that if he can get you to be depressed he will
defeat you. Do whatever you can to never let this happen! Fight sadness with all
your heart and limbs. Force yourself to be happy if that is what it takes.
If you think too much, keep yourself busy so as not to think depressing
thoughts. Spend more time around family and friends who can cheer you up.
Whenever I was down, I stayed away from others so as not to bring them down with
me and this was an error in my judgment. People are there to be supportive of
one another and to be a shoulder to lean on.
Every tzaddik is faced with the most difficult tests. Chazal
say that the higher ones level the greater their evil inclination. There is no tzaddik
that exists that wasn’t tempted and didn’t face sin head to head. We think
that because they are righteous they were never normal human beings just like
us, facing the simple temptations we do. Yosef HaTzaddik covered his face
and ran away from the most beautiful women in the world, Potifar’s
wife. “Rabbi Abraham Abulafia wrote that he defiled his body from the wasteful
admission of seed. He said that for fifteen years, the Satan was at my
right hand to mislead me.” Also he said that the numerical value of Satan,
359, is the same as that of Zera Lavan, white seed that is in reference to
This goes to show you that one of the main goals of the satan is to
attack someone’s sexual desire.
Rebbe Nachman says that sexual desire is the great test a man faces in
The Rebbe said that he was able to overcome this desire but he had to cry
out to Hashem again and again. The temptations were very real for him but
he later said, “A man with even the smallest amount of real intelligence, will
not find this a temptation at all.” The Satan wanted so much for him to
slip on this desire that he was willing to let the Rebbe overcome every other
desire if only he would slip up on this once. The Rebbe did the opposite,
though, and said he would ignore his other desires and not work to control them
at all but the sexual desire he would completely eradicate.
As a young man even amidst the fire burning inside him, he overcame this desire
completely. He later said, “I do not have any feeling of desire at all. Men
and women are all the same to me.” When he came in contact with a woman, he
didn’t even have an extraneous thought.
Another time the Rebbe said, “I am afraid of neither women nor
angel”. This deserves further explanation. A person may totally cleanse
himself of evil thoughts. However, as long as he has the slightest fear of such
thoughts, he is still not completely cleansed. This slight fear he has is a sign
that he has not yet attained true complete purity. Therefore, he must fear an
One shouldn’t fear the evil inclination; rather they should be aware
and cautious of its tricks, so as not to fall into its traps. When you fear
anything, you cause yourself to loose control. The only thing to fear is Hashem.
Fearing the evil inclination is like giving into it. Rabbi Pinchos of Koritz
once said, “When a person is scared of something, he is actually subjugated to
that very thing. If he is not afraid, he remains above it.
King Dovid was the most devout of men, Samson was the strongest, and
Solomon the wisest man that ever lived. The reason the Torah recorded
that these great men went wrong through women is to show us that women have an
overpowering hold over men and that the sexual desire overwhelms even the
greatest of men.
A woman, though created differently, has many of the same inclinations as
that of a man. They just manifest themselves differently. Today immorality has
crawled its way into even the most protected of homes. We think that we have
made our homes sealed from outside influences but they still manage to get in.
Lets not be naive and not talk to our children about things like this. Don’t
just assume they just know what is right and haven’t been exposed to the wrong
as well. Clarify it for them; tell them how to deal with their sexual emotions.
If you don’t, then you are more naive then they are! In a society like we have
today, you cannot take chances. You must talk to your children and students.
Tell them that these thoughts and temptations they might be having are normal
and only then tell them the words of Chazal on how to overcome their yetzer
When you attain purity of the Covenant, you will have reached the highest
of holiness. When a person guards the Holy Covenant, it is as if he had kept the
entire Torah because it is equal to the whole Torah.
The Holy Covenant makes the body of a man radiant and lustrous, and one who
guards it will never come to any harm.
For years, tzaddikim searched for a tikkun, remedy, for the sexual
desire. It wasn’t till about 200 years ago that it was found but unfortunately
the remedy hasn’t become publicized enough. Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said,
“Through ten expressions of praise, the book of Psalms was composed. They are
Nitzuach, Nigun, Maskil, Mizmor, Shir, Ashrei, Tehilah, Tefilah, Hoda’ah and
Hallel.” These ten types of song
also correspond to the ten Sefiros as alluded to in the Zohar. They
therefore have the power to nullify the strength of the kelipah and
blemish caused by an impure experience. The ten Psalms a person should recite
are, 16, 32, 41, 42, 59, 77, 90, 105, 137 and 150 in this order as shown. This
is called the Tikkun HaKlali, the complete remedy. “Every sin has its
own remedy but this is the complete remedy”.
Those struggling with overcoming their sexual desires should say these Psalms.
Also, those who seek a remedy for any problem they might be experiencing should
say it as it has the ability to reach places and rectify sins, even those of
which we have forgotten about.
It says in the Talmud, “Sinful thoughts are worse than the sin
Guard your thoughts very carefully, for thought can literally create life. The
higher up a faculty is, the farther its capability to reach. You can kick
something with your foot, but you can throw it much higher with your hand. Your
voice can reach still farther, calling to a person far away. Hearing reaches
even farther. Father yet is the reach of sight, which can touch even the
astronomical bodies. The higher a faculty, the farther it can reach. The highest
of all is the mind, which can penetrate the loftiest heights. You must therefore
safeguard your mind above all else.
Our minds are constantly flowing with thoughts. From one thing to another
our minds jump as if having an internal conversation. The environment we are
surrounded by very much affects these thoughts in one-way or another. If you
close your eyes you can see the mind at work as you will see images flashing
before your eyes, like a kaleidoscope. Controlling your thoughts can be
difficult at first, but with practice and patience it can be done.
In the evening prayer service we say that we will meditate on the Torah
both day and night. Having extraneous thoughts are part of being a human being.
I’m ashamed at my own thoughts sometimes, but I know that it is normal to have
them. At the same time, I try to quickly change my thoughts so I don’t dwell
on the negatives thoughts. The second a negative thought comes into our minds we
must immediately cast it aside with a good upright thought. If this seems
impossible at the time, we must cry out from the depths of our heart to Hashem.
The holy Seer of Lublin had a strong practice from his youth that he
would not think, speak, or do anything except what would give some satisfaction
or pleasure to Hashem.
The Rebbe when he was young, he once went to be with his rabbi, Rebbe Elimelech
of Lizensk. As he was traveling along one day, there was a very heavy rain, and
it was extremely cold outside. He lost his way as it was dark and was drifting
in the forest. He saw a house with lit windows and thereby entered it. It was
very warm and cozy inside and he felt relieved after having suffered so much in
the cold and rain.
In one room he saw a beautiful young single woman, and the Rebbe didn’t
know what to do as it was forbidden to be alone with a woman. It also became
clear that this woman was trying to talk the Rebbe into sinning. She started
telling him how she was unmarried and was ritually clean and the Rebbe became
very distressed by her enticements and her attempted seduction.
Though he was loosing his composure, he at least remembered the fence he
had made for himself and answered her saying, “I have accepted on myself not
to do anything, not even something permitted, except what gives some pleasure to
my Creator. But what satisfaction will Hashem derive from this?” Just
as he uttered these words, he realized that the whole scene before him was
imaginary. There was no house, no forest and no woman. He was standing by the
road alone with not a person in sight.
It was all a test to see if he would be strong and control his thoughts.
Facing sin in its face and running, that is how these tzaddikim
became so pure. Rabbi Singer of Passaic said that it is specifically these
moments when we face our sins face to face and relent that we become great. Next
time you face a sin before your eyes, be strong and know that it’s all a test
and by passing this test, you will reach an all-new high level. Be strong as
with the help of Hashem you can overcome even the most difficult of
was a clear target for the Satan, as he was a very pious, humble man.
Everything was good for him, and the Satan asked permission from Hashem
to test him to see if he would still want to serve Him. Having passed the
tests set before him, Iyov became even greater then he already was.
The Vilna Goan says, “A person who is wise in his eyes will not make
positive changes. Since he thinks he is correct, he is not aware of his negative
and counterproductive behavior. But if a person is aware of what he is doing
wrong, then there is hope that he will correct himself”.
One has to rise above their physical being and look at themselves as with
a mirror which reflects ones image. One should learn mussar to help them to do
this. Through hisbodidus
one can nullify their ego and thereby completely illuminate all their bad
Rav Levi bar Hama says, in the name of Rav Shimon bar Lakish, “A man
should always insight his good impulse to fight against the evil impulse. For it
is written, ‘tremble and don’t sin’. If he subdues it, it is well and
good. If he has trouble, he should study the Torah. For it is written,
‘Commune with your own heart’. If he still has more difficulties, he should
recite the Shema. For it is also written, ‘Upon your bed’. Should the
negative impulse still affect him, let him remind himself of the day of death.
As it says, ‘And be still, Selah.’”
This advice from Rav Shimon bar Lakish should really be enough to help one
overcome the yetzer hara but since it is so tricky to defeat him, we need
a little more advice as well to help us.
If a person has erotic thoughts and cannot banish them from this mind,
Rabbi Yehudah HaChassid has a few ideas to help this. “A person should try
going for a walk until the thoughts go away, or he should talk to people about
other things, or he should try pressing his toes onto the ground and place the
full weight of his body on them.”
Another action a man can do to help fight his evil inclination is to
purify himself in the mikvah. Rabbi Mordechai of Lechovitz said, “You
should always seek to purify yourself in the mikvah, especially when
necessary, for the mikvah purifies the mind.
The mikvah represents the womb. When an individual enters the mikvah,
he is reentering the womb. Then when he emerges, he is as if born anew. From
this he attains a completely new status.
It is said about the Baal Shem Tov, that he attained his enlightenment
and great levels of holiness because he very frequently used the mikvah.
So here, before you is clear evidence that immersion in the mikvah often
will help you fight your evil inclination. That is, if you dunk in the mikvah
with a yearning to attain levels of purity.
When a person gives of themselves to others through charity and kind deeds then they will think less of themselves and are not as prone to sin. Ones life should be devoted towards helping others and one should not be centered only on themselves. This will help balance their actions and thoughts. Charity protects against immoral fantasies. It is also a remedy for immorality.
The following advice can be found in Sefer Hamidos in various places:
Depression causes one to experience an emission. Eating garlic and eggs,
engaging in idle talk or by having used vulgar words, brings on a wasteful
emission of seed. A person who is afraid of having immoral thoughts because of
what he might see while walking through the marketplace should recite the verse,
“Behold, the mighty ones will cry outside”. This will save him from
the evil effects, which come from his eyes having wondered. Gritting your teeth
is a segulah against unholy thoughts. Gazing down at ones tzitzis
has the ability to guard one from sin. To chase away the evil inclination you
should say, “Hashem, rebuke the Satan”. When a person studies Torah
and performs acts of kindness they have mastery over their inclination. Crying
can also dispel one of immoral thoughts. To dispel immoral thoughts, a person
should picture his father’s image in his mind. A solution that is practical
for preventing evil thoughts is to become angry at something, as in the verse in
Tehillim 4:5, “Become angry and do not sin.” Rabbi Noson adds, that
the intent here is to become angry with one-self. This is hinted at in the
teaching, “A person should always insight the anger of his good inclination
against his evil inclination because it is written, ‘Become angry and do not
sin.’ This means to become angry with one-self but not to have real anger,
which is a sin. A person can also leave the place they are at and go elsewhere.
Just by simply changing your atmosphere, your thoughts can have a chance to
regroup. Also just jumping up and down in ones place can help to rid yourself of
wrong thoughts. Reciting the “seven voices” in psalm 29 humbles the evil
spirit. The light of a candle subdues the rule of the kelipah. All these
things can help a person in times of panic to subdue their inclination.”
Please don’t make these things a crutch to overcoming your desires as the true
way is to work on yourself and nothing will protect you as well as the learning
Ones sexual desire is very much bound up with what they see and hear
around them. Try to stay away from situations that will lead you to temptation
and bad thoughts. Turning your face can be a simple remedy to avoid these
problems. The thought that you are standing before Hashem always, “Shivisi
Hashem Linegdi Samid”
will certainly protect you from making these errors.
Sexual purity and mastery of the holy tongue are connected with each
other. The more you speak with words of holiness, the more you will succeed in
purifying yourself. In this way you will also make amends for any immorality you
have committed in the past. In the same token, the holier you become, the more
your mastery of the holy tongue will grow. Each one feeds the other though and
you should understand that a similar relationship exists between sexual
immorality, chas v'shalom, and the abuse of language.
Reb Nachman says, “Be careful not to listen to words of a person who is
wicked and also intelligent. The mere words going from his month to your ears
can affect your soul. By actually speaking words of holiness purposely when
attacked by improper thoughts, you can completely subdue them. The words one
speaks are very powerful and can certainly influence them for good or for bad.
The level of religious perception that a person can attain depends completely on
the degree of purity he achieves.”
A man once came to Rabbi Michel of Zlotchow explaining that he had
inadvertently done something, which was forbidden to do on Shabbos. He
asked the Rabbi what he must do for his teshuvah to be accepted.
Rabbi Michel then explained to him the severe gravity of violating the Shabbos
and that Shabbos is equivalent to all the other six hundred and twelve mitzvos.
His sin was a very serious one, and he therefore prescribed for the man a stern
remedy of fasting and self-mortification as his penance.
This man thereafter came to the Baal Shem Tov and he told him that the
fasting that was prescribed by Rabbi Michel was not necessary. Rather he should
just provide the shul with candles for the pulpit. The man went out and bought a
candle that were made of tallow from animal fat as that is what they were made
of in those days. A dog then came and ate them, walking through an open door in
the shul. He then replaced the candles but whenever they were lit they blew out.
This he took as a divine signal that his teshuvah was rejected and he
told this to the Baal Shem Tov.
The holy Baal Shem Tov understood that the problem was due to Rabbi
Michel’s interference, as he believed that the stricter penance was necessary.
He then sent a message to Rabbi Michel inviting him to come for Shabbos.
Accepting the invitation, the Rabbi set out on the road Wednesday
in order to give himself enough time to arrive comfortably before Shabbos.
The trip was constantly interrupted with one mishap after another. An axle of
the wagon breaking, a wheel falling off, stormy weather and the driver getting
lost. Finally Rabbi Michel arrived late Friday right before Shabbos. When
he walked in to the Baal Shem Tov’s home, he saw the Rebbe in his garments,
the table set and he immediately fainted. The Baal Shem Tov revived him and
explained to this pious man that he had accepted upon himself the holy Shabbos
a little earlier and that he had not violated the Shabbos. He then said
to Rabbi Michel, “When you thought for a moment that you had violated the Shabbos,
how distressed were you? Don’t you realize that if the awareness that one has
sinned causes a person to feel deeply distressed at having transgressed the word
of Hashem, this is the true essence of teshuvah? There is no need
for additional self-punitive behavior when regret has already occurred. This man
who came to you had already experienced the pain of the awareness of having
transgressed. Therefore, all that was necessary was a small action of penance
because the true teshuvah had already taken place.
If a person has repented for a certain sin, and has reached true
perfection, he must still make amends for his earlier repentance. What he had
achieved then was good only in proportion to the perception of G-dliness he had
at that time. Now after his repentance, his perception has undoubtedly
increased. In comparison with his present perception, his earlier one turns out
to have been very materialistic. He must therefore repent for the levels he
achieved earlier because he had lessened the true exaltedness of Hashem
to the level of materialism.
One can see from this that teshuvah is something continuous. As we
ascend levels spiritually we realize how far from Hashem we truly were
before. It says in sefer Hagilgulim that no two neshamos can be on
the same level at the same time. As each person ascends up a level, they can
give the person above them a boost upwards, which is also why sometimes even
when we don’t do anything extra we suddenly can feel a complete rise, closer
to Hashem. As we go up we cannot completely forget the time we wasted
below this level. We must ask Hashem from this new clarity of mind we
have to forgive us as we realize more of the true hurt we have caused because
There are many other characteristics the yetzer hara goes after in
a person. We have centered in on speaking about the main one, as by defeating
our evil inclinations by having sexual purity, all else will follow easily. When
a person has one sickness, many times a doctor treats the ailments of the side
effects, thereby loosing focus on the patients, main problem. Without proper
defense one cannot defend themselves in war. Weather you know it or not, you are
at war with your yetzer hara. You must gather together your plans of
defense. To win you must understand your opponent’s strategies. I hope I have
helped you here to prepare your defense. Please don’t forget that the Satan
is waiting for you to get depressed as when you do, you will shut down all your
defense systems and let him run all over you!
There is a reason why you personally, more then many of your friends have
such difficult tests to overcome and constantly face. You are not the normal run
of the mill person. Hashem has a lot of good things in store for you. The
Zohar explains that before salvation and good tidings, a person might
experience some hardship. It might seem impossible to handle what surrounds you
on all sides but you must always remember the powerful words Baal Shem Tov’s
said to his son, “My son, Hashem is always with you.
Abraham was a very important man with a bright future and therefore he
faced tasks so difficult that few could pass them. Yitzchok, Yaakov, Moses,
Dovid, Iyov and so many other great people where stuck in situations in which
there was little light to see their way, yet they held on. Hashem will
always be there in that light and so will complete salvation. What makes things
even more difficult is that sometimes one might see two lights instead of just
the one. This second light sometimes glows from gold dust and only leads to
nothing. This path is the easy way out as it heads towards the gold color but
when you pick it up, you realize your effort was all for nothing because the
path was full of impurity which leads to sin and unhappiness.
Once we get used to running after gold dust it becomes very difficult to
stop. Our Sages have said, one mitzvah leads to a second mitzvah
and one sin leads to a second one. Once you fall into sin it becomes easier and
easier to fall into it again. Your mind becomes completely programmed to fall
into the same trap over and over again. The only way out is to reprogram your
mind. Next time, instead of reaching for the gold dust in the most trying lowly,
depressed situation, reach for the jewels! Hashem and the Torah
are there for you. You must cling to them with whatever little strength you have
left. When Hashem starts lifting you up don’t let go like you are so
accustomed of doing. Reprogram yourself to hold on tight to your faith, as you
know you need to. Salvation is in Hashem and not in anything else. Know
this in your heart and act upon it. Maybe you are feeling singled out by Hashem
to go through such trying situations and the real truth is that you have been
singled out. You have been chosen and I don’t just mean to be a Jew with 613 mitzvos.
There is something very unique about you personally. Inside you, is a heart of
gold and a wanting to do good things for the world. Your soul has something
extra holy and you have so much you feel you need to give. Therefore, you have,
been singled out to be tested by the Satan more then others. If you want
to win, search yourself for your good points. Make a list of these things in
your mind or on paper. Don’t give up and do not ever despair. When faced with
the two lights next time, take the more practical one. Choose the light that
will shine brightly for eternity and not just for a brief moment. It is there
that you will find your deceased relatives and everything good. Go for the
permanent fix rather then the imaginary, temporary one.
So what do you do if you feel you are surrounded and you just do not have
the strength? Then run! Escape in any way you know how to in order to avoid the
sin. The best place to run is in the Torah. If you can’t get yourself
to learn then leave the room and maybe take a walk outside. It was decreed that
you face this situation at this exact moment, in this particular place but if
you leave it for a few minutes the urge to sin might completely pass. Do the
best you can; you have a lot more strength still left inside you then you might
think. Look at all the good things you do to serve Hashem and how you
have helped others with your time and money.
Chas v Shalom you fail your test, you must know that Hashem
is still there. No matter how far you may have fallen he is there to sustain
you. That is, if you chose to let him. My friends, failure is common as we are
only human beings made of flesh and blood. If you dwell on your sins they will
only come to haunt you even the more. After making a mistake, you must begin
anew. This doesn’t mean one should forget completely about it but for the time
being it might be best to put it aside during the moment of weakness. Pull
yourself back up and then repent as soon as possible. Repentance should not wait
though it is not possible to truly repent while depressed. Fear itself of easily
sinning again will only bring on a repetitive occurrence. The Nikolsburg Rebbe
once told a person who was scared of sinning again that they should just plain
forget that it happened and not worry about it. He told this to them because the
person was so wrapped up in worry, that the worry itself was bringing on the
repeated sins ever so stronger. Rebbe Nachman says if you believe that you can
destroy then believe that you can also fix. Sometimes the fix is to teach
oneself to forget while other times it is forcing oneself to remember.
The holy Baal
Shem Tov was once taking a stroll through a deserted place. He had paid no
attention to where he was walking, since he was very deep in his thoughts as he
walked through this desert. He trusted in Hashem that there must be some
reason why He had brought him here, as everything in life serves a purpose.
Suddenly he saw a huge frog. He asked the frog who it was, and he answered that
he was a transmigration of the soul of a former scholar. His original soul had
done so many sins that he was forced to wonder in this deserted desert. The Rabbi
asked him to tell him how he sinned, so he could understand what had happened to
bring him to such a state. The frog told how when he was in his human form, he
had once washed his hands carelessly. He didn’t have the proper concentration
and thoughts while washing and saying the prayer. It went up to the heavenly
court and of course this isn’t a terrible sin, but it was enough of a
negligence that he needed to do teshuvah.
teach us that one sin leads to another and the scholar didn’t truly repent and
was sent the Satan to test him in another situation. One after another
the scholar became relaxed in fearing Hashem and soon became a great
sinner. The Heavenly court now had ruled that he would not be forgiven unless he
pleaded long and hard for all of his wrong acts. The Satan once again
came and induced him to drink so much so that he could not possibly do any teshuvah,
and he continued sinning until he committed the worse of sins. When he passed
on, it was decreed that his neshama, soul transmigrate to the form of a
frog. This was because his original sin had to do with water. He was sent to
such a deserted place so that no Jew, by chance, would come along and say a
blessing, as that would elevate his soul and free him from this transmigration.
After hearing his story, Rabbi Yisroel said the necessary blessings and praises
to Hashem and enabled this soul to be saved, and the frog instantly died.
Reb Nachman said that when you do teshuvah you must try and repent
for the first time you sinned by committing a certain sin, and then all the rest
of the same sin as it repeated itself will be forgiven thereafter. No matter how
sunk in sin, this person could still have repented completely and never have
been punished. Hashem was patient with him and gave him the opportunities
to repent. If only he had reflected and thought before washing his hands to
concentrate more, he would have never sunk so deeply. We cannot ignore the
little things we do wrong. We must confess and ask Hashem to forgive us,
even for what we might think are minor sins. Not saying a blessing over a cup of
water, skipping the blessings upon rising from ones bed in the morning, and so
on. As little as they might seem at first, each little thing can build upon
itself and thereby build mountains. As we taught above, a single mitzvah
leads to another mitzvah and one sin can lead to another sin.
Rabbi Meir of Premishlan lived at the foot of a very steep hill. Each
day, even in the ice of winter, he would hike over the hill to immerse and
purify his body in a stream on the other side. The people who knew of this
considered this quite wondrous as they could only walk around the hill scared of
falling on the ice. One day, a few young men decided to put an end to this
superstition in which the townsfolk saw. Bravely, they followed the Rabbi up the
hilltop as he effortlessly ascended the hill once again. All of them fell down
and were badly hurt. What was Rabbi Meir’s secret? “When you are connected
to above, “he explained, “You do not fall down.”
If we want to fight the evil urge we must begin by connecting ourselves
more to Hashem throughout our day. Let us try to catch ourselves first before we
are about to fall. There are a few places to take refuge. One is in our faith in
Hashem. Another is by surrounding ourselves with Torah thoughts.
All this must be founded on a constant Joy of appreciating all that we have from
Rabbi Menachem Schneerson once said, “There’s no such thing as
defeat. There is always another chance. To believe in defeat is to believe that
there is something, a certain point in time that doesn’t come from above. Know
that Hashem does not have failures. If things appear to get worse, it is
only as part of them getting better. We only fall down in order to bounce back
With this thought process there is no losing. Our falling, though not
pleasurable, doesn’t have turn into depression and despair. In fact, a little
reverse psychology on us wouldn’t hurt now and then. Next time you fall Chas
v Shalom, bring yourself to high levels of joy! Be happy that Hashem
has sustained you out of his love for you. Let the joy radiate your heart over
the fact that your going to come back even stronger in your service of Hashem.
There is no reason to despair as Hashem only wants to draw you close to
Him and he hasn’t let go of you. Now seek Him out and with joy make the
necessary changes in your life so that this mistake doesn’t happen again.
Our Sages said, “You have made man like the fish of the sea.” Just as
fish immediately die when removed from the water, so Torah scholars
immediately perish when divorced from the Torah.
My friends, we have no strength without learning Torah. Our Sages remind
us, “I [Hashem] created the evil inclination and I created the Torah
as its antidote.”
Now I have heard this precious words for years yet I still struggle getting
myself to learn. With the help of Hashem I found another great approach
with the help of Reb Avraham ben Shlomo Zalman!
He writes, our Rabbi’s said, “If this repulsive one engages you, draw him to
the study hall. My brother, the Goan, explained, “If this repulsive one
engages you” – this is the Yetzer Hara. When you are unable to
withstand him because he overpowers you, then, “draw him to the study hall.”
Tell him that in the study hall you will do his will by learning for selfish
motives, in order to gain honor. This will put his mind at ease, and he will
back down. Thus, “learning not for its own sake leads to doing for its own
sake.” In this manner you shall free yourself from the Yetzer Hara
completely. We understand the verse, “If your enemy is hungry” – and he
desires to make you sin, “feed him the bread of Torah” – fulfill
his will by learning for selfish motives, “for you will be heaping coals of
fire upon his head” – when you subsequently reach the level of learning for
its own sake.
No matter what angle you take to help rid yourself of your Yetzer Hara,
the final victory comes about through learning Torah. So instead of
struggling day in and day out and wasting so much precious time over self-guilt,
depression, anxiety and sickness let us just start curing ourselves! It’s
quite simple after all. Let us increase our Learning of Torah!
As stated earlier, there are a few other major taivos but once the
sexual inclination is under control these are easily solvable as are many other
negative traits. In order to emphasize this to us, this chapter has mainly
addressed just this issue. With Hashem’s help, we will be able to
purify our hearts and minds so as to be a vessel for the glory of Hashem.
We all have the ability to reach the highest madreigos and they come
about through Tikkun Habris.
Once purified the holiness we will feel in our lives and hearts will shine so
brightly that we will be on fire. We wont even think of being angry or to have
any pride. Our hearts and minds will be at such ease yet we will fight to use
every moment properly. The ego we once had will be nullified and forgotten
about. Our only concern will be for the lot of all the Jewish people and how we
can help them to draw close to Hashem. May it be Hashem’s will
that all discover the inner strength we truly have inside us to serve Hashem
We are struggling because we truly are fish without water. Our souls are
literally starving. Would we even think of doing such a thing to our bodies?
Then how can we torcher our souls like this? The Yetzer Hara is doing us
a favor here by pushing us around because maybe then we will wake up and see
what is really going on. We are completely idle with our time and our thoughts.
We are not having Torah come first in our lives, it comes last. Woe to us
for not putting our foot down sooner and changing our ways! It’s not to late. Boruch
Hashem, we are still alive with time to save ourselves from Gehenim.
Are we to lazy now to turn ourselves into a true servant of Hashem?
Here we have been spending hours a day in needless struggles and we
don’t even know how much time we have left in this world. Maybe its fifty
years, ten years, one hour or even one minute Chas V shalom. Do we want
to end it having wasted most of it away with silly fights with our Yetzer
Hara that could have been avoided? If Torah comes first in our lives
then it’s a whole other ball game. It is a completely different life, a life
that tastes sweeter then the tastiest apple or orange. We walk around so bitter
all the time constantly searching for some sweetness to increase our happiness.
What we fail to notice is what stands before us day in and day out. The Torah
and Hashem who is watching our every move. Our father in heaven is
wondering why his children don’t take shelter in his wings. There is no
comfort in the world other then in the Torah and mitzvos of Hashem.
In the mothers womb a baby learns all of the Torah from an angel.
Then as the Midrash explains, the child forgets it from a little bop the
angel gives it on the mouth before it is born. The child is supposed to forget
the details of the Torah so that it should spend its time relearning it
in this world so as to fulfill all the mitzvos properly with effort. The
thing the baby isn’t supposed to forget is that if its soul is hungry it
should learn Torah. Of course ones Yetzer Hara will take control
when the Torah comes last. Making the Torah come first means that
when you close your eyes at night you are thinking about a passage in the Torah
and when arising you yearn to begin your day so that you can do mitzvos.
This level is not beyond each of us! It is just the beginning and it is
something we should not let slip away any longer. With Hashem’s help we
will make a new beginning this very moment and start serving Hashem, as
we know we are supposed to.
Since the beginning of time, man has been trying to teach their fellow
how to overcome their inclination. The advice I have given you will certainly
assist you in your battles but will you overcome satan and his tricks, I
don’t know. There is one piece of advice that I must end off with though. Much
of your success in these matters depends on your will power. If you want to be
successful in life, you have to lay your cards out there to Hashem. With
His help, there is no failure but you must call on Him sincerely for assistance.
Master of the
world, there is nothing in the world that can compare to You. You are far above
all creatures, both on heaven and on earth. To talk about You is to belittle all
of the things You truly do and can do. You made man out of the simple dust from
the earth. A woman you took out of his ribs. From a drop of seed and egg is
created a wondrous embryo. Who is like onto You Hashem, maker of heaven and
I’m just a simple person Hashem yet I am tested as if I am a great man.
What do I know of the Torah and being a tzaddik? Yet every day my evil
inclination works vibrantly to make me stumble in my ways. Well I have to admit
Hashem, I am striving and I want to be a true servant. But walls Hashem, how am
I to climb them? Do I not hurt when I stumble? Ok, so the only way to come close
to you is to be tested and tried but I am not a criminal. I am mere flesh and
blood. I have flesh that bruises easily, and blood that runs hot inside of me.
Do I mean to defile myself like those who have no covenant with You Hashem? I
want to be true to myself, and my Creator!
Hashem, I do not want to live a double life, one a life of Torah and the other a life of Tumah, impurity. Our days here on earth are short. Before we know it we will be standing before You giving an accounting of our every move in this world. What am I going to say Hashem when I stand before Him in shame? Who will save me and explain that my intentions were good? I just messed up a little bit out of laziness and laxity.
My evil inclination is smart. It knows how to push the right buttons and
cause me to really mess up. The Torah is the antidote but I haven’t used it. I
don’t know why Hashem, I have no excuse, no reason to justify all that I have
done since I was first created.
Hashem, I have sinned by giving into my inclination. Save me Hashem, help
me escape my self-affliction. I don’t want to end my days burning from the
fire of Gehenim. Instead I would rather control myself in this world and not go
after my physical desires. Hashem rebuke the Satan. Destroy him and return him
to his place. Demolish him from the face of the earth!
me Hashem to falter no more, especially over impure desires. They are striving
after the wind and give no true satisfaction. The only real contentment is in
the Torah and doing good deeds. All else is fruitless and vanity.
help me to say the Tikkun HaKlali and may it purify every limb of my body. When
I use the mikvah may it be with the true intentions of cleanliness of mind and
body. Let my Torah learning be a true protection and antidote from all troubles.
Most importantly, when I am confused, help me to run to You Hashem. Assist me in
finding the right guidance and teachers who I can confide in that will inspire
me to repent. Not only to tell me to repent but will know how to show me how.
as You can see, I only want You. My heart might be confused but it is true to
You. Take me back Hashem and rest your Shechinah upon me. Forgive me Hashem, Who
is so merciful. Thank You for all your patience.
 Study hall
 Evil inclination
 G-D forbid
 Sefer Hamidos 69
 Ezekiel 32:27
 Likutey Maharan I, 4:3
 Tzaddik #519
 Rebbe Nachman’s Wisdom #20
 Chayay Olam Habah
 Rabbi Nachman’s Wisdom 115
 Shevachay Haran 16
 Sichos Rochel 1b
 Imrei Pinchas HaSholem
 Sefer Chassidim 225
 Zohar I, 66b
 Zohar II, 3b
 Pesachim 117a, Zohar III, 101a
 Rebbe Nachman’s Wisdom p.276
 Yoma 29a
 Sichos Haran 46
 Seder Ha-Yom Ha-Katzar, P.12
 Eser Orot, p. 89, #23
 See chapter 6
 Berakoth 5a
 Sefer Chassidim P. 222
 Zichron L’Rishonim, p.32
 Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, Waters of Eden, p.13
 Keter Shem Tov, DhTvhY section on Taharah, p. 16b
 Likutey Etzos Tzeddakah 31
 Ibid 32
 Isaiah 32:7
 See chapter 1
 Likutey Etzos p.35
 Ibid p.40
 Likutey Etzos 331,7
 Sivchei Besht
 Bringing Heaven down to Earth 129
 Bringing Heaven down to Earth 139
 Maalos HaTorah p.54
 Baba Basra 16a
 The brother of the Vilna Goan
 Maalos HaTorah
 Purity of the covenant