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Q. Lately I find myself slipping and going to non-tznius sites. I had had this problem as a child- and stopped completely for about ten years. I donít regard this as a great accomplishment- during the time it was not even an option in my mind. But getting a little older, with all my friends married and a couple years of completely fruitless dating, somehow it is again an Option. I am not trying to excuse something that is inexcusable, and i know that i need to go back to where itís not an Option. I heard once that when we sin we reveal the fault-lines that where always in us hidden below the surface. When we do Teshuva it repairs these fault-lines and makes us more complete. I canít tell you how much chizuk i get from receiving your emails. I know i can go back to the way it was- and i know i must- and being in contact with you is of immeasurable help. Thanks again...

A. The Chofetz Chaim says that the essence of doing Teshuvah is to make a careful reckoning of what things brought you to sin, or made it possible for you to sin, and from now on to avoid those things like fire. One who does this is fulfilling the Mitzvah of "doing Teshuvah" properly.  

Since you obviously have yiras Shamayim, I advise (on top of a strong filter) to use nedarim. The power of nedarim is exactly like you said "it is no longer an option" once you made a neder.

 

The Zohar in Parshas Lech-Lecha writes as follows:

Boaz swore (when Ruth came to him alone at night) "By the life of G-d, lay here till the morning". Because his Yetzer was strong upon him until he made a Shavuah and guarded this Bris, and because of this, he merited that kings came out from him (David and his descendants), kings that ruled over all other kings and the Melech Hamoshiach who is called in the name of Hashem.

Notice that the Zohar says "his Yetzer was strong upon him until he made a Shavuah". That implies that once he made the vow, his Yetzer no longer bothered him - even though Ruth was still there alone with him. The reason for this is because the urge to "act out" is psychologically tied directly to what one "perceives" as his "ability" to act out. However, if one is able to convince his mind that "acting out" is simply not an option, the entire urge simply vanishes. That is why vows are so powerful. For a G-d fearing Jew, once a vow has been made, it is simply "not an option" any more.

 

Let me help you by offering you a clear plan, step by step, of how to proceed.
 
A) Write up a list of what situations and triggers cause you to feel weak and fall, or even make you afraid that you might fall.
 
B) Then, based on this list, you need to design a set of vows that keep a fence around these stumbling-blocks. For example, if you find that you start to slip when browsing the internet alone in the room, prepare a neder not to browse internet (that is not protected with a strong filter) unless someone is in the room with you and can see the screen (not that they actually have to see the screen at all times, but you can say that they "can see the screen if they wanted to, without having to change places"). And, if you find yourself slipping when looking through magazines, prepare a neder not to open any non-Jewish or non-religious magazines that you can assume might have immodest pictures in them, unless someone asks you to, or unless someone asks you to look at something in them, etc...
 
Notice I am writing "unless this" and "unless that". It takes experience and it will take time for you to learn exactly what situations you need to protect yourself from and what situations you need to leave some lee-way for, in case something important comes up. Prepare these vows carefully in a text file on the computer.
 
You can even use more crafty vows, such as; "Shvuah that in the next 2 weeks, if I open any web site on the computer that I can assume will contain immodest pictures or videos, I will give $25 to Tzedaka (for every half hour that I do this in)". Or "Shavuah that if I masturbate in the next 2 weeks, I will go to the Mikvah within 24 hours - or give $20 to Tzedaka", or "Shavuah that before I masturbate I will do 20 minutes of exercise".
 
Don't say these Shavuos yet. Just prepare them. And write down the time-frame you want to make the Shavuos for, together with each shavuah you prepare. The vows should not be for more than a week or two at first.
 
The vows can cover more than just internet and masturbation, you can prepare vows for anything that is a stumbling block for you, like "not to drive alone with the car into certain areas" or "not to call certain telephone numbers" etc... Each person knows what his triggers and stumbling blocks are.
 
C) When you feel you covered the important areas, read it over again and make sure that you thought of any exceptions you want to make, in case your intentions would be clean.
 
D) When you are sure the wording is right, make the vows while reading from the exact text and wording you prepared.
 
E) Make one more vow at the end, that you will make another set of vows towards the end of the time period you set, BEFORE the previous vows expire. This will protect you from sinning when the time-period is up, if you find yourself "lazy" to make new vows right away.
 
And each time you make new vows, return to the text file you prepared and re-adjust the vows and the time-periods based on what you learned from the previous weeks. Vows that you found were not protective enough (like if you found ways around them) need to be strengthened. Vows that were too much (like if they excluded even innocent things that you happened to need but couldn't do because of the vows) should also be adjusted. Slowly over-time, you will learn exactly what vows are right for you and you will be able to extend the time periods as well. After a while, you will have a clear, comprehensive list of vows saved in the computer and you will even be able to make them for up to a year at a time, say from Motzai Yom-Kippur until next Motzai Yom-Kippur.

 

See also this page for tips and advice on how to make vows in safe and effective ways.

 

May Hashem help you in the zechus that you are truly "Ba Letaher"!

 


 

Q. I'm afraid of vows as in shavous, i have made multiple kabbalos and rarely kept them and vows scare me because breaking them is no simple matter. I have torn up lots of cash each time i masterbated, made kabbalos to take a time out when browsing the internet which i couldn't keep, they didn't work.

 

A. I understand your concerns fully. HOWEVER, the reason you have failed with the Shavuos in the past is because you didn't have the knowledge about HOW TO MAKE THEM that you have today. It's not that you don't have Yiras Shamayim, but rather that you were using the vows to fight the Yetzer Hara head-on and he is too strong for that. The Shavuos need to be made with a lot of Chachma. For example, you don't think you could make a Shavuah for a few weeks that before you masturbate you will do 10 minutes of exercise? Or that AFTER you masturbate you will do 10 minutes of exercise (or say 20 Kappitlach Tehillim, or whatever)? These type of vows are not really risky at all, because they don't fight the desire straight on, they work from the sides. And if you fall - you haven't broken any vows, just go do the thing you swore you would do! Or if you have to do 10 minutes of exercise before giving in, the Yetzer Hara might just tell you - forget it, I'm not in the mood. Or by the time you finish doing the 10 minutes, you'll feel you can say "no" yourself. These type of vows are vital for many people. The vows need to be very smart. Never make a vow that you are afraid you won't be able to keep. Use the vows to fight the Yetzer Hara from the sides, like guerrilla warfare. That's how terrorists are so successful against the great armies of the West, Lehavdil. If they would try to fight these armies head on, they'd be wiped out in a second.

 

Again, see this page for more ideas on how to make the vows.

May Hashem be with you. All he asks from us is "sincerity". Depend on him and you will succeed.