The Shmiras Ainayim Chizuk List
(Started on Dec. 8 2008, Ohr
The material in e-mails 1-63 (besides for #2) are from the booklet "Windows to the Soul"
by R' Zvi Miller of the Salant foundation.
(Right click the link and choose "Save
Target/Link As" to save the PDF booklet to your computer).
To subscribe to eMussar,
the daily lessons of the Salant Foundation, send email to email@example.com
The Zohar compares this world to a churning
ocean and the body of a man to a ship in the sea. Therefore, man
requires knowledge in order to guide himself on a straight
course, avoiding mishap and losing his way. The ocean of life
roars fearfully and continuously. The winds of challenge blow
and the negative impulse rips about like a tornado with
unimaginable force. All of life comprises great and endless
tests, which can easily capsize the ship and sink it into the
murky, nethermost depths.
Yirat Shamayim and the study of Mussar will prevent the body
from sinking into the miry depths of desire and corrupt
character traits. (Rabbi Yitzchak Blazer, Ohr Yisrael)
The Image of Hashem
When Shem and Yefet covered up their father's nakedness, they held a
blanket and walked backwards so as not to see him. They could have
walked towards him and kept their eyes lowered. Why did they feel it
necessary to walk backwards?
Since the image of Hashem is etched upon the human countenance,
simply exposing the face to improper sights is spiritually harmful!
Therefore, they walked backwards to protect their souls. (The
From the booklet "Windows to the Soul"
by R' Zvi Miller of the Salant foundation.
Lavan chases Yaakov and when they meet he demands his idols back.
After searching all the tents and not finding anything, Yaakov says
pish'i u'mah chatosi ki dalakta acharai
- What was
my sin that you chased me?"
Rav Meir Shapiro explains differently. Lavan was no match for Yaakov
Avinu whose strength was legendary, ever since the first day he set
foot in Charan and flicked the boulder off the well. Not only that,
but his sons, the Shevatim, were cut in their father's mold and made
a veritable army. Nevertheless Lavan is ready to go to battle and
risk his life. For what? To retrieve his avodah zara.
At this point, Yaakov is amazed at Lavan's Mesiras Nefesh.
Questioning his own mesiras nefesh, Yaakov says, "Ma Pish'i U'Mah Chatosi - How
great is my own sin?
that you chased me in hot pursuit and were ready to give
your life for nonsense, whereas I have never shown this kind of
dedication to my Hashem who is King of the universe!"
Rav Chaim Kanievsky answered this complaint when asked what can Klal
Yisroel say when our enemies are ready to commit suicide missions in
the name of their god, while we can't claim the same willingness and
dedication. He said that our mesiras nefesh needs to overcome the
mighty Yetzer Hara, while in their case, the Yetzer Hara is the one
behind them, giving them the strength and fortitude to carry it
But every time we show a little mesiras nefesh by not looking at
something we shouldn't and instead refocuse our desire towards
Hashem, we are countering the power of evil in the world and causing
the downfall of our enemies. The mesiras nefesh of Yidden for good
is the only force that can counter the mesiras nefesh of our enemies
for evil - as we witnessed so painfully in Mumbei last week.
So when you feel pulled to look at something you shouldn't,
turn away and say in your heart "Hashem! You are the source of all beauty and
desire. Help me to love you, and not flesh and blood". Each
little bit of our own mesiras nefesh is a big Nekama against those
who give up their lives for evil.
also Chizuk e-mail #3 on
this page for another beautiful limud from Yaakov Avinu, along
"ZOS TORAS HA'OLAH - THIS IS THE TORAH OF ELEVATION." (Vayikra 8:37)
Of all the treasures that Hashem bestows upon us, Torah is the
greatest of them all. Since Torah is the Divine Wisdom, we might
assume that our primary goal in learning Torah is to become wise.
However, the Ohr HaChaim Hakadosh, commenting on the verse (Vayikra
8:37): "This is the Torah of elevation," explains: "Whoever studies
Torah will be elevated." Apparently, the ultimate purpose of Torah
study is not only to become wise but also to become "elevated,"
i.e., kadosh (holy).
THE FIFTIETH LEVEL OF IMPURITY
When we were slaves in Egypt, we fell to the 49th level of impurity.
HaShem redeemed us at that time because had we fallen to the 50th -
and final level - we would have been irredeemable.
Before the final redemption, the People of Israel will fall to the
50th level of impurity. However, this time the holiness of Torah
will help us to emerge from this level and attain redemption. Even
more, our triumph over evil will be so sound, that all forces of
impurity will be vanquished forever. (Ohr HaChaim Hakadosh)
THE DEVIOUS STRATEGY
After Bilaam failed in his attempt to curse the nation of Israel, he
employed a different tactic to hurt them. Knowing that immorality is
the antithesis of Torah, he pierced our spiritual armor by bringing
harlotry upon us. And he succeeded. We lost more Jews to the ensuing
Divine wrath than we lost as a result of worshipping the "golden
Today, the forces of tuma (impurity) are using the same devious
tactic that Bilaam employed. We face impurity in the streets, at
work, in every public place and even in our own homes. We are
confronted and bombarded by images so destructive that many of our
great Rabbis have proclaimed that we are now surrounded by the 50th
level of tuma.
When Israel succumbed to harlotry in the desert, Pinchas rose up and
stopped the outrage and destruction by putting to death Zimri and
Kozbi. Every person on this Chizuk E-mail list is taking up
the spear of Pinchas and will acquire powerful tools to protect
himself from impurity Be"h.
We will try to incorporate Mussar lessons and Halachic rulings, as
well as practical advice, in order to formulate a solid strategy for
May Hashem inspire us with the wisdom to apply these principles so
that we merit seeing the holiness of the Shechinah upon us and all
Klal Yisrael. As the Prophet said (Zachariah 14:9): "And Hashem
will be King over the entire world - on that day Hashem will be One
and His Name will be One."
Mastery of the Self
The Talmud (Tamid 32b) tells us that when Alexander the Great
reached the gate of Gan Eden, he called out, "Open the gate for
me!" They responded to him, "This is the gate to HaShem, let the
righteous come and enter."
Alexander said, "I am a king of great renown. Since you refuse to
open that gate, at least give me something from Gan Eden."
So they gave him an eyeball. He returned to his place and weighed
it. He stacked all of his gold and silver on one side of the scale
and the eyeball on the other. Nevertheless, the eyeball outweighed
the gold and silver.
He asked the wise men for an explanation and they said, "This is
the eyeball of a human being. The human eye is never satisfied with
what it sees; it always wants to see more. For everything in the
world is like nothing in a person's eyes and therefore he craves
more and more. In fact, his eyes are not satisfied until the day he
dies and his eyes are covered with earth." Alexander asked, "Can
this be true?"
The wise men said to him, "Cover the eye with a little earth and
immediately the true weight of the gold will reverse the scale."
there an attainable method to master over the strong desire of the
Hashem denied Alexander access to Gan Eden because of his greed and
obsession for power. His desires were inflamed beyond all reason,
that is, he was bent on conquering the entire world. Therefore, they
gave him an eyeball because the eye is the source of desire. Just as
his desire was out of control, so too, the weight of the eyeball was
completely out of proportion.
Alexander was perplexed by the mysterious power of the eyeball.
Heaven was hinting to him about the futility of chasing after
earthly desires which can never be satisfied. However, he lacked the
wisdom of Torah to perceive the truth. Since he was following the
desire of his eyes, he could not see anything beyond his own ego and
self-gratification. Alexander conquered most of the world. Yet this
mighty warrior was not able to conquer his own eyes.
In contrast, our Avot - Avraham, Yitzhak and Yaakov - were focused
on spiritual pursuits and used their Torah knowledge to attain
purity and closeness to Hashem. Throughout the ages, the People of
Israel have aspired to follow on the path of our ancestors, which
brings eternal joy and gratification to the soul.
DIVINE ASSISTANCE TO ATTAIN PURITY
The Mishneh (Avot 4:1) teaches, "Who is the strong man? The
one who conquers his passions." Strength is defined by the
mastery of one's desires. Like we saw in yesterday's e-mail;
Alexander, undefeated in battle, was one of the greatest military
leaders in the history of the world. He was also a highly educated
man, taught by Aristotle. Yet, he lacked the strength and wisdom to
master his own eyes and desires.
Our Avot were true kings, because they mastered themaselves. We, the
People of Israel, have the spiritual genes and dignified stature of
Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaacov. The awareness of our intrinsic
worthiness - and our royal lineage - inspires us with the confidence
that we can rule over the lesser part of ourselves. The Torah gives
us the wisdom to master our eyes and our passions.
Our Sages teach us the following axiom, "A person who comes to
purify himself will receive Divine assistance to attain purity."
The yearning for purity burns in the heart of every Jew. Once we
begin to strive for purity, Hashem will help us gain control of our
eyes. In turn, control of our eyes will give us the key to control
our thoughts and actions. We will sanctify ourselves and the world
we live in.
Know that if you sincerely wish to elevate yourself, Hashem will
assist you in your endeavors.
Practical Application of Chizuk E-Mail No. 4-5
Steve walks through midtown with his friend, Dave, on his way to the
office. "Visual challenges" confront them from every direction.
"It's so hard to deal with the immodest sights in the city - they
are everywhere. I have been struggling to gain control of my eyes
for a long time, but truthfully I haven't made much progress," said
"Look, there is nothing we can do about it. I just don't let it
effect me," replied Dave.
"But there is something we can do about it," says Steve. "Since we
come from Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaacov, it is our heritage to
strive for spiritual goals. And there is a Torah formula that says
if we try to purify ourselves, Hashem will help us to succeed. I
realize this is going to take much study and practice. However, I
know the more I desire to purify myself, the more Hashem will help
me. That's what encourages me to take on the goal of mastering my
"You may have a point there," says Dave.
The Cornerstone of a Successful Marriage
The source of the prohibition to not look at a woman if she is
immodestly dressed is the verse (Bamidbar 15:39): "Do not
stray after your eyes".
What is so bad about admiring women?
The Torah's purpose is not to deny us the joy of a meaningful
relationship with a woman. In fact, one of the most important
Mitzvot in the Torah is to have children, in keeping with the verse
(Bereishit 1:28): "And Elokim blessed them and Elokim said to them,
'Be fruitful and multiply.'"
Rather, the purpose of the Torah's laws are to help us give our full
love and attention to our wives. The awareness that your wife is the
only woman permitted to you strengthens the unique and special bond
of love between husband and wife.
Once we understand the benefits of the laws, we realize that they
are not restrictions but reinforcements. We cherish these holy laws
because they are the cornerstone of a successful marriage and the
foundation for a healthy family.
Men, in general, have a strong natural desire for women. Therefore,
the Torah gives us guidelines so that these inclinations do not rule
our lives. Compliance with these guidelines saves us from
distraction and even destruction.
The Rambam says (Hilchot Teshuvah, Chapter 4, Law 4): "There are
some transgressions for which a person is not motivated to repent
because he considers them trivial and of no real consequence.
Amongst them is the transgression of looking at women. A man who
looks at a woman asks himself, "Did I have relations with her?" Did
I get close to her?" He doesn't realize that gazing at women who
are forbidden to him is a transgression because it leads him to
inappropriate conduct, as the verse says, 'Do not stray after your
heart and after your eyes."
You might be wondering: how can a man live in the world without
seeing immodestly dressed women? Isn't it inevitable that every time
a man steps into public he will sin?
The answer is that a person is required to avoid looking at immodest
images and to develop an aversion to looking. As long as he follows
these two stipulations, then even if he inadvertently sees an
immodest sight, he is not culpable. However, after inadvertently
seeing the immodest sight, he must turn his eyes away. If he
continues looking or takes a second look, he commits the sin of
"straying after his eyes."
THE MOST POWERFUL PREVENTATIVE
Controlling our eyes from looking at women is the most powerful
preventative against promiscuity. Loving parents place restrictions
on children for their own safety. Their strictness is a
manifestation of their desire to protect them from harm. Likewise,
the Torah instructs us not to look at women for our own spiritual
and physical wellbeing.
TODAY: Enhance your relationship with your wife by practicing
the laws of Shmirat Einayim, (i.e., Guarding Your Eyes).
Practical Application of Chizuk E-Mails 6-7.
Steve arrived at his client's office for an important meeting.
The secretary, who was immodestly dressed, greeted Steve and said,
"Mr. Lawrence is expecting you. Let me show you to his office."
Steve was caught off guard and struggled to control his eyes, as
he walked with her down the long corridor. He then remembered
learning that the fulfillment of the Mitzvah 'Do not stay after your
eyes,' is one of the six constant Mitzvot (Bi'ur Halacha, Chapter
That means this Mitzvah applies in every situation. Each second
a person controls his eyes he is fulfilling one of the most
important Mitzvot of the Torah!
By reflecting on this important Torah principle, Steve was able
to control his eyes to the best degree possible under these
Make a New Beginning
If we have not properly guarded our eyes in the
past, we can change our behavior and Hashem will help us to improve
In fact, Hashem sent us an uplifting and encouraging message through
"Throw off all of your aveirot and make a new heart and a new spirit
for yourselves." (Based on Yechezkel 18:30)
A person may say to themselves: "I sincerely
want to change my behavior and follow the Torah rules regarding
Shmirat Einayim - Guarding the Eyes. However, I feel burdened by my
past conduct. It's hard for me to believe that Hashem will forgive
Rabenu Yona (Yesod HaTeshuvah) illuminates the path of return to
Hashem and writes:
a person has acted improperly and wants to take shelter beneath the
"Wings of the Shechinah" and enter into the gates of repentance, I
will show him the way to proceed.
the day that you lift your heart to return to Hashem, throw off all
of your aveirot as if they never were. Consider yourself as a
newborn child, having neither merit nor culpability. Today is the
beginning of your deeds. Today you will reflect on all of your ways
so that you do not stray from the good path. This outlook will
facilitate your complete return to Hashem because you will be
unburdened from the weight of all of your aveirot.
not be hindered by thoughts that hold you back from returning to
Hashem. For you might feel, 'How can I have the nerve to return to
Hashem, after I acted so inappropriately so many times? How can I
come in front of Hashem? I feel embarrassed, like a thief who was
caught in the act of stealing. How can I enter His courtyards; how
can I observe His Mitzvot?"
not allow these negative thoughts to enter your heart! These
feelings of despair are the influence of the negative impulse.
Rather, know the attribute of our merciful Creator is that "His arms
are always open to welcome those that return to Him."
Even more, Hashem himself releases us from the psychological
barriers to repentance by urging us to "throw off our misdeeds."
Therefore, Hashem grants each one of us the opportunity to rectify
our ways, regardless of our past conduct. He lets us renew ourselves
and gives us a fresh start.
TODAY: Throw off the burden of your aveirot and start over.
Hashem gives everyone another chance!
Steve steps into a crowded elevator and concentrates on keeping
his eyes in check. At first he is happy with himself but then a
disturbing thought occurs to him - "What about last month, when I
was in this same elevator and I lost control of my eyes." Thoughts
of guilt start to enter Steve' mind. These types of unproductive
thoughts have occurred to all of us, at one time or another.
He changes his thought pattern by reminding himself of Rabenu
Yonah's powerful message. The knowledge that Hashem permits us to
"throw away the sins" counters his negative thoughts. Steve knows
that Hashem will give him a new start and forgive his past. Sincere
repentance will actually convert his past sins into merits. These
ideas dispel his doubts, and fill his heart with happiness and love
He is back on track, and ready to win the battle of the eyes.
The Holiness of Klal Israel
"And Hashem spoke to Moshe, saying," Speak to all the community of
the Children of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for I
Hashem your G-d, am holy."
can a human being, who has a physical body and earthly desires,
At Mount Sinai, HaShem gave the Torah to Am Yisrael and conferred
the status of Kedushat Yisrael upon us. That is, He transmitted a
unique and permanent holiness upon every Jewish soul.
Whenever a person is tempted to act in a way that is against the
Torah and he controls himself, he elevates himself spiritually and
fulfills the mitzvah of "You shall be Holy." Since, his control is a
fulfillment of a Mitzvah, he is rewarded - just as HaShem rewards
him for all the other Mitzvot that he performs.
Now we can understand how we increase our holiness. By resisting our
base impulses, we perform a Mitzvah and sanctify ourselves each
THE HOLY COMMUNITY
you might think that just because you withhold yourself from
sinning, you aren't really holy and this verse is not referring to
you. However, the verse says, "Speak to all the Children
of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy..." The Torah is
teaching us that holiness is not exclusively reserved for Tzaddikim,
but for any Jew who attempts to elevate himself. (Ohr HaChaim)
This is an incredible concept! Control of our eyes is not just an
inner battle between desire and restraint. When we master ourselves
countless times during the day, in Hashem's eyes, we have the
highest status - we are holy!
Once we understand this concept, we have the method and the
motivation to gain control of our eyes. Every time we succeed,
we increase our own personal holiness as well as the holiness of the
When we realize that we are holy in Hashem's eyes, we feel happy
with ourselves and are inspired to reach new heights in Torah and
TODAY: Each time you control your eyes from looking at an improper
site, tell yourself, "I am holy!"
Steve was waiting for the bus, an immodestly dressed woman came and
stood at the bus stop. Steve thought to himself, "Here is a chance
for me to increase my own spirituality." He did his best to avert
his eyes by lowering his gaze while casually moving to the other
Steve felt encouraged knowing that by standing up to the test he
enhanced his personal level of holiness.
THE HOLY SOUL
person's real essence is his good and holy soul. But because the
soul is contained within a body, its light becomes dimmed. By
performing the Mitzvot (Divine Service), the soul is able to express
itself through good character traits and good deeds. A tzaddik is
often described as having a shining countenance because his soul is
so developed and radiant. However, if we do not observe the Mitzvot,
the bodily forces gain the upper hand and we witness the emergence
of improper deeds and base character traits.
"My son, give Me your heart and let your eyes observe My ways."
(Mishlei 23:26) The Midrash explains that Hashem is saying, "If you
give me your heart and eyes, then you are My children. Whereas, if
you do not give Me your heart and eyes, you are not Mine." Meaning,
control of one's heart and eyes is the major criteria for being
close to Hashem.
A FIERY ELEMENT
Viewing improper images is one of the most detrimental forces to our
spiritual equilibrium. It has the power to undo our entire spiritual
foundation. How is that? Our soul is a fiery element. Just as water
extinguishes a blazing fire, the impurity of improper images
extinguishes our spiritual powers. Even worse, since the eyes are
connected to the brain, the images that we see remain lodged within
our mind, causing lingering ill effects.
Just as actual vision is impaired when the physical eye is injured,
spiritual vision is impaired when the eyes are exposed to impure
sights. This damage diminishes our ability to perceive the truth and
to connect to Hashem.
FIRST STEP SOLUTION
first line of defense for controlling our eyes and heart is Torah
study. The Rambam explains that the heart only occupies itself with
one thought at a time. If a man's heart is left to its own
meanderings, it invariably gravitates towards impure thoughts.
However, if the heart is occupied with Torah, it will be filled with
holy thoughts. Therefore, Torah study is indispensible to gaining
mastery over improper inclinations.
The positive thoughts stimulated by Torah study will empower us with
the capability to serve Hashem.
TODAY: Dedicate daily time to Torah study and set up the
first line of defense to mastering your eyes.
Steve is excited about the progress he is making in controlling his
eyes and he knows there are many more tools and techniques that will
help him even more.
"Rabbi Stern is starting a new class on Pirkei Avot right after
Shacharit. It last for twenty minutes and is geared for businessmen
who have a full day ahead of them. I am going to start attending -
this will help me focus on Torah thoughts throughout my day."
Transformation Through Torah
"The way to utilize the healing powers of
Torah is to continually study the laws relevant to the particular
"We know that transformation of human nature is generated by
Torah study and the repeated practice of a desired good conduct or
character trait. This method of study causes a strong alteration
within one's soul. Indeed, one's character will gradually change so
that the transgression is naturally distant from him."
(Rabbi Yisrael Salanter, Igeres HaMussar)
How can study of Torah law help me control my
"Torah study in general is like preventive
medicine that blocks the negative impulse, as our Sages said, "All
the time that a person studies Torah, the Torah protects him." Even
if the Torah topic he is studying does not pertain to a particular
sin, the spirituality of the Torah will protect him.
However, the development of Yirat Shamayim (i.e., the awareness
of Hashem) and the study of the relevant laws is a primary remedy. A
person needs to relate to a spiritual malady in the same manner as
he does with physical illness. The strength and dosage of the remedy
is proportionate to the severity of the illness. As long as the
Yetzer Hara is activated, there is a need to increase contemplation
of Yirat Shamayim and the study of the appropriate laws. If a person
does not use this primary remedy, then the general study of Torah
will not have much influence over the Yetzer Hara."
(Rabbi Yisrael Salanter, Igeres HaMussar)
The combination of Mussar study with the study of Halachah is a
powerful tool for combating our physical desires. In addition, the
study of Halachah will enhance our observance of the Mitzvot, even
if we are deficient in Yirat Shamayim.
If a person will sincerely and carefully study the laws regarding
the eyes, a character transformation will take place. Learning what
is forbidden and permitted to look at will effectively guard you
from seeing improper sights.
Even though it can be hard in the beginning, don't give up! The
tremendous desire of the eyes and the prevalent practices of modern
society make this a very difficult test. However, studying the
Halachot is so powerful that you will soon develop new habits that
will stay with you forever.
TODAY: Be encouraged by knowing that through Torah and
Halachah study, we have the means to master our eyes and change old
Steve attends a weekly Halachah class on the
Laws of Shabbat, but he didn't realize there were also specific laws
concerning Shmirat Einayim. He is interested to know these
guidelines for his eyes and is setting up a weekly study session
with his friend.
Know the Laws of Shmirat Einayim
Just as there are Torah laws that regulate our
speech, there are Torah laws that regulate our sight. When we are
first introduced to the laws of Shmirat HaLoshon, we might feel
overwhelmed. However, with study and practice, we learn how to guard
ourselves from evil speech and we reap both spiritual and emotional
When we first learn the laws about regulating our eyes we also
think, "This is impossible! There's no way I can be this careful."
However, the more we understand the wisdom of these laws, the more
fulfillment we will derive from their observance and the more
motivated we will become.
The Four Primary Laws Pertaining to Looking and Thinking about Women
(Shulchan Aruch Even HaEzer, Chapter 21, Law 1)
For the sake of clarity and implementation, we
have summarized these rulings. By familiarizing ourselves with these
laws, we will have a ready and practical guide to live by. (There
are different laws regarding one's wife):
1. It is forbidden to look at a woman if she is dressed
A. If we know of an area where
immodestly dressed women are present, it is forbidden to enter
this area. An alternative route must be taken.
B. However, if it is necessary to pass this route and there no
alternative route, or the alternative route is impractical or
costly, a person is permitted to pass through an area of
immodestly dressed women, providing he makes every reasonable
effort to avoid seeing the immodest sights.
3. It is forbidden to have thoughts of
desire for any woman.
4. It is forbidden to derive pleasure from looking at the
beauty of a woman, even if she is modestly dressed.
Clearly, these laws are not easy to apply in
situations where women cannot be avoided, such as a work setting.
The upcoming segments will deal with specific advice and techniques
regarding various scenarios.
Does the Torah think men are angels? How can
any man realistically fulfill these laws?
It is very true that controlling the eyes is a
tremendous challenge. However with sincere motivation you will
ultimately prevail. The Torah does not expect that we will
instantaneously master our eyes. Changing ourselves requires study
and the persistent practice of new behavior until it becomes second
nature. By studying this guidebook and applying its principles, we
will eventually be able to fulfill the Torah's laws regarding our
TODAY: Decide to make a periodic review of these laws in
order to strengthen their observance.
"At first, these laws are a little
overwhelming," thinks Steve. "However, I can handle them knowing
that we don't have to change overnight. By reviewing the laws on a
timely basis, I will little by little integrate them into my life."
After studying these laws a few times, Steve put his knowledge into
action. This morning he walked into the conference room for a
business meeting. Three of the six people in the room were women,
two were dressed immodestly. Because the laws were fresh in his
mind, he immediately was conscious of guarding his eyes. He was very
careful where he looked - and it made a great difference in his
Understand the Relevancy of Shmirat Einayim
Yalkut Shimoni, Balak: "When B'nai Yisrael went
down to Egypt, they conducted themselves with modesty - each person
living within in his own tent, as the verse says (Shemot 1):
"Each man and his household came." Reuven did not look at
Shimon's wife, nor did Shimon look at Reuven's wife. Rather each man
dwelt modestly within his own tent. Even when the population of men
numbered 600,000 in the Midbar, not one man placed the opening of
his tent opposite the opening of his friend's tent."
ancient days people were different and life was different too. In
the modern world, we are so used to seeing women in public that we
have grown somewhat 'immune" to them. Therefore, shouldn't we modify
these laws and teachings?
A. Yes, times have changed. Consequently, there are some
leniencies in the fine details of some of these laws. Please consult
your Rabbi for specific questions and rulings. However, the four
laws that we learned yesterday in e-mail are d'oraitah and
immutable. Perhaps the following story will shed light on your
One of the greatest Ba'alie Mussar was Rabbi Eliyahu Lopian, who
taught Torah for over seventy years in Eretz Yisrael. One of his
students was invited to a wedding in the U.S. where the laws of
modesty would not be observed. He asked Rabbi Lopian if he could
attend the wedding. The Rabbi asked what he would do about the
immodest sights. The student told his Rabbi that the sight of
immodest women does not affect him. At that point Rabbi Lopian took
a book of Tehillim and started praying. "Rabbi, what are you doing?"
asked the student.
Rabbi Lopian responded, "I am 86 years old and blind in one eye.
Nevertheless, I am still affected by human nature. You are young and
in the prime of your life. If you are not affected by immodest
sights, then perhaps you have an illness. Therefore, I am saying
Tehillim for your recovery!"
King Solomon was the wisest of men. He knew
that the Torah placed a limit on how many wives a king was permitted
to have. However, he thought to himself, "The Torah's restriction is
for an average king. Since I am so wise, the Torah's law does not
apply to me." He increased his number of wives beyond the maximum
allowed by the Torah. As a result: "He had 700 wives, princesses,
and 300 concubines ...when he was old his wives turned his heart
King Solomon, a pure and holy Tzadik, was the son of Dovid HaMelech.
He was the Gadol HaDor and the wisest man who ever lived. He had
Ruach HaKodesh and composed the holy books of Shir HaShirim,
Mishlei, and Kohellet. Despite his unfathomable greatness, he was
not immune to being influenced by an aspect of desire. Therefore,
how much more so should we, who are far from his level, take every
precaution to fulfill these Halachot. Even if we don't fully
understand the relevancy of the laws, we should observe them so that
we will be under the protective shadow of the Torah.
TODAY: Defer to the wisdom of the Torah regarding the laws of
the eyes and guard the holiness of your soul.
Application of E-Mail 13-14
"This answers an important question for me," says Steve. "Sometimes
I am invited to events where the laws of modesty are not observed.
However, I felt that it was impolite not to attend. Now I understand
I should not compromise on Torah values. There are ways I could
express my congratulations while upholding the Halacha. For
instance, if it is a wedding, in some situations I might attend the
Chupah and then leave before the celebration; or I could give a nice
gift and write a note explaining that I was not able to attend."
Listen to Your Soul
Physical desires urge a man to call the impure,
"Pure!" However, at the time of his final judgment before Hashem,
his corrupt conduct and improper indulgences will be called
"Impure!" And he will be recompensed accordingly. (Ohr Yisrael,
What does it mean that we are urged by our
desires to call the impure, "Pure!"?
Physical desire in our generation is like a fire out of control. It
is a nearly uncontrollable force of great strength and danger. Like
a salesman with an "I won't take no for an answer" attitude, it is
relentless in its effort to sell us a slick catalogue of goodies
with every imaginable inappropriate desire. But the lofty soul
objects, saying, "This is an aveirah (a transgression)."
Shouldn't the objection of the intelligent and sensitive soul
suffice to stop the momentum of desire? Yet we often act in ways
that are against our better judgment. Think about the abuse of
alcohol, cigarettes, food and money. Consider the consequences of
anger, jealously, and greed. How can we explain the fact that people
often fail to control themselves even when they know they should?
Desire silences intelligence by intensifying
itself until it extinguishes the objections of the soul. That is,
passion blinds a person from thinking rationally. As Rav Yisrael
said, "The distance between the mind and the heart is as far as the
distance from the earth to the heavens." What we know is not
necessarily what we feel, nor does it govern our behavior.
Earthly desires are so powerful that they can short-circuit our own
value system. We might end up doing something that we ourselves
consider inappropriate and immoral.
For instance, when a person sees an improper image, his desire is
awakened to look more closely. Immediately his soul objects saying,
"This is an aveirah." The desire then counters by intensifying
itself and drowning out our reason.
The wisdom of Mussar helps us understand what is taking place so we
can protect ourselves. Knowing that our desires will try to stifle
our soul, gives us the means to control our eyes. With our new
wisdom, we can achieve the sensitivity to listen to our intellect.
Now we have a chance to win!
TODAY: Remember that desire will intensify in order to drown
out the voice of reason. Understand that and listen closely to your
the office, Steve sits next to Larry. Steve could not help noticing
that Larry was viewing an improper image on his screen. Steve
immediately turned away so that the image would not catch his eye.
"This is a battle between my soul and my body. If I follow the whims
of desire, I will ruin my spirituality. If I follow the wisdom of my
soul I will enhance my spiritual powers."
A Balanced Approach:
"Elokim created man in His image; in the
image of Elokim He created him."
"Common courtesy precedes Torah."
The laws about controlling our eyes seem very
extreme. And in some cases not looking at a woman could be construed
Yes, there are certain situations that could be uncomfortable and
awkward. Naturally every situation requires tact and common sense.
The law does not expect us to treat modestly dressed women as if
they do not exist. The following story shows us the balance between
controlling our eyes and treating women respectfully.
RABBI SIMCHA ZISSEL
Rabbi Simcha Zissel Ziv, one of the greatest
sages of Mussar, came into a restaurant accompanied by a colleague.
The owner of the restaurant was delighted that two great Rabbis came
to eat in her restaurant. She prepared a lavish meal and served them
herself with respect and joy.
During the course of the meal, in her excitement over hosting such
important guests, she told them many details about her food
preparation and the running of her business. Rabbi Simcha Zissel
listened attentively, responding and asking questions whereas the
other Rabbi studied a book and paid no attention to the woman's
When the guests came to pay for the meal, she refused to accept
their money. "Should I lose the merit of this Mitzvah," she
explained, "for a few coins?"
Afterwards, Rabbi Simcha Zissel turned to his friend and said,
"Aren't you concerned that you ate and drank without paying?"
"What do you mean?" his companion replied, "She refused any
"You're right," said Rabbi Simcha Zissel, "She didn't want any
money. But she wanted very much to speak with us and you completely
ignored her. Therefore you benefited from her meal without giving
her any compensation."
Rabbi Simcha Zissel was very considerate of the woman. He maintained
the halachot of guarding his eyes without compromising the Torah
axiom to show appreciation to others. We learn from his example that
each situation requires good judgment. When women are dressed
modestly, we are able to observe the Torah's laws regarding the eyes
and at the same time give them the proper respect.
TODAY: Use a balanced approach - observe the laws of Shmirat
Einayim and treat women with the proper respect.
Tonight Steve is attending Shevah Brachot at the Cohen's house.
Before reading this e-mail, Steve wasn't sure what the proper "Torah
etiquette" is - should he thank the hostess or is it better not to
Based on today's lesson, Steve cordially greets Mrs. Cohen when he
arrives. Then he sat with a friend and participated in the festive
meal and Shevah Brachot. Afterwards, he thanks Mrs. Cohen for
inviting him and preparing such a delicious meal. He felt that she
appreciated his compliments.
The Study of Mussar
"Who will show us the straight path? Yirat Shamayim rules over
everything. 'Awareness of Hashem' has the power to curb desire so
that it will not overstep its bounds". (Ohr Yisrael, Letter Four)
Awareness of Hashem is hard to achieve in
today's lifestyle. Can't we succeed in our spiritual quest without
attaining Awareness of Hashem?
King Solomon explained that Awareness of Hashem is the sole antidote
for the negative impulse. The Awareness of Hashem is the awareness
(1) Hashem sees our actions and knows our thoughts.
(2) Hashem judges all of our deeds and metes out the consequences.
The reward and punishment that the soul experiences in the World to
Come, is infinitely greater than the pleasure and pain of this
It is critically important to understand that without genuine
Awareness of Hashem, it is impossible to master desire. Just as a
security guard will deter a thief from robbing a store, only the
awareness that we are in G-d's presence, will empower us with the
ability to control our eyes.
The most effective way to acquire Awareness of
Hashem is through the daily study of Mussar, which is the ethical
teachings of the Torah and character refinement. Some of the
classical Mussar texts are:
(The Path of the Just),
Orchot Tzadikim (The Ways of the Righteous),
(Duties of the Heart),
In the book Maggid Mesharim, Rav Yoseph Caro, author of the Shulchan
Aruch, records Torah teachings and secrets that were revealed to him
by an angel. Once the angel said to him, "Read one section from
Chovot HaLevavot every day in order to humble the negative impulse."
If Rav Yoseph Caro, who was a pure and holy tzadik, was told to
learn Mussar every day, is there any question that we need to learn
Mussar every day to humble our Yetzer Hara?
In fact, the Rosh, the Tur, the Arizal, the Vilna Gaon as well as
the Mishneh Berurah (Chapter 1 and 603) ruled that every person
should study Mussar every day.
THE PRIMARY REMEDY
Continuous Mussar study over time will instill
the awareness that Hashem sees our actions and knows our thoughts.
This is the primary and indispensable weapon to gain self-mastery
and win the battle over the eyes.
Once we have attained Awareness of Hashem, we have a force at our
disposal that can contend with and overcome our desires. When we are
tempted to look at something improper, our Awareness of Hashem will
remind us, "Hashem sees all of our actions and knows our innermost
thoughts. All of our deeds will ultimately be judged by G-d."
TODAY: Make a commitment to study Mussar each day for about
The Method of Mussar Study
~ Select a Mussar book from the ones mentioned in the previous
e-mail (No. 17).
~ Schedule a daily time for Mussar study.
~ Read aloud so that it penetrates your heart.
~ Even if you don't sense any immediate change - persevere. With
time you will be transformed and elevated.
~ Highlight key ideas.
~ Write these ideas on an index card.
~ Carry the card with you.
~ Review the ideas a few times a day.
~ The key to success in Mussar is incremental steps.
~ Devote about 20 minutes a day to Mussar study.
~ Absorb the concepts at your own pace.
~ Know that Mussar is healing your soul.
Make a Spiritual Accounting
Rav Yisrael teaches us two other techniques for
increasing our awareness of Hashem so we can effectively control our
behavior. The first method is "Searching for the Truth."
should endeavor to place the truth before us and use purity as a
lamp for our feet. Therefore, we must look deeply into our deeds and
the fruits of our thoughts."
(Ohr Yisrael, Letter 4)
"A person who contemplates his path in this world will merit
seeing the deliverance of Hashem". (Moad Katan 5a)
"That sounds like a good thing to do but
truthfully, I'm too busy to take the time".
When we were slaves in Egypt, Pharaoh was concerned that we would
rebel and overthrow his rulership. In order to prevent us from
organizing a rebellion, he placed upon us a heavy and continuous
workload, as we find in the verse (Shemos 5:9): "Intensify the
burdens of the people." That way we wouldn't have a spare minute to
create a strategy.
Just as Pharaoh denied us time for reflection and action, the fast
pace of modern life gives us little time to contemplate our conduct.
Even if we have learned the laws regulating our eyes, it's possible
that we may have grown lax concerning some of the laws.
The Ramchal in his Mesilat Yesharim (Chapter 3)
explains that the darkness of night causes two types of visual
(1) We cannot see a stumbling block in our path.
(2) We see something and imagine it to be something else. For
instance, we see a tree and imagine it to be a man.
The nature of this world also causes two types of misperceptions:
(1) We may fail to realize that a certain behavior conflicts with
(2) We rationalize doing an aveira by insisting that it is a
For example, even though we know we're prohibited from looking at a
woman who is dressed immodestly, we may not realize that includes
the female teller in the bank. After all, if we close our eyes, how
can we conduct our business? So we decide that the prohibition does
not apply in this case or that it's even a Mitzvah to look at her
because it's necessary in order to accomplish our mission.
The only way to check whether our conduct is
consistent with the principles of Torah is to establish a daily set
time to examine our deeds. First we review the basic principles
regarding regulating our eyes. Secondly, we review our deeds to see
which conduct we should strengthen and which actions we should
This is a highly effective way to strengthen the performance of good
deeds and uproot aveirot. Through a regular evaluation of our deeds,
we can determine if we are being influenced by desire. This system
of checks and balances will help us to achieve mastery of our eyes.
TODAY: Take a few minutes in the evening to review your
conduct for that day.
Here is a sample chart to make a daily
accounting. Place a "check" for controlling eyes; place a "minus
sign" when you did not exercise enough control.
Guidelines for Entering
Applying the prohibition "Not to go to
places where there are immodestly dressed women."
"In today's world, this law seems impossible to
keep. There are immodestly dressed women almost everywhere".
The wisdom of the Torah is eternal. The People of Israel have lived
by the laws of the Torah for thousands of years. Wherever we have
settled during our long exile - from Babylon to Burbank - we have
observed the laws of the Torah. They emanate from HaShem's Eternal
Light and their practice is eternal and universal.
Yes, avoiding areas where women are immodestly dressed is a great
challenge. However, the Halachah gives us a path to proceed.
Firstly, if there is an alternative route, it is forbidden to take
the path that leads past immodestly dressed women.
Yet, if there is no other reasonable alternative route, then you are
permitted to walk in this area. However, you must observe the
1. Lower your gaze or partially close your eyes when you pass
immodestly dressed women. (Bava Batra 57b, see the Rashbam)
2. Ensure that they will not be in your view for an extended
period of time.
3. If a man knows that he cannot avoid looking at the
immodestly dressed women, then he may not go into that area.
If you inadvertently see an immodestly dressed woman, you are not
responsible as long as you didn't intentionally look at her.
In an area of inappropriate sights, use strategies to keep your mind
focused. For instance, as you enter the area, listen to a shiur on a
portable device or call someone on your cell-phone. In addition, be
prepared to turn your eyes away or close them as needed.
A person who looks downward or shuts his eyes when he walks through
an immodest area is called "a saintly man," in keeping with the
verse (Ishaiah 33:15-16) "One who shuts his eyes from a bad image
will dwell in the heights."
TODAY: If you must be in an area of immodestly dressed
women keep your eyes lowered and distract yourself with something
Steve has a meeting on Lexington Ave. The
shortest way to get there would take him down a street that has many
challenging images. In order to avoid these images he takes a few
extra minutes and walks around the corner to the next street. With a
small effort on his part, Steve protects his eyes, and arrives for
his meeting right on time.
Lower Your Gaze
"When an army plans a war, the generals design a strategy. They
consider every detail and prepare for every scenario. However, when
the war is actually fought, there are always unforeseen events and
situations that will come into play. Therefore, the generals retain
a flexible posture and prepare a backup plan in order to adjust the
strategy as the war unfolds." (Ohr Yisrael, Letter 19)
Whenever we plan to battle the negative impulse regarding our eyes,
we have to remember that this plan is only an approximation. When we
go out in public, we have to expect the unexpected.
The Vilna Gaon would review the second chapter in Mesilat Yesharim
which talks about "Watchfulness," thirteen times before going out
into the street. We are not on that level; however, it is an
indication of how careful we have to be when entering the danger
Once we leave the privacy of our homes, we will
be confronted with countless images that will present themselves
before us. The eye is a sensitive organ that is stimulated by any
image that enters its field of view. However, most of these images
are unnecessary and a great number of them are harmful.
Since the intention of most of these images is to catch the eye,
most of them are positioned at eye-level. Without a doubt the eye
scans a wide area, and all the images in that range are competing
for the eye's attention. Unrestrained, the eye darts up and down,
here and there, back and forth, reacting to everything it sees. The
more stimulating the image, the more the eye will be attracted to
The eye does not naturally lower its gaze below eye-level. Therefore
we have to make a conscious effort to lower our gaze in order to
protect our eyes. This basic strategy is easy and attainable and it
doesn't mean staring at your shoes and bumping into street poles or
poking along looking strange.
Just direct your eyes towards the direction you are walking. This
takes in an area of about five to ten feet on our pathway. Although
lowering our gaze is a wondrous and effective strategy, it is not
foolproof. Therefore, just like the generals we have to have a
TODAY: Make a conscious effort to keep your gaze below
eye-level when you are in a public place.
You can't imagine how effective this advice
is until you try it. As soon as I started using it, I naturally
removed the majority of improper sights from my view. When I walk in
public, I lower my gaze a bit. I make adjustments as I go along,
until I am able to avoid the majority of improper images.
At first, it felt unnatural and I thought people might say to me,
'Hey, why are you looking downwards.' But nobody ever notices.
Training The Eye
"Man has the ability to gain mastery over his nature. Indeed,
through Mussar study and force of habit a person can transform
himself. In reference to this, our Sages teach (Avot 4:1): "Who is
strong? He who subdues his passions, as it is said: "A master of his
passions is greater than the conqueror of a city' (Mishlei 16:32)."
(Ohr Yisrael, Igeres HaMussar)
"How can I retrain myself from my
normal way of keeping my eyes at eye-level?"
Since keeping our eyes lowered is not the norm, we need to accustom
ourselves to our new eye position. The best way to change an old
habit is to consciously practice a new behavior. Over time, the new
pattern of behavior will become second nature.
Here is an exercise that is designed to help you readjust the level
of your gaze. Just as an army practices their battle plans before
going into the heat of the battle, we recommend practicing these
exercises when you have a few spare moments.
1) Choose a quiet area in your home or yard and
designate a twenty foot length as a practice path.
2) Lower your gaze so that it takes in about
five to ten feet of the path.
3) Begin walking and keep your eyes focused on
the five feet length, moving your eyes a little further down the
path as you walk.
4) Proceed this way until you reach the end of
5) Turn around and repeat the exercise,
returning to the starting point.
6) Do this exercise, every day for one week
(walking the path back and forth at least one time each time).
Training The Eye (Part 2)
Since keeping our eyes lowered is not the norm,
we need to accustom ourselves to our new eye position. The best way
to change an old habit is to consciously practice a new behavior.
Over time, the new pattern of behavior will become second nature.
In the last e-mail, we brought an exercise that was designed to help
you readjust the level of your gaze. We bring another exercise here
called "Focused vision".
Just as an army practices their battle plans before going into the
heat of the battle, we recommend practicing these exercises when you
have a few spare moments.
The eyes are extremely curious. Here is an
effective exercise that trains us to realize that we can fully
participate in life without seeing every detail occurring in front
Explain to your family or friends that you are
going to close your eyes for a few minutes.
Close your eyes, and experience the events and
conversations without seeing them.
Be conscious of how much you are aware of what
is happening, even without seeing.
TODAY: Begin practicing your two new exercises and know
you are performing an important Mitzvah.
first, these exercises might seem unnecessary but they are very
helpful. I found that if I did them just one time, they helped me
keep my eyes under control. I did them for a few days - and it just
takes few minutes for each one. These exercises showed me how
curious the eyes are, and how easy they are to control through
making a conscious effort. Now, I do them once a week or whenever I
feel I need a tune up.
Learning by Experience (Part 1)
"Routine and experience are the keys to control in every matter." (Ohr
Yisrael, Letter Four)
"The keys to control" are exactly what I
need! What are the keys and how do we apply them to mastering our
The word "routine" implies that self-improvement does not happen
overnight. Character refinement is a process that takes time.
Therefore, one must develop a routine practice of guarding his eyes.
By making it a habit, he will eventually train his eyes to naturally
avoid looking at improper images.
We cannot detect the movement of the hour hand
on a clock unless we look at it intermittently. In the same way,
it's hard to detect the character transformation that takes place
through Mussar study and practice.
Rabbi Akiva became discouraged when he began learning Torah at age
40 and did not notice any improvement in his character.
Subsequently, he sat down near a spring and noticed a rock with a
hole that had been made by the dripping water. Rabbi Akiva then
remarked (Avot D'Rebbi Natan, Chapter 6), "If water which is soft
can carve into a rock which is hard, than surely the Torah, which is
so strong, can penetrate my heart which is only flesh and blood."
This insight of undetectable but certain change encouraged Rabbi
Akiva to rededicate himself to Torah. He understood that every word
he learned infused him with spiritual health, life, and holiness.
This awareness propelled him to become one of the greatest of our
Sages, understanding areas of Torah that even Moshe Rabenu did not
Consistency and Learning by Experience (Part 2)
EXPERIENCE IS THE BEST TEACHER
"Experience" suggests that there will be slip-ups and mistakes along
the way. For instance, a person may not be prepared for unexpected
images or challenging situations. Mistakes are part of the learning
process. We need to learn the pitfalls in order to avoid them. Even
if someone has the strongest dedication to avoiding improper images,
the Talmud states (Gittin 43a): "A person can only learn after he
realization that mastery over the eyes takes time and experience is
very important for two reasons. First, to avoid the unrealistic
expectation of instant change. And secondly, to understand that
without occasional mistakes, we cannot really grasp the lesson.
Considering the tendency of human nature to be attracted to improper
images, it is virtually impossible for a person to instantly master
his eyes. Rather, the slip-ups are part of the training process.
Just as a soldier needs the experience of actual combat to learn how
to fight successfully, learning from true encounters will give us
the keys to mastering our eyes.
react with guilt and despair every time we fall short, we will never
learn from our mistakes. However, if we identify the exact mistake,
we will eventually learn not to repeat it, as Rav Yisrael concludes,
"Routine and experience are the keys to control in every matter."
Use "the light of your mistakes" to pave the road to success. And
Application for e-mails 25-26
"Consistency and Learning by Experience"
"The idea about learning from our mistakes really speaks to me,"
says Steve." It's like a baby learning to walk. Nobody faults her
when she falls down because we know she is just learning to walk. We
appreciate that she is making a great effort. We applaud every step
she makes. If she falls, we react with compassion and encouragement.
It's the same way with our eyes. We sincerely want to learn how to
master our eyes. If we slip up, we have gained the knowledge of
where we are vulnerable. We sensitize ourselves so that we will be
able to anticipate that trap and not fall into it again. This is a
wonderful method towards attaining our goals."
Design a Strategic Plan (Part 1)
"Man utilizes Wisdom of the World to contemplate the results of his
business affairs. He can therefore endeavor to rectify things before
trouble occurs - each person according to his own ability. We have
the ability to learn from our mistakes. According to the degree that
we refuse to embrace foolishness, so will our wisdom increase." (Ohr
Yisrael, Letter Four)
"This is an interesting idea. Can you make it more practical?"
entrepreneur makes every effort not to repeat his mistakes. The
consequences of business errors are clear because they cause
financial loss, which is a powerful motivator. "To embrace
foolishness," means to make the same mistakes over and over. By
refusing to do that, we become wiser.
Our goal to master our eyes follows the same rules for success. The
more we know about the detrimental effects of improper images, the
more motivated we will be to avoid hurting ourselves. Even more, we
will prepare ourselves in advance by having a plan to avoid viewing
Design a Strategic Plan (Part 2)
The last time Alan walked down 53rd St. on the way to his office, he
inadvertently saw an indecent image. The image lodged in his mind
and he struggled with the effects all day. When he recited Birkat
HaMazon after lunch, he had trouble concentrating.
Alan does not want to jeopardize his spirituality, his ability to do
Mitzvot or his share in the World to Come. Moreover, even if he
avoids the image on 53rd Street, there will be no end to the other
indecent images waiting for him.
He decides to implement a strategy to protect himself when he enters
the city. He prepares his plan using classic Wisdom of the World.
Alan decides that before he leaves his home each day, he will:
(1) Take a few moments to think about the prevalent practice of
modern society to display improper images.
(2) He'll also think about the spiritual downfall caused by viewing
(3) In addition, he will review the four primary laws taught in Day
TODAY: Prepare yourself before you leave your home.
Remember that society bombards us with indecent images, and resolve
to avoid seeing them to the best of your ability.
Application for e-mails 27 & 28
"For me," says Steve, "the best way to make a plan is by taking a
few minutes after I make my 'spiritual accounting' and think about
what I need to work on for the next day. I like to keep improving
the strategies. I look at it like a chess game - the more I think
about my next move, the better it will be. Also, when I think about
things at home, outside the intensity of the city, it gives me the
objectivity to see what strategies will be more effective."
"For instance, last night when I made my spiritual accounting, I
noted that when I am on a crowded escalator, there is just no place
that I can safely look. So I came up with a plan. Next time I get on
the escalator I will try to position myself behind a man and keep my
eyes downward until I get to the top."
Modest Dress at the Workplace
"Then Boaz said to his servant who was in charge of the reapers,
'Who is this woman?'" (Ruth 2:5)
Boaz noticed that Ruth conducted herself with modesty. She sat while
gathering the sheaves on the ground so she would not have to bend
and expose her legs. (Rashi)
The workplace usually involves men and women
working together. How can an employer apply the laws regarding
proper dress to his staff?
In many ways, the owner of a company is like a father figure to his
employees. He provides them with an honest occupation so they can
earn a livelihood. The boss understands that the better he treats
his employees, the better they will fulfill their tasks. In the
bigger firms, the company provides health care packages, pension
plans, and other benefits.
The employer also serves as a role model, setting the standards for
business ethics and personal integrity.
Employers want to create a healthy environment in the workplace.
They encourage teamwork and good interpersonal relations. In this
light, the employer surely wants the office to be free of
day Eliyahu the prophet, was asked by Rabbi Beroka Hazah, to show
him someone in the marketplace who was destined for the World to
Come. Eliyahu pointed out a person and said, "He is destined for the
World to Come." The Rabbi approached the man and asked him, "What is
your occupation?" He answered, "I am a warden in the prison. I
separate the men and women and I place my bed between them so that
they will not sin. When I see a Jewish girl in whom the non-Jews are
interested, I risk my life to protect her." (Ta'anis 22a)
This account sheds light on the incomparable merit of guarding the
environment from unethical and immodest behavior.
Modest Dress at the Workplace
One of the most important ingredients for a
company's success is the establishment of a respectful dress-code.
Immodest dress gives off a carefree, enticing message, which
interferes with a business atmosphere and professionalism. Immodest
dress can be the catalyst for major personal and financial setbacks.
The worst thing for business morale is an office scandal.
You might be thinking that as much as you want to establish a dress
code, you can't see how you can communicate these ideas to your
employees. However, the current trend in office attire calls for
appropriate dress. For instance, Human Resource experts have written
about the importance of a dress code, from a secular point of view.
An article entitled, Dress for Work Success: A Business Casual Dress
Code, states: "Clothing that reveals too much back, chest, or leg is
not appropriate for a place of business, even in a business casual
Today, dress codes are acceptable - and recommended - throughout the
business world. Your employees have heard about dress codes from
their friends and colleagues. They will not be offended or surprised
if you tactfully ask them to dress appropriately.
It is understood that appropriate attire helps to keep the focus on
productivity, efficiency, and achievement. Mutual respect fosters a
wholesome environment. Workers can focus on their work without
having to contend with undue distractions. Clients and customers
appreciate a professional atmosphere.
Any employer who considers the benefits of modest dress in the
workplace will want to implement a dress code. As a father figure
and role model, he will wish to utilize every opportunity for
enhancing the lives of his employees. Respectful dress is an
important component in helping others conduct themselves with
dignity and morality.
TODAY: Whether you are an employer or an employee,
consider the advantages of modest dress at the workplace.
Application of e-mails 29 & 30
"Modest Dress at the Workplace"
key to instituting a dress code with employees is effective
communication. Here is an example of a memo that you could send to
your employees announcing the new dress code policy. Of course, each
company will adapt the policy that best suits their needs:
"Research studies have shown that respectful dress improves
efficiency between co-workers and creates more productivity with
clients. Appropriate attire projects a professional image. In
addition, it enhances the social ambiance of the office, making a
more pleasant atmosphere for all concerned.
Therefore, we have decided to institute a dress code in our company.
The dress code establishes a standard that the average person is
comfortable with, and with a little flexibility, can live with. The
code applies to both men and women. We ask our employees not to wear
jeans, sweat pants, shorts, or tee shirts. Clothes should be clean
and pressed. Men should wear a button down shirt with dark colored
slacks. As always, for some employees, suits are required for key
Women should avoid sheer fabrics and sleeveless blouses. The
neckline and the length of the skirt or dress should be
have established a "dress-code budget" as an incentive for our
employees to comply with our new dress code."
Whenever we interview a new employee, we show him this memo.
Many people have complimented our company for their respectful dress
and courteous interaction with our customers. It seems like
respectful dress and good conduct compliment each other.
Vanquishing Improper Thoughts (Part 1)
It is forbidden to have thoughts of desire for any women. (There are
different laws regarding one's wife.)
Improper thoughts defile our spirit and in turn, these thoughts are
the cause of misdeeds. Therefore, cutting off an improper thought
before it initiates an act is the root of all goodness. As the
Mishneh says, (Avos 4:2): "A sin leads to another sin, and a Mitzvah
leads to another Mitzvah."
your mind is full of improper desires, you will have a tendency to
repeat that pattern. But if you succeed in conquering your negative
impulse - and just one time shut your eyes from seeing immodest
images - it will become progressively easier for you to control your
eyes and thoughts.
HaChinuch 387 Shelach)
"I understand the importance of controlling my eyes from seeing
improper sights, but how is it possible to control my thoughts?"
When a person looks with desire at a woman (who is not permitted to
him), it causes spiritual impurity. In fact, Chaza"l (Yoma 29a) tell
us that a desirous thought for a woman is even worse (in a sense)
than committing the illicit act. That is, it is far more difficult
to control thoughts than actions. In addition, because thoughts are
private, it is hard to motivate oneself to repentance for improper
thoughts. Whereas, an improper deed is tangible and known,
therefore, it serves as an impetus towards repentance.
However, mastering improper thoughts is "the root of all goodness".
Cutting off the improper thought reverses the negative streak and
becomes the genesis of four good things:
(1) One protects his mind from impurity.
(2) He stops the inclination to commit a sin.
(3) He initiates good thoughts.
(4) He performs more and more good deeds because "One
Mitzvah leads to another Mitzvah."
Vanquishing Improper Thoughts (Part 2)
A person might think it's too difficult to stop
thinking about women. Therefore, the Sefer HaChinuch reassures us
that we can change our behavior patterns regarding women. "If you
master your yatzer hora and close your eyes just once from seeing
improper images, it will become progressively easier for you to
control your eyes and thoughts."
Even if a person is caught in a chain of improper thoughts, he can
break the chain by cutting off his thoughts just once. Spiritual
levels ascend progressively. The merit of closing our eyes even one
time will create a propensity and empower us to reach successive
levels of holiness.
TODAY: Remember that by cutting off improper thoughts just
once, you begin a new habit of control.
Application of e-mails 31 & 32
"Vanquish Improper Thoughts"
never thought that I could control my thoughts," said Steve. "But
now I use this formula of stopping the thought as soon as it comes,
and it really works. What encourages me is the knowledge that if I
cut off the thought, my life takes on a new reality. My soul is
elevated to a higher level. That means through controlling my
thoughts, I have the power to continually improve my spiritual
know, my Rabbi told me something that the Chofetz Chaim wrote in the
Mishneh Berurah (Chapter 98:2) that helps control one's thoughts.
That is, when you are walking through an immodest area, say to
yourself the verse of Psalms (51:12), 'Elokim, create a pure heart
within me and renew my spirit.' Saying the holy words of King David
uplifts my soul.''
Respect the Privacy of Other People (Part 1)
"It is forbidden to derive pleasure from
looking at the beauty of a woman, even if she is modestly dressed."
"This is hard to understand. What is so bad
about merely looking at a beautiful woman, especially if she's
Let me ask you one simple question. How would you feel if another
man entertained immodest thoughts about your wife? Even if he were
your best friend or relative, wouldn't you be offended? Then again,
your wife is an attractive woman. Isn't your friend just having a
normal human reaction?
The answer is obvious. Marital relationships are exclusively
private. The Sages' word for marriage is Kiddushin. This means
"consecrated." Once married by Torah law, husband and wife are
consecrated to each other. Their relationship is exclusive on every
level. A Jewish wife is forbidden to every other man, except her own
Therefore, if a man looks with desire at a married woman, even if
she is modestly dressed, he is breaching the privacy of her
relationship with her own husband.
The same respect must be shown to a modestly dressed woman who is
single. Her beauty is reserved for the man she will eventually
marry. Looking at her with desire leads to impure thoughts as the
verse says: "Guard yourself from every bad thing."
Respect the Privacy of Other People (Part 2)
OUR PROFESSIONAL LIFE
If in our professional life we need to speak to
a woman who is modestly dressed, we should first determine if we are
able to speak to her while maintaining proper thoughts. If we decide
that we can, we must remember to utilize everything we have learned
up to now and we should keep the words to a minimum.
The Talmud (Bava Basra 168a) tells us that Rabbi Yirmiyah ben Abba
once served as a witness for a loan. However, when the creditor came
to collect the money, Rabbi Yirmiyah ben Abba did not recognize the
woman whom had borrowed it. However, the other witnesses told Rabbi
Yirmiyah that it was the same woman but she had aged. Abaye
explained that it is not the nature of a Torah scholar to take
particular note of a woman's face. Therefore, Rabbi Yirmiyah ben
Abba did not have a strong recollection of the incident.
Although, we are far from the holy status of Rabbi Yirmiyah ben
Abba, nevertheless, we can learn from him. With the wisdom of Torah
and Mussar, we will find inner reserves of strength and dignity to
speak to modestly dressed women while retaining our holiness and
TODAY: Preserve your dignity by respecting the privacy of
Application of e-mails 33 & 34
"Respect The Privacy Of Other People"
This afternoon, Steve has a meeting with Mrs.Cohen about printing
the invitations. He reminds himself that by fulfilling the Mitzvah
of keeping his eyes in check, he effectively respects her privacy as
well as preserves his own integrity.
would never have imagined that it was possible to exercise such
control over human nature," said Steve. "But now that I know the
Halachah, I have the confidence to conduct myself accordingly."
Beware of the Enticing Nature of the World
The second concept for increasing awareness of
Hashem is called "Wisdom of the World."
is important to deepen our understanding of the ways of the world,
which are deceptive. The various temptations of the world entrap
people in their web, each person according to his own tendencies.
(This understanding of the world is called "Wisdom of the World")."
(Ohr Yisrael, Letter Four)
"I enjoy life and see the world as a beautiful
place. What is meant by the deceptive nature of the world?"
Wisdom of the World gives us the insight to live a pure and
wholesome life. It encompasses these four basic strategies:
1) Recognize the enticing nature of the world. For instance, as we
walk through town, every fast-food place tries to tempt us. Sizzling
steaks, mouth-watering ice cream, the tantalizing aroma of fresh
coffee, chewy bagels, ice-cold coke, fresh pastry, and piping hot
pizza... Yes, it is instant gratification. But at what a cost!
2) Understand that there are appetites in human nature that are
triggered by the various sensory attractions. What's more, it's very
difficult to resist desire because desire is rooted in the
subconscious. Before we smelled the pizza, we weren't even thinking
about eating. However, once the aroma hits our olfactory sense, our
craving for pizza is aroused and we want to eat.
3) Know that surrendering to your cravings can be detrimental to
4) Prepare a plan in advance to protect yourself from being
entrapped by your physical desires.
Beware of the Enticing Nature of the World
THE WAY OF THE WORLD
The world's enticements are the primary cause of sin and
self-destruction. In fact, the very first episode in the Torah
describes how Eve fell into deception and awesome devastation. The
serpent urged her to eat the forbidden fruit so that she would gain
true wisdom. While the serpent's enticement did awaken a desire to
eat the fruit, it was not strong enough to convince her to violate
G-d's commandment. What convinced her to actually eat the fruit? She
looked at the tree and it "was a delight to the eyes." The sight of
the fruit evoked a desire that overwhelmed her. She ate the fruit
and then convinced Adam to eat it as well. As a result, death came
into the world and they were both expelled from Gan Eden.
Throughout the Torah, we find examples of the power of the eyes to
cause calamity. For instance, when Cain saw that only his brother's
sacrifice was accepted, he was overcome with jealousy. He murdered
his brother and suffered unspeakable consequences. When Cham saw his
father, Noah, was unclothed, he disgraced him. When Lot saw the
fertile plains of Sodom, he left Avraham and went to live there
among evil people. He lost his spirituality and was nearly destroyed
in the obliteration of Sodom. When Avimelech saw how beautiful Sara
was, he took her to his palace. He and his household were then
stricken with a terrible illness. When Joseph's brothers saw that
Yaacov gave him a special coat they were blinded by envy. They sold
Yoseph into slavery, tearing apart the family and bringing us to
Egypt. These are a few of the countless examples.
Beware of the Enticing Nature of the World
Society exploits human weakness in order to
manipulate others for their own benefit. Television, movies,
advertisements, magazines, the entertainment industry and the
internet use images of women to entice men. They have one goal: to
increase sales. Showing a pretty woman is high on their list of sure
ways to get a man's attention.
Shimshon was the strongest man, David the most pious and Shlomo the
wisest. Nevertheless, each one of these great and holy men stumbled
when caught in the gravitational field of a woman.
When we contemplate the powerful seductions that pulsate in the
world around us, we start to attain the Wisdom of the World needed
to help us control our eyes.
TODAY: Beware of the enticing forces surrounding you.
Guard your eyes from the images that try to manipulate your senses.
Application of E-Mails 35-37
"Beware of the Enticing Nature Of The World"
Steve rounds the corner he realizes there is a fifty foot indecent
billboard in front of him. He pauses for a moment and then reminds
himself that the only purpose of this image is to manipulate people
to buy a product. There is a "no holds barred attitude" - anything
goes to make money. "Do they care about ruining my soul? Not in the
This thinking fires his will to avert the image.
"The enticing nature of the world is the type of thing that we know
superficially but the real power of it slips by us,' explains Steve.
"Until I read about 'Wisdom of the World', I didn't realize how much
society uses the image of women to entice men. This awareness helps
me protect myself from the various temptations that are trying to
get the attention of my eyes."
Recognize the Hidden Flaws of Human Nature
"Each person has certain blind spots in his personality. For
instance, a spendthrift will waste money on items which are
completely unnecessary. A compulsive eater will eat everything that
looks good despite the effect on his health."
Yisrael, Letter Four)
Imagine a judge who is a great legal scholar but has little insight
into the deceptive tactics that people use to manipulate others. If
a defendant fabricates his defense in court, this judge might not be
able to see through his manipulations. But if the judge has
"street-smarts" as well as knowledge of the law, he will be able to
perceive the deceptions of the defendant and render a just ruling.
Just as the judge who is unfamiliar with deception is unable to
recognize it, so too, we can't understand how vulnerable we are to
visual stimulation unless we've learned about it. When a man looks
at a woman his desire becomes ignited, as Chazal say, "The eyes see
and then the heart desires."
"Can you give me a true case that demonstrates
the detrimental effect of a man viewing improper images?"
A TRAGIC TALE
Eli and Gail were married for a few years and lived in a vibrant
observant community. They both came from traditional Orthodox
families. Their goals were to build a Jewish home which reflected
classic Torah ideals. However, a few years later, Gail realized that
Eli was viewing improper websites
Making matters even worse, Eli eventually stopped going to Shule
in the mornings. He showed little interest in maintaining the
holiness of their home or in strengthening his children's Torah
education. Their relationship and the family structure became
It was painfully clear to Gail that she and her husband were no
longer compatible. She did not want his influence in the house for
her own sake as well as for the sake of the children. Not long after
Eli and Gail ended their marriage.
Recognize the Hidden Flaws of Human Nature
The tragic tale from yesterday's e-mail (about "Eli & Gail", and
more tragic stories can be seen
here) demonstrate how far "the eye" can lead a person from Torah
leading Rabbis have proclaimed that viewing improper images on a
computer is tantamount to "yichud." Therefore, Eli's viewing of the
images was forbidden to him, just as it is forbidden for him to be
alone with a woman.
The Talmud teaches that a person is led on the path that he wishes
to go. If a person desires good, he will be inspired to do good. If
he desires base things, he will be motivated towards base conduct.
In Eli's case, his desire to look at improper images intensified
until it became an obsession that eventually overwhelmed him. Had he
known from the start that his desire would destroy his marriage, he
would have reined it in immediately.
Review of e-mails 37 & 38:
1) Be aware of society's attempts to entice you into seeing improper
2) Stay conscious of the inclination for men to view improper
3) Sensitize yourself to the detrimental effects of viewing improper
sights and you will be more motivated to control your vision and
preserve your spiritual well-being.
Application of e-mails 37 & 38
"That story about Eli and Gail made an impact on me," said Steve. "I
always thought that something like that could never happen to me.
But Eli was a regular guy and from a good, observant family. That's
what scares me - if it could happen to him, it could happen to me.
The more I think about Eli's tragic fall, the more I am motivated to
take every precaution so that it will never happen to me."
Control Your Home Environment
It says in the Midrash Tanchuma, Parshas
elevate themselves with their eyes, as it says (Bereishit 22): 'And
Avraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar.' Regarding
Yitzchak, it says (Bereishit 24): "And Yitzchak went out to the
field in the evening and he saw...' Regarding Yaacov, it says (Bereishit
33): "And Yaacov lifted up his eyes and saw.'
Whereas rashayim fall through their eyes, as it says (Bereishit 13):
"and Lot lifted his eyes and he saw the entire plane of Jordan.'
This is Sodom; he left Avraham and went to Sodom in order to follow
after their bad deeds. Regarding Balak, it says (BaMidbar 22): "And
Balak ben Zippor saw.'"
righteous and the wicked both use their sense of sight, but for
"I understand the importance of protecting my
eyes from improper sights. However, I work in an office which puts
me in direct contact with immodestly dressed women. What should I
As we advance in Torah, we understand more clearly the importance
of maintaining an environment that reflects Torah values. The
conditions of some environments are not in our control. Regarding
our workplace, there are many different and diverse situations. For
instance, will our employer be receptive to our request to maintain
a respectable environment? Are there alternative options? etc.
Therefore, if you have a question concerning your workplace that is
not dealt with in these e-mails, please consult your Rabbi. He will
guide you as to the best solution according to your particular
situation. However, our own homes are in our control and should
reflect the type of life we want to live. (Tomorrow we will explore
this more in depth IY"H).
Control Your Home Environment
THE JEWISH HOME
A Jewish home that is free of improper sights
and full of Torah study and Mitzvot is a spiritual oasis. The
holiness and purity of such a home nurtures the souls that live
within its walls. It radiates with the special love of Jewish
parents and it is the very foundation of Klal Yisrael. This home
will abound with blessings of peace, happiness and closeness to
If we are worthy, HaShem dwells within our homes. He loves us so
much that he desires to come into our very midst. Therefore, we
should make every effort to sensitize our family to the importance
of maintaining a home free of immodest images. We must understand
that if improper sights are viewed in the home, the holiness will
not be manifest, even if Mitzvot are performed (as the Pasuk says
Yireh Becha Ervas Davar, Vi'shav Me'acharecha").
TODAY: You may not have control over your workplace but
you can control the spiritual atmosphere of your home. Make your
home fitting to receive the Shechinah.
Application of E-Mails 40 & 41
"Control Your Home Environment"
Steve sat down with his wife and discussed constructive ways to
improve the spiritual environment of their home. They would prefer
to remove the computer from their home. However, they need it for
work, email, and school. So they're installing "kosher internet" and
a "parental guidance block" on their computer. They will put the
computer in the den so that they will be able to monitor its use. In
addition, they are being more selective of which books and magazines
should be allowed into the house. They desire their home to be a
true spiritual oasis for their children.
Spiritual Inheritance for Your Children
When Yoseph went forth to rule over Egypt, the daughters of kings
used to gaze at him through the lattice and throw jewelry so that he
would lift up his eyes and look at them. Yet he did not look at
HaKodesh Baruch Hu said to him, "I will give your daughters an
ornament in the Torah." What ornament? A portion of Torah. (Midrash
Bereishit Raba 128:18)
"What is the relationship between guarding one's
eyes and the success of his children to live a Torah value
Is there anything more beautiful than sitting with your family at
the Shabbat table and discussing the Parshat HaShavuah? Each one of
us wants to see the continuity of a Torah lifestyle in our children.
While there are many factors that contribute to the spiritual
wellbeing of our children, much of the results depend on our own
level of commitment.
Just as Yoseph's modesty blossomed with merit for his future
offspring, so too, our actions affect our own spiritual nature as
well as that of our descendents.
MERIT FOR OUR
"The tzadik walks in his perfection - happy are the children after
him." (Mishlei 20) The meaning of the phrase, "The tzadik walks in his perfection"
means that the tzadik worked hard to fulfill a Mitzvah or to develop
a worthy character trait. As a result, HaShem will bless his
children so that they can reach that level with much less effort.
Therefore, "happy are the children after him."
The more we dedicate ourselves to Torah observance, the more we
enhance the holiness of our children. Whereas, if chas v'shalom we
weaken our Torah observance, we diminish our children's spiritual
resilience. Therefore, one of the most powerful ways to guarantee
that our children follow the path of Mitzvot is for us to strengthen
our conviction in that regard.
When we develop control over our eyes from viewing improper sights,
we are helping to build the spiritual foundation of our children.
Just as a child inherits physical traits from his parents, he also
inherits character virtues. Physical traits are transmitted to the
child from his inception by DNA coding. Whereas spiritual traits are
transmitted both in the womb, as well as after the child is born.
If a parent achieves a particular character virtue, - even after the
child is born - this good trait will be transmitted to the child.
As a result, it will be easier for the child to master his nature
vis-a- vis that same virtue.
The world today is chaotic, unpredictable, and decadent. Our
children find themselves in the middle of a great spiritual
tug-of-war. Countless mesmerizing and pervasive negative attractions
flash in front of them, threatening their very soul! One slip, one
click, one indecent view could set them on a downward spiral that
could lead them far away from Torah values, chas v'shalom. How much
protection they need! Therefore, help your children and future
generations by controlling your eyes. Grant them "a spiritual
inheritance" and empower them with same the capability to preserve
the well-being of their soul.
Spiritual Inheritance for Your Children
Endowing our children with a spiritual inheritance is a powerful
motivation to master our eyes. Let's look at an example of how we
can apply this technique to gain control over one of the most
dangerous challenges of our time - the internet.
The fact that the internet is so useful is partly what makes it so
dangerous. It's an open system, putting everything at your
fingertips and in your view. We are permitted to use it because we
need it for our livelihood. However, we must never allow ourselves
to use the internet in a way that violates Torah values.
When we are in the range of the computer screen, it is crucial to
remember the prohibitions of not looking at immodest images that
lead to improper thoughts. If we inadvertently come across any
immodest image, it is imperative that we immediately remove it from
The spiritual welfare of our children is the greatest motivation to
exercise restraint and good judgment when using the computer. By
choosing to avoid indecent sights, we are simultaneously
transmitting the power of control over our eyes to our children. Our
resistance to temptation is the genesis of endless blessings, merit,
and holiness for our children.
While there are many factors that contribute to the spiritual
wellbeing of our children, much of the results depend on our own
level of commitment. Just as Yoseph's modesty brought merit for his
future offspring, our actions can bring merit for ours. (See
here for our Filter Section)
TODAY: Be exceedingly careful while using the internet and
bring merit for your children to live Torah lives.
Application of E-Mails 42 & 43
"Spiritual Inheritance for Your Children"
anything be more important than seeing our children walk in the ways
of Torah? When I realize that by controlling my eyes I am
spiritually empowering my children, I become very inspired. The
turbulent world is a great challenge to any child. Here is a
concrete way that I can give my children a spiritual advantage. The
love I have for my children is a powerful motivator.
The Main Weapon - Awareness of Hashem
"Wisdom of the World will lighten our burden and the Awareness of
Hashem will strengthen us. Involvement in the ways of Divine service
will teach man its paths." (Ohr Yisrael, Letter 4)
The following incident with Yoseph HaTzadik, illustrates how the
combination of the Awareness of Hashem and Wisdom of the World
(see e-mails 35-37) complement each other in the battle of the eyes.
THE TEST OF YOSEPH
During the time Yoseph was a slave in Egypt, he was appointed
caretaker of Potifar's household. Here he encountered a great test.
Potifar's wife was extremely attracted to Yoseph and actively tried
to seduce him on a daily basis. She placed herself in front of him
whenever they were alone and openly invited him, "lay with me."
Yoseph's automatic response and first line of defense was awareness
of Hashem. Therefore, he turned his eyes away to avoid seeing her.
His reaction of looking down was powered by his awareness of Hashem,
and it was effective for quite some time in neutralizing her
Only after repeated attempts over a long period of time, was she
able to find a niche in his spiritual armor. Nevertheless, Yoseph
immediately recovered and saved himself from sinning. What did he
1. He closed his eyes and imagined the face of his father.
2. He ran away from the palace.
Imagining the face of his father, Yaakov, reminded himself that he
is the descendent of great tzadikim. It would be beneath his dignity
and moral heritage for him to yield to this woman. These thoughts
injected him with the strength to supplement his waning awareness
of Hashem - and gain control.
Why did he run outside? That was the best way of removing Potifar's
wife from his eyesight. These two actions, (i.e., imagining his
father and running outside) were the result of using Wisdom of
The Main Weapon - Awareness of Hashem
Each one us has fluctuating degrees of "Yirat Shamayim." As we
proceed in our efforts to master the eyes, we will learn how to
balance our awareness of Hashem together with the application of
Wisdom of the World.
THE MAIN WEAPON
Yoseph's main weapon (when tested with the wife
of Potifar) was his awareness of Hashem. He succumbed only after he
was repeatedly approached and finally physically accosted. At that
point, Yoseph supplemented his awareness of Hashem with Wisdom of
the World and succeeded in passing his test. As for us, while we
know intellectually that Hashem sees our actions, the full
consciousness of this truth has not yet penetrated our hearts.
Therefore, our main tool to supplement our awareness of Hashem needs
to be Wisdom of the World.
TODAY: Supplement your awareness of Hashem with Wisdom of
the World and master your eyes.
Application of E-Mails 44 & 45
"The Main Weapon - Awareness of Hashem"
This morning when I was on the train, I found myself surrounded by
improper sights. My Awareness of Hashem was not strong enough to
control my eyes. I thought about Eli and Gail, and how his life fell
apart when he lost control of his eyes. This gave me the incentive
to reach down and find extra reserves of strength to avert my eyes.
I opened an interesting book that I carry with me for this purpose
and starting reading. I didn't have the best concentration but I did
a good job of averting my eyes the best I could under these
The Power of Viewing Holy Images
"How wonderful it would be if we could channel the energy of our
lesser personality traits to serve Hashem." (Ohr Yisrael, Letter
"How can we channel the desire to see
improper images into strengthening our performance of Mitzvot?"
Just as the eye is stimulated by negative images, it is also
stimulated by positive images. Therefore, if we focus on good
images, they will impart holiness within us and inspire the
performance of good deeds.
For instance, can there be anything more inspiring than viewing a
beautiful sunrise, a colorful flower or the graceful flight of a
bird? All these sights reflect the majesty of the Creator.
Likewise, our Sages tell us that when we gaze upon holy objects, the
light of our eyes brightens and increases. Listed below are some of
the holy images that we can view and the positive effects they have
1) When a person looks at the countenance of a tzadik, his soul is
illuminated with light and holiness. (Degel Macheneh Ephraim)
2) Beholding the sefer Torah when it is raised before or after kriat
Torah and reading a word or two from the scroll imparts a great,
holy light within us. (Magen Avraham, Chapter 134)
3) Viewing the "Shin" on either side of the Tephillan Shel Rosh
4) Looking at water is good for the eyes. (Ibn Ezra)
5) Looking at the heavens imparts Yirat Shemayim. (The Vilna Gaon)
6) When reciting the Kriat Shema in Shacharit it is good to look at
the Tziztit and touch them to the eyes when we say, u'reisem
o'soh. (Shulchan Oruch 24:4)
7) Whoever brings the Tzitzit to the eyes when saying Parshat
Tziztit will never lose his sight. (Be'ar HaTiv)
Tomorrow we will bring some more ideas of holy images that we can
The Power of Viewing Holy Images
Like we mentioned yesterday, focusing on good images can impart
holiness within us and inspire the performance of good deeds. In
continuation of yesterday's e-mail, here are another few ideas:
8) Looking at the Tzitzit inspires a person to perform Mitzvot and
stops him from randomly following his eyes. Therefore, we should
look at our tzitzis a few times a day. This is especially important
and beneficial if an impure thought enters his heart. (The Chofetz
Chaim, Shmirat HaLoshon 2:30)
9) On Shabbat night, one should look at the candles before reciting
Kiddush and at the Kos HaBrachah when reciting Kiddush. (Shulchan
10) Whenever leaving the house, a person should look at the Mezuzah
and kiss it. (Ma'aseh Rav HaChadash)
11) It is a mitzvah to watch other people who are performing a
mitzvah, just as it was a mitzvah to watch the Kohen Gadol perform
his Avodah on Yom Kippur. (Nefesh \Kol Chai Phelagi)
12) One who looks at a Beit Knesset or a Beit Midrash will be
elevated and how much more so if he enters the building. Even more
so if he stands in front of the Aron Hakodesh and looks at the holy
Torah. (Rosh HaGivah)
13) Looking at the four letter name of HaShem -- YHVH -- and
visualizing it, is a great spiritual influence and enhances Yirat
14) Study of the holy Torah, imparts holiness, light, and joy to the
TODAY: Take the opportunity to look at holy sights and be
Application E-Mails 46 & 47
"The Power of Viewing Holy Images"
love this technique," says Steve. "Whenever I have the opportunity
to look at one of these holy sights, I take a few extra seconds to
bathe my eyes in holiness. I look at my Tzitzit and the Shin on my
Tephilin and I feel the Kedushah enter my soul. When the Torah is
opened, I come close to see its holy words."
Guide Your Friend to Goodness
"Another effective way of mastering ourselves is to instruct a
friend and guide him towards goodness. We can learn the inner
longings of the person in order to incline his heart to Yirat
Shamayim and Torah. Then our righteousness will shine like the
light of the dawn. If we study the ways of human nature in order to
understand the paths of man and his falseness - then this study of
"Wisdom of the World has the power to correct all inappropriate
behavior and improper thoughts." (Ohr Yisrael, Letter Four)
"It's hard for me to believe that guiding
others will help me correct all inappropriate behavior and improper
Like a general encouraging his soldiers on the eve of battle, Rav
Yisrael encourages us with words of inspiration, wisdom, and hope.
He now reveals another stratagem to ensure our triumph over the
negative impulse- and that is to convey these ideas to a friend. Our
approach must be custom tailored to each person, according to his
particular personality, values and culture. By contemplating his
inner makeup before we speak with him, we are in a position to
approach him with sensitivity and effectiveness.
We will "guide him to goodness." Meaning, we should inspire our
friend and encourage him by explaining that we know of an effective
strategy for mastering the eyes. The idea of attaining purity will
appeal to him because every Jewish soul yearns for holiness.
By sharing our convictions and knowledge with others, we will come
to understand even more clearly the dangers of looking at improper
images - and increase our efforts to avoid them. We will be
transformed; attaining levels of good deeds and holy thoughts that
we previously thought were not within our reach.
"Our righteousness will shine like the light of dawn."
This is also an application of the Torah concept "Measure for
Measure." If we help others achieve spiritual well-being, HaShem
will help us. As Rav Yisrael taught, "In order to heal himself, a
person should bring merit to others by influencing them to attain
Yirat Shemayim and the wisdom of Mussar. And the Talmud teaches,
'All who have mercy on other people, Heaven will have mercy on
them.' There is no greater compassion than influencing others to
Guide Your Friend to Goodness
If you can help someone to study Mussar, you will evoke merit for
yourself and be guided on an upright path. As the Sages taught,
"Everyone who brings merit to others - no sin will come to his
Ultimately, the mitzvah of Shmirat Einayim brings holiness to the
world. The Torah (Iyov 22:29-30) alludes to this idea: "One whose
eyes are lowered will save others. He will even save a person who is
not innocent; and he will be delivered by the pureness of your
hands." This means that the holiness of a person who lowers his eyes
from seeing improper sights will save others who have not yet
attained purity of his eyes. The merit of controlling his eyes will
serve as a spiritual influence to others to guard their eyes. (Taharat
TODAY: Tell a freind about the Shmiras Ainayim Chizuk
Application of E-Mails 48 & 49
"Guide Your Friend to Goodness"
At first, I felt a little self-conscious
about sharing these ideas of Shmirat Einayim with others. However,
my friend David brought up the subject with me because he knows that
I am working on Shmirat Einayim. Once, he shared his own concerns
with me, I was able to guide and encourage him to begin a successful
program of Shmirat Einayim.
was receptive to my ideas and now we learn the guidebook together.
We also discuss strategies that work and share our experiences. We
both gain a lot of strength from each other.
Reaching out to David has reinforced my own awareness of the
importance of Shmirat Einayim and the fulfillment of its laws. I am
now more excited than ever at the prospect of mastering my own eyes.
Receive a Special Blessing
Taharat HaKodesh: "His eyes are as the
eyes of a dove, by springs of water" (Song of Songs 5:12). A dove
has only one mate for his entire lifetime. If the men of Israel will
not look at other women besides their wives, they will be likened
to the "Holy Supernal Dove." In addition, they are "by springs of
water," as it says (Ishaiah 58): "You will be like a watered garden
and like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail." The allusion
to water depicts wisdom and understanding.
"I use public transportation and I walk in
crowds of people on a daily basis. Also, the customers that come
into the store where I work are often dressed immodestly. How can I
comply with the Torah's laws not to look at women?"
Lakish said, 'The pleasure of looking at a woman is worse than the
illicit act itself, as it says (Kohellet 6:9): 'Better is the seeing
of the eye than the wandering of desire. (Yoma 74b)'"
Theoretically, a man who wants to look at improper sights can
satisfy his desire whenever he wants. Whereas, regarding the actual
illicit act, reality does not allow him unrestrained desire. In
this light, the pleasure of looking at women is "worse" because it
is constantly available.
Therefore, if a person controls his eyes when he is in public
places, the Torah considers it as if he withstood a test as
difficult as Yoseph's and rewards him with the same blessings that
Yoseph HaTzadik received after he withheld himself from engaging in
promiscuous behavior. [Taharat HaKodesh]