Guard Your Eyes

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The Shmiras Ainayim Chizuk List          E-Mails 151-200


Translated Quotes from a new Sefer "Ve'ha'ir Ainainu"

The Chofetz Chaim describes our times as being a mighty struggle between the forces of purity and impurity, from which only a few sturdy heroes will emerge unscathed. Rabbi Elya Lopian ztl explains why today's battle is fiercer than ever before in history. The long years of golus are drawing to an end. The Satan is in his death throes, fighting with all his might before he is to be vanquished forever. As the curtains come down on the very last act - who will finally win the day? The Yetzer Hara is desperate to be the conqueror. It's now or never, and this is his last shot. No holds barred. Ripped away are all former standards of modesty or decency. And we, the handful of stalwarts who seek only to stand firmly planted in the camp of Hashem's legions, feel fragile and vulnerable to provocation and assault every time we step out into the street. How can we hope to keep our eyes holy in a world gone mad?   
The ideal answer to the dangers of the street is to keep the mind engaged in thinking about one's Torah learning. Once the imagination is not roaming free and the mind is fully focused, then whatever is happening around us fades into the background.
And Torah alone helps shield from sin. The Rambam writes: "improper thoughts will only gain access to a mind that is empty of wisdom". Therefore our Rabbanim advise preparing in advance some Torah topic to ponder or revise, or something to repeat over to oneself.
The Mesilas Yeshorim puts it succinctly: Hashem created our Yetzer Hara and He created Torah as its antidote. So nothing else will be as effective. Period.  
Those who rarely sally forth from the precincts of the Yeshiva may be fine with the above formula. However, there is a plan B for those who cannot, at will, just become immersed in a sugya every time they need to go somewhere. And that is simply to put the mind onto some other pertinent and absorbing topic, or to just sing mentally through some well-loved song. So long as it has one wrapped up in his own world of thought and detached from the stimulations of his immediate surroundings.


The Sefer "Ve'ha'ir Ainainu" can be purchased in the following places (in Hebrew):

In Kiryat Sefer (Modi'in Ilit) - Rav Goldshmit (the author): Tel: 08-9742822

In Jerusalem - 02 6235786

In Bnei-Brak - 03 6164314


A continuation of translated quotes from the introduction of the new sefer "Ve'ha'ir Ainainu"

Those who seek to truly serve Hashem and always guard their eyes will face major hurdles. For a start; it's a negative. 'Don't look!,' we command ourselves, 'Pay no attention to what you're missing out on!'. Loosened morals however, is something that human nature finds so inviting and quickly gets excited over.

Curbing unruly urges can be a bitter struggle. Rabbi Dessler ztl compares pushing the Yetzer Hara away to pressing down on a coiled spring that is just accumulating the vigor to jump right back. Rabbi Chaim Friendlander ztl therefore prefers a positive approach, such as saying to ourselves the following:

  • "I don't want to view anything unseemly".
  • "Not looking will bring me sanctity and merit". 
  • "The forbidden fruits of lowly, sensuous momentary thrills are not for me".
  • "I'm not losing out on any pleasures when I opt for the true spiritual wealth and eternal bliss".

The Sefer Ve'ho'air Einaiynu was written to spell out for the reader some of the wonderful rewards in this world and the next, for whoever guard his eyes, such that one will be readily willing to discard the imaginary pleasures of the flesh, as he begins to perceive the beauty of Shemiras Einayim.
The Mesilas Yeshorim writes (ch. 27) that Kedusha starts out as an effort, but then it comes to us as a reward. At first it's hard work, but then it's handed to us as a gift. 
After a couple of successes, things get easier. It's those first serious struggles that are so tough. The Yetzer Hara seems to be a mountain. But as soon as one begins to rid himself of the old habits, the road ahead becomes clear, and all it takes is a low-key continuous input to keep it all going.


A continuation of translated quotes from the introduction of the new sefer "Ve'ha'ir Ainainu"

How Yosef Hatzadik was tested

When speaking of holiness and guarding one's eyes from impure sights, the first name that springs to mind is of the paradigm of holiness, Yosef Hatzadik. This seventeen - year-old boy of unsurpassed beauty, newly wrenched away from all his righteous family, alone now in a land saturated with immorality, was bought as a slave by the prominent and wealthy Potiphar. He was quickly promoted to the position of managing all of his master's affairs and then... His master's wife saw him and became implacably determined to seduce him to sin with her. She put him through the most agonizing trials. This formidable temptress tried verbal persuasion. She would change her clothes three times every day. She made things successively harsher for him and threatened his refusal with the most fearful consequences. After having him thrown into prison for his unbending no, his problems were far from over.
She regularly visited him there and warned him 'So you think this is the last of your woes?  If you persist in your obstinacy there are worse tortures coming.  I will have you bound in iron chains, bent over and unable to stand erect. I will have you blinded,' and on and on.
Not only was she relentlessly working to making him yield to her advances, but her heart was also set on getting him to somehow to look at her. The Midrash tells us that she even positioned a metal pointed roasting spit at his neck to coerce him to look at her. But her efforts were in vain.
The Medrash makes the point in several places, that the severest of his trials was in fact to avoid looking at  her. Yet he stood firm. That mighty hero, Yosef Hatzadik, never once glimpsed at her. After twelve years, his purity intact, he emerged from prison and was rushed to stand before Pharaoh.
The story of Yosef to be continued tomorrow...


How Yosef Hatzadik was tested
(Part 2)

As the newly appointed Mishneh Lemelech (viceroy) Yosef was driven through the streets of Mitzrayim in Pharaohs' royal chariot. The Medrash Raba describes how the daughters of the noblemen peeped at him from their windows and threw their fine jewellery, one piece after the next, into his carriage in the hope that he might look up at them. But no, Yosef would not raise his eyes. In Targum Yerushalmi we are further told how the daughters of the aristocrats exclaimed to one another in sheer amazement: 'Oh, see this pious nobleman who so perfectly controls his eyes and his thoughts'.

In this Yosef was unique. Never did his eyes behold anything that they shouldn't. Until Hashem was moved to say: 'I must surely pay back those eyes that were shut fast'...
All of Klal Yisrael ultimately reaped from this rich harvest. The nascent nation descended to this land that was uncontested for its low morals. Nevertheless, every Jew retained his purity because each felt strengthened by the Kedusha of that saintly bochur who prevailed over all the forces of impurity and wickedness, and triumphed over whatever he was subjected to. And the influence of Yosef's sanctity shields us to this very day.
The Seforim say, why did Hashem engineer Yosef's coming down to Mitzrayim ahead of all his family? To empower a Merkava to the Shechina there in Mitzrayim, as explained in the Zohar, and to neutralize their overpowering evil and filth, by his going through all those trials.
They also ask: What noble deeds were performed to prepare the ground for the Jewish nation's arrival? None. No great deeds, no Kabalistic Yichudim. Nothing. All that happened was that Yosef held out and did not once look at his seductress. And this non-action enabled the Jewish people to come and stay in Mitzrayim for the next 210 years!


A continuation of translated quotes from the introduction of the new sefer "Ve'ha'ir Ainainu"


The Chofetz Chiam reassures us that even if we have no confidence that our new resolutions will affect more than a slight dent in our old habits, it will still prove well worth the effort.
One of the first things we'll have to tackle if we wish to guard our eyes is our well-entrenched habit of curiosity. Aside from the natural attraction toward histaklus, most of us feel an urge to look all around at whatever may be happening in the vicinity. As we casually walk down the street, our eyes dart here and there - "who's this?" and "what's that?", and it all costs us countless needless confrontations with the Yetzer Hara.

Before heading for the street, we could give ourselves a mini pep-talk that could run something like this: "I need to go someplace now and no more than that. There is nothing en-route that requires my investigation. This itch to never miss what's going on is really quite pointless, not to mention unbecoming. Instead, by lowering my eyes, I can create my own inner sanctum that will shield me from impure invasion".


A continuation of translated quotes from the introduction of the new sefer "Ve'ha'ir Ainainu"

(Part 1)

The foremost rule for every man is to avoid coming across women, as far as this is possible. One who unnecessarily exposes himself to risky places, is called a Rasha even if he shuts his eyes, for where is his fear of sin? By going there, he is demonstrating a degree of indifference to this delicate issue.

The Arizal tells us how immodest mingling contaminates the very air being breathed. This is true to such an extent, that Avraham Avinu suddenly became aware of Sarah's exquisite beauty as he neared the degenerate land of Mitzrayim, saying: "Behold, now I know that you are a women of beautiful appearance".
When the local girl schools' or seminaries' lesson times begin or end, we must try to consider those streets as strictly off limits. Likewise, any main streets that tend to be populated by women should be avoided if an alternative route is available. The rule number one in Shmiras Ainayim says R' Chaim Shmulevitch, is just to keep away from women. By contrast, there is an Halachic opinion that finds nothing wrong with walking past a shrine of idol worship!
But when it comes to matters of arayos, there's no such thing. The natural tendencies of a man cause him to find matters of arayos so very fascinating and so sorely tempting, as Chazal term it:
"Nafsho shel adom mis'aveh lahem ume' chamadesan - the soul of a man desires them and craves them''. In their wisdom, Chazal erected firm safeguards. By keeping away from women, one pre-empts confrontation with the Yetzer Hara. No need to keep pressing down on that coiled spring (that we mentioned in e-mail #152).

And as we cease having to fight our unruly passions head on, they will gradually begin to subside and the fire of desire dies down.



(Part 2)

Rav Schwadron ztl used to tell the following story about R' Ahron Kotler ztl and his insistence on staying away from streets that tend to be frequented by women.
When R' Ahron lived in Kletzk, his home was some distance from the Yeshiva, and to use the main streets would entail challenges in Shemiras Einayim. So he went instead by way of the backyards, and had to vault over the fences, etc. It once happened that two bochurim were at his home discussing Torah until it was almost time to be back in Yeshiva. He offered to take them with him along his usual quick route behind the houses. They couldn't refuse, but when they reached an alleyway prowled by big fierce dogs, they were simply too scared to proceed. R' Ahron instructed them to take hold of the hems of his coat and walk beside him. Trembling, they obeyed and - lo and behold, the dogs simply ignored the trio.
We see from this story that R' Ahron would prefer to negotiate tall fences and dangerous hounds, rather than use the regular streets which entailed tests in Shemiras Einayim.
Did Chazal not say that a man should walk behind a lion in preference to walking behind a woman?
R' Eliyohu Mann Shlita once asked the Steipler ztl:  'My daily journey to give Shiur in the Petach Tikvah Yeshiva is replete with risks in Shemiras Einayim, what should I do about it?' The Stiepler felt that the whole exercise wasn't worth while, but then suggested that he wear a pair of sunglasses with the lenses blacked out by a felt-tip marker. A small area should be left clear of-course, just enough for him to be able to see where he's going.

Some Teachings From Rabbi Nachman
In Likutei Moharan II:48, Rebbe Nachman writes that every movement that brings a person out of physicality and closer to God is "very precious." If a person progresses even a minute amount, in the higher world he has traversed huge distances. 
Since a person's spiritual level is not static, in addition to being able to elevate ourselves, we are in danger of falling. It's important to learn to deal with that possibility and to do everything in our power to assure that if we do fall, we will not exceed the minimal boundaries set by the Torah. At the same time, when we fall, we must never lose hope of elevating ourselves to higher levels, and even surpassing our previous levels. Very often, a decline is preparation for a significant ascent, as Rebbe Nachman and Reb Nosson often remind us in their writings.
If a person failed to break his fall in time and has transgressed clear prohibitions, he must be prepared to deal even with this. In Likutei Moharan II:12, Rebbe Nachman tells us that when one is in the lowest of depths, stuck in the mire, he has a special opportunity to find the highest levels of holiness which are hidden there - but only if he is firmly resolved to search for God.
Not only is despair pointless, it can also lead to falling to further depths. But how can anyone escape despair when he understands the seriousness of these moral transgressions? How can a person not despair when the Zohar (219b) states that repentance does not help when it comes to the sin of Er and Onan?
Rebbe Nachman states (Sichot Haran 71) that the Zohar should not be understood literally. Repentance always helps, and the main thing is not to repeat one's wrong doing.
What we are drawn after in this world, we will be drawn after in the next world.
Zohar Vayera:
Rebbe Aba opened and said, (Tehilim 24:3) "Who will go up on the mountain of Hashem and who will stand in his holy place?" Come and see, all the people of the world do not see on what they exist in this world, and the days go by and rise before Hakadosh Baruch Hu; all the days that a man exists in this world. For all of them (the days) were created, and they all exist above. From where do we learn that they were created? For it says (Tehilim 139:16) "Yamim Yatzaru - days were created". And when it comes time for a person to leave this world, all his days come close to (come before) the King on High, as it says (Melachim 1:2) "And the days of Dovid came close to die", (and in Bereishis 47:29) "and the days of Yisrael came close to die". Because when a person is in this world, he does not pay attention and he does not look upon what he exists in this world, rather each and every day is considered as if it passed in emptiness.

For when the soul goes out of this world, it doesn't know on what path they will lead it. For the path to go up to the place where the high souls shine, is not given to all souls. For the same way that a person was drawn in this world, so is the soul drawn after in the next world, and to there it is pulled after the soul leaves him (the body). Come and see. If a person was pulled after Hakadosh Baruch Hu, and his desires were after Hashem in this world, then when the soul leaves him, it is pulled after Him (Hashem), and they give the soul a path to rise up above, after the same pull that this person was drawn to through his desire, each day upon this world.
The coming few e-mails will quote some excerpts from the new book by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller and Sara Yoheved Rigler:
"Battle Plans: How to Fight the Yetzer Hara"

Two Tuesdays a month, the Israel Defense Forces conducts induction ceremonies in the Kotel Plaza. The novice soldiers, outfitted in their spanking new uniforms, stand in line as their proud parents look on. Each one is issued a Bible and a gun.

Birth into this world is actually an induction as a soldier. As the great sage Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato stated: "In truth a person is put into the middle of a raging war." The uniform is the human body, the Bible is the wisdom of Torah, and the gun is the inner weapons needed to fight this war.

Some of us are born warriors; others prefer to pursue peace. Whatever our disposition, however, we must recognize that life in this world is an ongoing battle, and the enemy is the force of darkness, negativity, and selfishness, called in Hebrew the "yetzer hara." Our battle assignment is to scale the mountain of lofty thoughts, words, and actions. The yetzer hara's job, assigned by God, is to pull us down into the ravines of depressed thoughts, condemning words, and depraved actions. The very name "Yisrael" was conferred on our forefather Yaakov by the angel of darkness after a night-long battle. That struggle against evil is the prototype of the life of every Jew. In this world, our choice is not between war and peace, but only between victory and defeat.
Defeating the enemy requires more than superior strength and strategy. For example, everyone knows the military strategy by which Israel won the Six Day War. Israeli fighter jets, flying below the tracking altitude of Egyptian radar, attacked and destroyed Egypt's entire air force on the ground in the first hour of the war. Few people know that Egypt could have totally avoided defeat had one bungling sergeant known how to decode an incoming message.
That morning Egyptian intelligence at a radar station in northern Jordan did indeed pick up the scrambling Israeli aircraft. They sent a red alert message to the bunker of the Egyptian Supreme Command in Cairo. At that point, Egypt would have had enough time to get its planes off the ground and into the air and thus save them, but the sergeant on duty in the decoding room attempted to decipher the red alert using the previous day's code. His failure to properly decode the message led to catastrophe for his country.
Army intelligence is as important to the Israel Defense Forces as its elite combat units. Intelligence includes, among other things, intercepting the enemy's communications and then properly decoding them. The most crack combat unit in the world cannot win a battle if intelligence fails to appraise it of the enemy's plans and strategies.
In the same way, we cannot hope to defeat the yetzer hara without intelligence: becoming aware of the enemy's strategy and properly decoding its messages.
Tomorrow we will discuss the Yetzer Hara's Secret Code Be"H.

Click on the book to preorder your copy Today!
In today's e-mail we quote some excerpts from the new book by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller and Sara Yoheved Rigler:
"Battle Plans: How to Fight the Yetzer Hara"

Continued from yesterday....
We cannot hope to defeat the yetzer hara without intelligence: be coming aware of the enemy's strategy and properly decoding its messages. The Maharal of Prague [1520-1609] starts his treatise on "The Power of the Yetzer Hara" by breaking the code of the yetzer hara's messages to us. This enemy is always characterized by hunger and thirst, that is, by lack. It is the voice inside each of us that carps on lack.

The message of the yetzer hara is always: "You don't have what you need." This encoded message has a thousand different versions:
  • I don't have a spouse, so of course I'm depressed.
  • I have a husband, but he's not emotionally sensitive to me.
  • I have a wife, but she doesn't keep the house neat enough.
  • I don't have children, so I can't get on with my life.
  • I have children, but they have learning disabilities.
  • My child won't be accepted to a good college.
  • My daughter desperately needs to get married.
  • I don't have enough money to buy a house.
  • I have a house, but it's too small.
  • The house is big enough, but I desperately need a new kitchen.
  • The house is too big for me to clean by myself; I need household help.
  • I don't have a job that pays enough. I have a lucrative job, but I don't have the kind of boss I need.
The Maharal reveals the secret that statements of lack are a code and the dispatcher is always the yetzer hara.
Whenever you hear your inner voice complaining about what you lack, go on high alert and assume battle position. You are under the attack of the yetzer hara.

This does not mean that you can't have legitimate wants: to get married, to have children, to own a home, to work at a good job. In fact, most of the blessings of the daily Amidah prayer are requests -- for healing, livelihood, redemption, etc. These blessings must be accompanied by genuine yearning.

You cross the line and start working for the enemy, however, when you heed the yetzer's commands instead of God's. For example, if you find yourself complaining about or leveling hurtful criticisms at your spouse, or speaking badly about your children, boss, or coworkers, you have fallen into the hands of the enemy. The feeling, "I don't have what I need," leads to many sins, as the yetzer hara offers you more and more blandishments to satisfy your needs by means that violate the Torah.
Tomorrow we will discuss Battle Plan #2, Be"H.
In today's e-mail we quote some excerpts from the new book by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller and Sara Yoheved Rigler:
"Battle Plans: How to Fight the Yetzer Hara"
Yesterday we discussed how the Yetzer Hara is characterized by lack (the voice inside each of us that carps on lack), and we discussed Battle Plan #1.
The best armor to protect yourself from the yetzer's attack is the attitude, "Everything I need, I have (because God provided everything)." Indeed, this is the meaning of the blessing we say every morning thanking God "Who provided me my every need." At the time you recite this blessing and throughout the day, you should feel that, at this moment, you have everything you need. This does not preclude wanting things in the future, but a bedrock belief in God's goodness and kindness to you at this very moment is the best battle stance against the yetzer hara.

You achieve this attitude by shifting your focus from what you don't have to what you do have. We are familiar with the automatic rifle carried at all times by Israeli soldiers: the M16. To fight the yetzer hara of lack we must carry one of two weapons: the G(Gratitude)16 and the G17.
The G16
To use the G16, stop obsessing on what you don't have and refocus your thoughts on the details of what you do have:
  • You may not yet be married, but you do have many of the components necessary to live a life of meaning, such as good friends and an interesting job. Take time to think about and be grateful for each one of your friends and the specific plusses of your job.
  • You may need knee replacement surgery, but your eyes and ears work just fine. Take time to think about and be grateful for all the complex gifts of vision and hearing, which allow you to achieve the most significant goals that you have set for yourself.
  • You may not have a large enough house for your family, but you are blessed with children. Take time to think about and be grateful for the special qualities of each one of your children. Each one is an entire universe.
  • You may not have a pleasant job with amiable coworkers and a reasonable boss, but you do get a paycheck every week. Take time to think about and to be grateful for everything your paycheck pays for, and how your job and your paycheck enable you to be a giver, as God is a giver.
On Sunday we will IY"H discuss the "G17"
In today's e-mail we quote some excerpts from the new book by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller and Sara Yoheved Rigler:
"Battle Plans: How to Fight the Yetzer Hara"
To fight the yetzer hara - which carps on "lack", we must carry one of two weapons: the G(Gratitude)16 and the G17. In the last e-mail we discussed the G16, which works when we stop obsessing on what we don't have and refocus our thoughts on the details of what we do have. Today we will discuss the "G17".

The "G17"
The weapon G17 works like the precision missiles the Israeli air force uses to target particular terrorist leaders in the Gaza Strip. It can destroy a third floor apartment without damaging anything on the fourth and second floors. The G17 is a very sophisticated weapon. While the G16 involves shifting your focus from what you don't have to what you do have, the G17 ferrets out the blessing hidden within the lack itself.
  • You may not have a spouse, but your single status allows you its own unique avenues for your spiritual expression. In fact, because you are not yet married, you have the time to nurture yourself and others spiritually and materially in ways you won't have time to do later when you have a family.
  • You may not be healthy, but your illness may engender what you most want: a closer relationship with God and with the people you love the most. Illness can bring about positive changes in your character and spiritual growth. Dr. Rahamim Melamed-Cohen avers that the years since he was stricken with Lou Gehrig's Disease and became completely paralyzed have been the best years of his life from the standpoint of inner growth.
  • You may not have children, but you do have a spouse and the time to devote yourself to your marriage and to that area that may in fact be your true mission in life. Witness the accomplishments of Rabbi Yaakov Moshe and Chaya Sara Kramer as described in Holy Woman.
Focusing on what you have rather than what you don't have is a foolproof weapon against the yetzer hara. Utter the formula, "Everything I need, I have (because God provided everything)," feel joy and gratitude to God, and you've won the battle.
For the full article see here.
The Ohr Hachayim Hakadosh
In honor of his Yartziet today, 15 Tamuz
There's a fundamental and elementary piece from the holy Ohr Hachayim that gives a clear perspective on the powerful nature of these desires, and helps us understand how Hashem expects us to remain holy in spite of it being against human nature. In honor of his Yartzeit, I would like to bring this Ohr Hachayim in a few stages in the coming e-mails. To see the original text in Hebrew, click here (the important parts are marked in yellow, and the VERY important parts in red).
Ohr Hachayim (Acharei Mos, 18:2)
Part 1

It is known that all the Mitzvos that Hashem commanded his holy nation are Mitzvos that a man can stand by and bring within himself a desire to do them, besides for the Mitzva of staying away from arayos (illicit sexual relations) which is something that a person craves and his desires force him to act, unless one makes an effort to stay far away from two things: (1) Seeing with the eyes and (2) Thinking about it. However, if a person does not keep away from these two aspects (sight and thought), a man will not be able to control himself and rid himself of it (the desire). 

As long as one does not stay away from looking, even if he stays away from thinking about it, he will not be able to control himself and rid himself of the inevitable desire. As we can see from the story of R' Amram - the Rebbe of all Chassidim (Kidushin 81a), that even though he was far from thinking about these things, he was won over by the aspect of "sight" (to see the full story of Rav Amram see Chizuk e-mail #275 on this page). And we can also see this from the story of Reb Masya Ben Charash (Yalkut Shimoni; Veyechi) who chose to blind himself when he felt that he would be forced to come to bad deeds through the sight of his eyes, even though he was surely far from thinking of these things - as is clear in the story (see the story in Chizuk e-mail #46 on this page).

And if one does not distance himself from thinking about these things, his thoughts will also force him to seek out and lust after the deed. As we can see from the story in the Gemara (Avodah Zara 22b) of a non-Jew who bought a thigh of meat in the market place, cut into it and used it to pleasure himself, and then cooked it and ate it. This comes from being steeped in the aspect of "thought" which forced him to do these deeds even without seeing anything. 

So we see that with either of these two aspects, sight or thought, it becomes close to impossible for a person to control himself in this area. And it goes without saying that if one looks AND thinks about these things, he will be very weak when facing this desire. And it also goes without saying, that if one actually begins to taste from the bad, he will be completely given over into the hands of his desires. 
(To be continued in the coming e-mails, IY"H).
The Ohr Hachayim Hakadosh
We continue below the insightful piece from the holy Ohr Hachayim that we started in yesterday's e-mail, in honor of his Yartzeit. The Ohr hachayim explains the powerful nature of these desires and helps us understand how Hashem expects us to remain holy in spite of it being against human nature. To see the original text in Hebrew, click here (the important parts are marked in yellow, and the VERY important parts in red).

In response to our e-mail yesterday, Rabbi Avraham J. Twerski wrote me the following:
I don't know how safe it is to visit the Ohr Hachaim's kever on Har Hazesim today, but in the olden days I used to go there. If one can, it is a segula to read this section at the kever and ask that in his zechus Hashem should help.
Ohr Hachayim (Acharei Mos, 18:2)
Part 2

And the only way that a man can wage war with this powerful desire is by removing from himself these two aspects (improper sights and lustful thoughts). And by doing this, one instills within himself that he should not lust after this, and he will be able to control his natural desires. And this is the reason that Chaza"l say (Brachos 34b) "In the place that Balei Teshuvah stand, even the completely righteous cannot stand". For the natural good will of the completely righteous wins over their desires without great effort, which is not the case with a Ba'al Teshuvah.

And if one should ask, "How can a natural person be in control of his desires which "force" him to act? After all, it does not make sense that Hashem would obligate all men equally to guard themselves in this area, only people who can stand up and have the will power to deny this desire; and these are people who never came into the tests of seeing improper sights and thinking lustful thoughts. Only for such people did the Torah command these Mitzvos. But for people who already fell into these things, it is naturally impossible for a man to control himself and hold back from this craving that forces him to act!"

To counter this claim Hashem wrote in the Torah with pleasant words of life, and the Parsha of Arayos starts out with the words "Speak to the Children of Israel and say to them, I am Hashem your G-d". For it is true that in the human race, besides for the Jewish people, they can claim this complaint and say that they did not find it in their strength to deny the power of this intense desire from themselves. However, with you, the Children of Israel, because I am Hashem your G-d - that is, you can achieve understanding and awareness of G-d - and through this G-dly strength, you will win over the natural physical drives.

(To be continued in the coming e-mail, IY"H).

Note: The Ohr Hachayim touches here on the "core" of the 12-Step program, that for those who have already become "addicted" to these behaviors, they are powerless to overcome it without bringing G-d into the picture.
The Ohr Hachayim Hakadosh
We finish below the insightful piece from the holy Ohr Hachayim that we started in e-mail 170 [and continued in 171]. The Ohr hachayim explains the powerful nature of these desires and helps us understand how Hashem expects us to remain holy in spite of it being against human nature. To see the original text in Hebrew, click here (the important parts are marked in yellow, and the VERY important parts in red). The Hebrew text can be printed out and read at your leisure.
Ohr Hachayim (Acharei Mos, 18:2)
Part 3

The mind can control the matter. So when a Jewish person accepts upon himself to be "one" with Hashem his G-d (di'veikus), he will be in control of his nature. As Chazal say, "The hearts of the Tzadikim are given over in their hands, but the hearts of Resha'im control them". The meaning of this is, that desire and lust are in the heart of a man, yet his "will power" is in his mind. And these are the two levels that the Master of the World has given man (to work with). And when a person sees something of a sexual nature, his heart will crave it, but this is not the end. The "will power" in his mind can deny himself the desire and he will not act upon it, even though he covets it... And that is the meaning of the words "For I am Hashem your G-d" (in the Parsha of Arayos). This means to say, that since Hashem shines the light of his Shechinah into the soul of a man, through this, one has the strength to win over his desires through his will power...
To return to what we were saying... The aspect of thinking about sexual matters strengthens the desire. And one cannot win over this desire unless he distances his mind and thoughts from these things and does not look upon these things. But should his eyes gaze upon them, he is in grave danger, like the story of David Hamelech A"H, that when circumstance brought him to see what he saw, his heart, which had been empty of desire (as the Pasuk says "and my heart is empty inside me") was aroused and he acted. 
And even if one just "begins" to think about these things, it will cause a strengthening of his natural desires. And therefore the wisest of all men, Shlomo Hamelech A"H wrote in Mishlei (1); "My son, if the sins will persuade you, do not listen" - meaning, do not even enter into negotiations with your Yetzer Hara, for the longer you think about it, even in a negative light, the more the desire is strengthened and will turn one's will towards it. 
And this is also why Hashem says; "Tell them that I am Hashem their G-d", because (those who guard the Bris) are on such a level that Hashem wants to unify his great name upon them. For he who guards his Bris is on a great level. Indeed, there is no greater level than this.
The first 40 Days
Idea taken from
Rabboisai, it is approximately 40 days until Elul...
The act of creation in the forming of the fetus is completed in 40 days, and this manifests many times in scientific reality as well as in the spiritual reality. (For example, Moshe received the Torah from G-d in 40 days). When a person wishes to distance himself from a bad habit, the first forty days will always be the hardest, it is during this time that he paves a path.

When a person wishes to gain control over his eyes, his hardest struggle will be during the first 40 days as he plows his path through the spirits of impurity. After the first 40 days a person has passed a large milestone and although he is far from safe, the overall test has just become easier. This does not mean that he will not be tested periodically from time to time, it means that he has made a nice separation between himself and his past ways.

The Tzetel Katan of Rav Elimelech of Lizensk states as follows:

A person was only created in order to break his nature. Therefore he should spur himself to correct his midos. Specifically when he is 18.

As I have explained, one who is born with the nature to be stubborn, should break this nature for 40 days, one after another. He should specifically do the opposite from what he had in mind to do.

The same is if one is lazy. He should train himself for 40 days to do everything swiftly. Whether he is going to sleep, or rising in the morning from his bed. He should quickly dress himself, wash his hands, purify his body and speedily go to the Beis HaKnesses after he has finished learning in a sefer.

Similarly someone who is shy, from a shyness that is bad. He should train himself 40 days to pray with a loud voice, with all his strength, and with all his limbs in order to fulfill the verse, 'All my bones say...' And he should say the blessing over the Torah with a loud voice. [All this] he should do until from Heaven they will help him and remove this bad shyness that is in him.

The same is with the one who does not clearly say his words. He should train himself for 40 days to listen carefully to the words he says. [This is the case] whether speaking common things or words of prayer or when he is learning Torah. The reason for this is that one is ruled over by those things he is used to do.

The same is with the person who does not learn diligently. He should train himself for 40 days to learn more then he is used to learning. Every time before he learns he should look at this Tzetel Katon. From this time on, he will be helped from heaven and he will add to his service and break his bad midos until he attains perfection.
Guerilla warfare
Rabbi/Dr Yitzchak Twersky from Jerusalem once described to me his approach in helping people deal with these difficult issues in today's world.

Our sages call the fight with the evil inclination "Milchemes Hayetzer" which means "a war with one's inclination". They don't call it an "argument" or a "fight" with the inclination, but rather a "war". What we can learn from this is that military tactics are necessary in the struggle with the evil inclination.

In a war, if the other side is stronger and you do battle face to face, you will surely lose. The terrorists world-wide have learned this lesson well. They know that they stand no chance against the great armies of the West. So how are they so successful in creating upheavals and overthrowing great and powerful governments? Guerilla warfare. They don't do battle face to face with powerful armies. They know that if they did that they would be slaughtered. Instead, they learn their enemies weak points and where their enemy is going to be at set times, and they pre-empt them. They spy on the enemy, learn their tactics and fight them where the enemy is vulnerable. They ambush the enemy before the enemy has a chance to realize what has happened. That is their secret to success.

The same theory applies to fighting the evil inclination. He is stronger than us, and if we fight him head on we don't stand a chance. Instead we need to employ Guerilla tactics. We start by asking ourselves, "how has the evil inclination/addiction been so successful until today? How does he get me to fall? In what ways does my mind think in the various situations that I find myself in? In what habitual ways have I learned to scan my surroundings?  How is my mind used to thinking and processing information? In which scenarios do I slip most often, in what moods am I in, in what situations do I start to slip?"

Once we learn the way the evil inclination works with us, we can start to pre-empt him. We can prevent him from fighting us head on. We now realize how he has been so successful until now and in what ways he used to get us to fall, and we start to avoid those situations. We can already predict in advance the way our minds will think in given scenarios, and we can be ready for it. We learn to make fences for ourselves to avoid head-on fights.

This is a powerful approach to winning this difficult battle.
Really Want it? It's yours.
The Ba'al Hasulam writes that in physical matters, we are not given everything we desire because Hashem knows what is truly good for us or not... But in spiritual matters, the moment someone truly wants to reach a spiritual level, G-d gives it to them. And the reason is simple. G-d's light is always shining. He only wants our good. But we have to be a vessel to accept his light. To be a vessel means to "truly want it" with all our heart. In spiritual matters, the moment we truly want it and have the vessel for it, the light shines right in!

Purity in today's world is a tremendous spiritual achievement, but it is not easy. However, it's not the purity which is difficult, it's "truly wanting it" that's difficult. For after all, the moment someone truly wants it, G-d gives it to him. We all know that it's easy to say "I want to be holy and have complete control over my eyes", but to honestly want to let go of all the lust that lurks in our deepest subconscious mind, only G-d knows if we truly want that. 

So what do we do if we just don't want it enough?

Prayer, Prayer and more Prayer.

"Poseach Es Yadecha Umasbiah Lechol Chai Ratzon". One way of translating this Pasuk is "You open your hands and bestow WILL-POWER (Ratzon) on all living things". G-d is not just the source of the light, he is also ultimately the one to make us into a true vessel to receive his light. 

So pray to G-d to WANT it. We can tell Him how we don't feel enough in our deepest subconscious mind a true need to be pure and close to Him. We can ask him to open our hearts to truly want this.

And the moment we really want it, it's ours!
Some Excerpts From the Zohar
Part 1

Zohar, Bereshit 8a

Rav Hamnuna the Elder said this: "Do not let thy mouth cause thy flesh to sin," (Kohelet, 5:5.) A man should not allow his mouth to utter words that may bring him to lustful thoughts, and thus cause his holy flesh, on which is stamped the holy Brit, to sin. For whoever does this is dragged into Gehinom. The one presiding over Gehinom is called Duma, and there are tens of thousands of angels of destruction with him. He stands at the door of Gehinom. But all of those who have guarded the holy covenant of the Brit in this world, he is impotent to harm them.
Zohar, Bereshit 94a
Another began his exposition by referring to the verse, "Unless the L-rd had been my help, my soul would have soon dwelt in (Duma) silence,(Tehillim, 94:17.) We have learned: what is the special merit of Israel that they do not go down to Gehinom, and are not delivered into the hands of Duma (the angel in charge of Gehinom) like the idol worshipping nations? The reason is that they are distinguished by the sign of the Brit. 

For we have learned that when a man leaves this world, bands of destroying angels, wielders of fiery judgment, gather to claim him. But when they examine him and see that he bears the sign of the holy Brit upon him, they flee from him, and he is not delivered into the hands of Duma, to be cast down into Gehinom, for whomever falls into his hands is condemned to punishment there. Both upper and lower (angels) are afraid of this sign, and no evil decrees have dominance over a man if he has succeeded in safeguarding this sign, because he is attached to the Name of the Holy One, Blessed Be He.
Excerpts From the Zohar
Part 2

Zohar Bereshit 94a
Another explained the verse: "And from my flesh, I shall see G-d," (Iyov, 19:26.) What is the meaning of "And from my flesh?" It would be more proper to say, "from my inner essence." However, "my flesh" is to be understood literally (as being the place of the Brit), as in the verse, "and the holy flesh is removed from thee," (Yirmeyahu, 11:15,) and also, "and my Brit shall be in your flesh," (Bereshit, 17:13.) 

For thus we have learned: Whenever a man is stamped with the holy impress of this sign, through it literally he will attain his awareness of G-d, because the holy soul is attached to this place (in the parallel spiritual world of the Yesod.) 

But if he does not merit this, because he did not guard this sign, then of him it is written, "They lose the soul of G-d," (Iyov, 4:9,) for he did not properly guard the impress of G-d. If, however, he guards it, then the Shechinah does not part from him.... 

When is the Shechinah established with him? When he is married, then the sign enters into its intended place....The holy soul is attached to this place, and everything depends on this sign. Thus it is written, "And from my flesh, I shall see G-d." This is the perfection of everything, literally from "my flesh," from this very sign. Therefore, how fortunate are the holy Jewish People who are attached to the Holy One, Blessed Be He; fortunate are they in this world and fortunate in the world to come. Regarding them it is written: "But you who cleave to the L-rd your G-d, are alive every one of you this day," (Devarim, 4:4.)
Nekiyus - Cleanliness
Part 1
Excerpted from "Mesillat Yesharim" written by the holy Kabbalist, Rabbi Moshe Haim Lutzato. (Translation by Shraga Silverstein, Feldheim Publishers )
The idea behind the trait of Cleanliness is that a person be completely clean of bad traits and transgressions, not only those which are recognized as such, but also those which are rationalized, which, when we look into them honestly, we find to be sanctioned only because of the heart's still being partially afflicted by lust and not entirely free of it, so as to incline us towards a relaxation of standards.

The man who is entirely free of this affliction, and clean of any trace of evil which lust leaves behind it, will come to possess perfectly clean vision and pure discrimination. He will not be swayed in any direction by desire, but will recognize as evil, and withdraw from every sin that he committed, though it were the slightest of the slight....
King David rejoiced in the possession of this trait and said, "I will wash my hands in Cleanliness, and I will go around your altar, O G-d" (Tehillim, 26:6). In truth, it befits only him who is completely clean of any stirring of sin to behold G-d, the King; for lacking such Cleanliness one should be ashamed and disgraced before Him. As Ezra the Scribe said,"My G-d, I am ashamed and disgraced to lift, my G-d, my face to You" (Ezra, 9:6).

Unquestionably, the attainment of perfection in this trait entails great labor, for the recognized and well-known sins are easy to avoid since their evil is apparent, but the analysis which Cleanliness requires is of a most difficult kind, because the sin involved, as I have mentioned, is hidden by rationalization. As our Sages of blessed memory have said, "The sins which a man treads underfoot surround him at the time of judgment" (Avodah Zarah 18a). And it was in this connection that they said, "The majority succumbs to the sin of theft, a minority to that of illicit relations, and all of them to the dust of slander" (Baba Batra 165a).

This trait is certainly difficult to acquire, for a man's nature is weak. His heart is easily won over, and he permits certain things to himself by utilizing the opportunities for self-deception that they present. One who has attained to the trait of Cleanliness has unquestionably reached a very high level of achievement, for he has stood up in the face of a raging battle and emerged victorious.
Nekiyus - Cleanliness
Part 2
Excerpted from "Mesillat Yesharim" written by the holy Kabbalist, Rabbi Moshe Haim Lutzato. (Translation by Shraga Silverstein, Feldheim Publishers )
We shall now consider the sin of illicit relations. One who desires to be completely clean of this sin requires no little effort, for its prohibition takes in not only the act itself, but anything that approaches it, as Scripture clearly states: "Do not come near to uncover nakedness" (Vayikra, 18:6). And our Sages of blessed memory have said, "The Holy One Blessed Be He said: Do not say, 'Since I may not have relations with this woman, I will hold her and be free of sin, I will hug her and be free of sin, I will kiss her and be free of sin.' The Holy One Blessed Be He said, 'Just as when a Nazarite takes a vow not to drink wine, he is forbidden to eat grapes or raisins, or to drink grape juice, or to partake of anything that comes from the grapevine, so it is forbidden to touch any woman but your own wife; and anyone who does touch a woman other than his wife brings death to himself'" (Shemot Rabbah, 31:6).

See how wonderful these words are! The prohibition in the case of illicit relations is likened to the case of a Nazarite, where, even though the essence of the prohibition involves only the drinking of wine, the Torah forbids him anything which has any connection to wine.

By applying this principle to the area of illicit relations, the Sages prohibited anything partaking of the nature of fornication, or anything approaching it, regardless of the particular avenue of approach, whether that of deed, sight, speech, hearing, or even thought.

Deed: Namely touching or embracing and the like. This has already been mentioned and there is no need to expand upon it.

Sight: Our Sages of blessed memory have said: "One who counts coins from his hand to hers in order to gaze at her will not be cleansed from Gehinom" (Berachot 61a). And, "Why did the Jews of that generation require atonement? Because they fed their eyes on impurity" (Shabbat 64a). Also, they said, "It is written in the Torah, 'And keep yourself from every evil thing,' meaning a man should not gaze upon a beautiful woman, even if she is single, nor upon a married woman, even if she is ugly" (Avodah Zarah 20a).

Speech: It is explicitly stated: "One who converses at length with a woman draws evil upon himself" (Avot, 1:5).

Hearing: "Listening to a woman's singing is considered licentiousness" (Berachot 24a).

Also talking about and hearing licentious matters is considered "fornication of the mouth and ear." On the verse, "Let there not be seen with you a thing of nakedness," our Sages said this means nakedness of speech and the uttering of obscenities (Yerushami Terumot 1:4). Also, "Everyone knows why a bride goes to the wedding canopy, but anyone who speaks obscenely concerning it, even a decree of seventy good years is converted to evil (Shabbat 33a). And, "Even a casual conversation between a man and his wife is held up to him at the time of Judgment (Chagigah 5b).

Thought: Our Sages of blessed memory have already said that the verse, "Keep yourself from every evil thing," means that a man should not think lewd thoughts in the daytime and come to impurity at night (Avodah Zara 20b). Also, "The thoughts behind the sin are worse than the sin itself" (Yoma 29a).

We see then that all of one's faculties must be clean of licentiousness and anything relating to it.
Nekiyus - Cleanliness
Part 3
Excerpted from "Mesillat Yesharim" written by the holy Kabbalist, Rabbi Moshe Haim Lutzato. (Translation by Shraga Silverstein, Feldheim Publishers )
Regarding Separation

The rationale of Separation is epitomized in the words of our Sages of blessed memory, "Sanctify yourself through what is permitted to you" (Yevamot 20a).

This is the meaning of the word separation - separating and withdrawing from something that is permitted, as if it were forbidden. The intent is to keep oneself from that which is forbidden. The understanding is that a person should withdraw and separate himself from anything which might give rise to something that could bring about evil, even though it does not bring it about at the moment, and even though it is not evil in itself.

If you look into the matter, you will perceive three different levels:

(1) the forbidden things themselves

(2) their fences (the edicts and safeguards that our Sages of blessed memory made binding on all Israel)

(3) the withdrawals that those committed to Separation must create for themselves by circumscribing themselves and building fences for themselves; that is by abstaining from things which were permitted, which were nor proscribed to all Israel, and separating themselves from them so as to be far removed from evil.
Don't we have enough prohibitions?
One might ask, "What basis is there for multiplying prohibitions? Have our Sages of blessed memory not said, 'Are the Torah's prohibitions not enough for you that you come to create new prohibitions for yourself?' Have our Sages of blessed memory in their great wisdom not seen what was necessary to forbid as a safeguard; and they have not already forbidden it? And does it not follow then that anything they did not prohibit, they felt should be permitted? Then why should we now initiate edicts which they felt no need for? What is more, there is no limit to this. One would have to live in desolation and affliction, deriving no enjoyment whatsoever from the world, whereas our Sages of blessed memory have said that a man will have to give an accounting to the Almighty for everything that his eyes beheld and he did not wish to eat, though permitted and able to do so (Yerushalmi, Kiddushin, 4:12). They quoted Scripture in their support, 'Anything my eyes asked, I did not keep from them'" (Kohelet, 2:10).

The answer to all of these arguments is that Separation is certainly necessary and essential. Our Sages of blessed memory exhorted us concerning it, explaining the Torah command "Be holy!" to mean, "Separate yourselves!" (Sifre, Vayikra, 19:2).... For there is no worldly pleasure upon whose heels some sin does not follow. For example, kosher food and drink are permitted, but over imbibing causes one to put off the yoke of Heaven, and the drinking of wine brings in its wake licentiousness and other evils....

There is no question as to the permissibility of cohabitation with one's wife, but still ablutions were instituted for those who had had seminal emissions, so that scholars should not be constantly with their wives, like roosters. Even though the act in itself is permissible, it plants in a person a lust for it which might draw him on to what is forbidden; as our Sages of blessed memory have said, "There is a small organ in a man which, when it is satiated, hungers, and which, when it is made to hunger, is sated" (Sukkah 52b).

And they said about Rabbi Eleazar that even in the proper hour and the correct occasion, he would expose a hand-breath and conceal two hand-breaths, and imagine that a demon were compelling him, in order to cancel out the feeling of pleasure....

The best way for a man to acquire Separation is to regard the inferior quality of the pleasures of the world, both in point of their own insignificance and in point of the great evils to which they are prone to give rise. For what inclines one's nature to these pleasures to the extent that he requires so much strength and scheming to separate himself from them is the gullibility of his eyes, their tendency to be deceived by good and pleasing superficial appearances.

It was this deception that led to the commission of the first sin. As Scriptures testifies: "And the woman saw that the tree was good to eat from and that it was desirable to the eyes... and she took of its fruit and ate" (Bereshit, 3:6). But when it becomes clear to a person that this "good" is deceptive and illusive, that it has no healthy permanence, and that it contains real evil, or is prone to give rise to it, he will certainly come to despise and decline it. All that a man need teach his intelligence then is to recognize the weakness and falseness of these pleasures so that he will naturally come to despise them and find it not at all difficult to spurn them....

What one must be heedful of in the process of acquiring Separation is not to desire to leap to its farthest reaches in one moment, for he will certainly not be able to make such great strides. He should rather proceed in Separation, little by little, acquiring a little today and adding a little more tomorrow, until he is so habituated to it that it is second nature with him.
A friend of mine told me a story that happened with him. He is a a Sefardic man, a Ba'al Teshuvah, who was sitting and learning Torah for many years in Kollel. He has a very strong Emunah and is very humble. About 12 years ago, he discovered a hidden Tzadik in Tel Aviv who was acting as the Gabai of a small Bet Knesset in the area. This hidden Tzadik used to bless people who came to him with Kabbalistic blessings, but he acted very simple and no one knew much about him. My friend became very close to him and recieved guidance and blessings from him on a daily basis. This Tzadik could see on my friend's face if his thoughts were clean or if he had sinned that day.
One time my friend was on the bus to come to his Rav, and an immodestly dressed woman passed by his field of vision. He turned away from her but the image lingered in his mind for a bit, until he was able to dismiss it from his thoughts. As soon as he walked into the Bet Knesset, his Rav wagged a finger at him. When he went though his day in his mind and tried to find in what way he had sinned, he could not find anything that he had done that would cause the Rav to reprimand him. When he asked the Rav to enlighten him, the Rav told him that he (my friend) knew what it was. When he asked if it was the woman on the bus, the Rav answered in affirmative and told him that although he had not sinned by seeing the woman - since this was not his fault, however, since he had thought about her afterwards for a short time, these thoughts had created a Mazik (a damaging angel) that was hovering over him. Therefore, the moment he had walked into the Bet Knesset, the Rav had seen this angel and reprimanded him.
What amazed me the most about this story is not the lofty vision of his Rav, but the fact that every improper thought we have immediately creates a damaging angel that hovers over us. And it is not the sight of an immodest woman that creates this angel, but rather our subsequent thoughts.
So when something immodest comes into our field of vision, don't let it get you down - it's not our fault. But we need to be careful to dismiss any thoughts about it from our mind and not dwell upon it, for such thoughts are what are considered a sin in G-d's eyes, and they are what create the damaging angels.
The Power of Vows
We all know that using "vows" is like playing with "fire". Yet, the Zohar in Parshas Yisro (on the third commandment about not swearing falsely in the name of G-d) writes:
"A vow to fulfill a commandment of his Master, this is a truthful vow (like someone who swears truthfully in court), like it says "Ubishmo Tishave'ah - and in his name you shall swear". When the Yetzer Hara is tempting a man and enticing him to break a commandment of his Master (and he vows to hold himself back), this is a vow that his Master is praised through, and indeed a man must to swear in his Master's name on this, and this is his Master's praise, and Hakadosh Baruch Hu is praised through him. Like by Boaz, as it is written "In the life of the Lord, lay here until the morning". Because the Yetzer Hara was enticing him, and he swore on this".
When Ruth came to Boaz at night, he swore in the name of G-d not to be with her that night, and he told her to sleep until the morning. Even though Boaz was the greatest Tzaddik of that generation, he didn't trust himself without a vow.

Each person knows what they can / should make vows on, to protect themselves against the Yetzer Hara's enticings, especially Bein Hazmanim time (see the GuardYourEyes Handbook, Tool #3, the section called "Bein Hazmanim").

One member wrote about making vows:

"Because of what you wrote (in Chizuk e-mail #207 on this page), I decided to make a vow not to watch videos on youtube or similar sites anymore, for one year. I find that whenever I happen on those sites, even when I want to see something innocent, I am enticed by the countless improper videos that always pop-up and it's hard to hold myself back. Thank you for your great help!"
How can I ever start again fresh?
Q. I stopped looking at forbidden things a while ago. But they are still in my memory. Even if I do teshuva, my aveiros can never be erased completely. The eraser marks will still be there. The images are implanted in my memory and will never go away. I'm sick over it. Your website is like a rope being thrown to a drowning person. But it will take a lot of convincing for me to believe that there's hope. I want the memories erased. I want all my past mistakes erased without a trace, like a brand new piece of paper. I don't know if that's possible.
A. The fact that you had the will power to stop looking at forbidden things already shows that you have greatness inside you. How many people in today's world are willing to work on themselves in these areas and admit their mistakes? This is very precious in G-d's eyes.
Chassidus teaches us that a Jew has to look at the past and future as out of their hands, and to look at what we did in the past as what G-d wanted to happen. Strange as it may seem, our sins in the past were G-d's will. Only the present is in our hands. In the present, it is in our hands to decide if we want to change and do Teshuvah on the past. We can change the past only by changing our present. What that means is, that the situation you are in at this present time is exactly the situation that G-d wants you to deal with now. Look at it as if you were born at this moment, with all the images and memories already engraved in your head. G-d wants you to deal with this situation, and davka this situation. 
This is also a chance for greatness, to be able to serve G-d even though the mind was already influenced by the past. If we all had pure minds and had never sinned, we wouldn't have the opportunity for growth and for Teshuvah that we have today. We wouldn't have the opportunity to pave new paths of Teshuvah and give G-d true joy. And that's why Chaza"l say; "Where Balai Teshuvah stand, even perfect Tzaddikim can't stand". This can be understood in two ways: (1) Because the Ba'al Teshuvah has a greater challenge to deal with, having already a damaged past, and (2) if the Ba'al Teshuvah succeeds in doing a true Teshuvah, then not only have they erased their past sins, but they have uplifted the sins and turned them all into holy angels, (as Chaza"l say "Zedonos nasin lo ki'zechuyos - the sins become merits").