Q. Dear GaurdUrEyes,
I will give you a challenge. I look at porn sometimes but I am B'H not addicted. I have abstained for months at a time but I keep coming back to it. The reason I can't stop altogether is because I believe it is halachically permitted to look at porn if your going to have relations that night anyway. Now I know that is not good for me, but since it is "mutter" in my eyes, I find it hard to hold myself back. I would like do discus this issue with a talmid chacham who will prove to me that it is "osser". If I know beyond reasonable doubt that there is no "heter", I will bezras Hashem be able to get myself out of it.
A. Dear Anonymous,
A non-religious man once told the Brisker Rav that he doesn't believe in G-d because he has many questions. The Brisker Rav told him, "you don't have questions, you have answers". So my friend, if this question you ask is really an "answer" to why you aren't working on yourself, then I don't know if I can help you. However, I believe that the fact you are asking us this question, especially now in Elul, is because you genuinely want to stop these behaviors. You just feel you need to understand more how dangerous and sinful it is, so that you can convince the Yetzer Hara to leave you alone.
Last night, right after I received your e-mail, I happened to be speaking about our website with Rabbi Avraham J. Twersky, a world renowned leader in addictions and a true pioneer and Gadol in Klal Yisrael. He was very happy to hear about the things we are doing and offered to spread the word around, and even possibly to contribute some material to our website. I figured that while I had Rabbi Twerski on the line, I would ask him your question to hear his point of view. I read your question to him and his reply was unequivocal, that there's no question that any Posek you will ask will tell you that it is prohibited. He explained that your question was really the "addiction" speaking, and that this is one of the tricks of the addiction. Rabbi Twerski, being the founder of an Alcoholic Rehabilitation Center, compared your claim to an addict who says "I was just trying beer, I wasn't drinking whiskey"... I tried to explain to Rabbi Twerski that you claim you are not addicted and can abstain from these behaviors for months at a time. "So why did he have to go back to it?" he asked me. "I have a lot of people who will refuse to go to AA, and they'll find a hundred reasons not to go to AA. The underlying thing is, they don't want to hear what AA has to say, which is "you can never take a drink again".
So that is Rabbi Twerski's take on the matter. Now I will also try to address your question as well, to the best of my abilities. As far as the prohibitions are concerned, anyone who is frum and has learned any Torah, should be aware of the severity of these sins. The Torah says "Thou shall not go astray after your hearts and after your eyes which lead you astray,". This applies to any image that arouses one's sexual inclination, and erotic images of any type are definitely forbidden. The Rabbis state that anyone who purposefully arouses his sexual organ is to be banished (Niddah 13A). The Gemara there even goes as far to say "Better one's stomach should burst than he should touch the area of his bris (and possibly bring himself to an erection)". And another Gemara says "better to walk behind a lion than to walk behind a woman". And another Gemara: "whoever brings himself to an erection is destroying the world". This is not Mussar or Chassidus, this is regular Gemara. Chaza"l were fire about this! The Medrash says that anyone who is not careful with gazing at women will come to sin with them in the end. Viewing porn is also included in the prohibition of "Lo Sikrevu Legalos Erva, Ani Hashem Elokeichem" - "Do not come close to revealing nakedness, for I am Hashem your G-d". There is no other Mitzva in the Torah where such terminology is used. Even with idol worship, the Torah doesn't say not to come close! Only with sexual matters, the Torah exhorts us to stay far away from it. It is also interesting to note that the Torah uses the words "do not come close to reveal nakedness" and not "to sexual relations". This implies that "revealing nakedness" (i.e. even looking) is, on some level, as if one had already done the act.
This little test can be your meter - if an image triggers a sexual twitch, a stronger heartbeat, sweaty palms, or even a silent, "Wow!" then you are polluting your soul, damaging your "Da'at," the ability to know G-d, and cutting yourself off from the Divine Presence, the Shechinah. The eyes are the windows to the soul and they are the vessels to receive the light of the Shechina. One who has damaged these vessels will not be able to bask in the glory of the Shechinah in this world, nor in the next.
So with all these sources, how can a frum person even ask such a question? The answer is in this week's Parsha. "Ki Hashochad... etc..." .. "For bribes make wise men blind, and twist the words of Tzadikim". The Yetzer Hara, who offers us bribes of false and fleeting pleasures, blinds us to the obvious truths and makes us think we have real "questions". But he is just disguising them as questions. Don't be fooled, and realize that these are not questions but really his "answers"! (R' Elchanan Wasserman used this very Pasuk in an essay he wrote, to explain how the multitudes of non-Jewish wise men and scientists from around the world, fail to see the obvious and glaring hand of Hashem in all of creation).
I also want to address another point. You wrote that you view porn when you will anyway be having relations with your wife that day, and therefore it seems to you to be less severe. Many people don't know this and I am not blaiming you, but this is a grave distortion in the proper (and Jewish) outlook to sexual relations with one's spouse. Viewing porn turns all women into objects of lust. This is the very opposite of what relations in a Jewish marriage are meant to be. The "lust" aspect of sexual desire was created by G-d to cause a man to seek out a woman and take her for himself. Once a couple is married, the "lust" aspect of sex should be relegated to the side and should no longer be a dominant aspect of the relationship between the two. They have dedicated themselves to each other, and when they are together, they should be cultivating an emotional bond through the sharing and sensuality of intercourse. Sex is a "sacred moment" of closeness between the two of you. This is also perhaps why Chaza"l prohibited having relations by day. Firstly, because one may see something about his wife's body that may turn him off, and on the other side of the coin, by seeing his wife's body he is fueling his lust instead of focusing on the true sacredness of the moment.
A man who insists to make "lust" the most dominant aspect of his relations, especially by viewing porn before hand, is losing out on the true connection and closeness that martial relations should cultivate, and ultimately his marriage is likely to fall apart. As his wife has children and her body changes, and/or as she gets older, he will loose interest in her and he will never be able to lead a normal marriage life. A relationship built on "lust" quickly fades away. Also, by fueling the lust through his relations and not focusing on building the emotional bond with his wife, he will continue to be pulled after the other women he sees on the street, and will transgress all the time the Issur D'eoraysah of "Lo Sachmod". That is why once a person is married, he must work on relegating "lust" to the side. It is truly a poison, and the nature of lust is that "the more you feed it, the more you need it". One can never get enough of lust. In the end, either we win it over or it wins us over.
To summarize, we can't stress enough that sex between a husband and wife should foster an emotional closeness and bond between the two of you, and should never be viewed as a "lust" based act. Viewing porn before sex, besides the serious prohibitions that one transgresses - as mentioned above, will either destroy one's marriage altogether, or in the very least, remove any potential for a deep, emotional closeness in the marriage.
I hope that my words and the words of Rabbi Twerski will enter your heart and help you resolve never to go back to these things again. If you heed our words, you will be worthy with Hashem's help, to bring holy Jewish children into the world and raise a family based on holiness and purity.
Just one last thought. Even with a strong resolve, one should never trust themselves in these areas and should get a strong Internet filter for their computer to help them through moments of weakness. And never stop davening to Hashem to save you and your offspring from what is perhaps this generation's biggest test!
May Hashem be with you.