maybe later

Normally, when encountering challenges, the best way is to divert your attention to something else. For example, when you are trying to practice Shemirath Eynayim, and you see a beautiful woman, closing your eyes isn't such a good idea. Why? Because you have no new stimulus to distract one's mind from that image, instead you have that image frozen in your mind as your last piece of visual input for an extended time. Instead, pick out something else in your periphery (I've found that the human form works best--as the brain does a lot more work processing other people than it does processing architecture or vegetation--pick out an unsual man or anyone else to hand and focus on them instead) and actively look at that, start to ask yourself about that thing, distract yourself.

I've been pondering a deeper question though. When the thought of a particular transgression enters our mind, the best tactic isn't just to distract, but rather to distract yourself by understanding how the object of your desire is only temporarily beyond your reach. For example, when you want to do anything forebidden on Shabbath, like watching TV or getting work done, you can simply remind yourself that you will be able to do the same action after Shabbath or another time. Then the demand is no longer so urgent. Chametz on Pesach, while something we may yearn for, is within our ability to resist as it is only forebidden for seven days.

Many of Judaism's prohibitions are temporary things, and hence there is a time for them, and a time not to do them. But there are other prohibitions that are more permanent, and I've been thinking long and hard about how it is we can distract ourselves and allay our desires because at least on a spiritual level these desires will eventually be fulfilled as well.

An example would be Ervah, revealing nakedness, to say that most people don't have a basic curiosity in this department is to deny what goes on in almost every advertising campaign. A more abstract version of this same desire is the desire to hear gossip or lashon hara. I have been asking myself for a few weeks, (and been meaning to sit down with my Rav about it) does this desire ever get to be fulfilled? Or does it require a different tactic to overcome because it is always forebidden in this world and in the supernal realms?

Last night, the answer was provided in the Tzava'ath HaRivash from the words of the Baal Shem Tov. He explains that the way to overcome anything desirous in this physical world is to recognize that the source of that object's desirability is not in the physical object itself, but rather in the godly revellation within that object. It then behooves us to look past the object and focus on the true object of our desire, namely HaShem.

When we sleep, the Baal Shem Tov goes on to explain, our souls are relieved of their physical prison (our body) and then we are able to see spiritually what we were only able to understand theoretically while awake, namely the spiritual beauty hidden within the physical objects of our temptation.

In other words, if we seek out the godliness in every object of desire, we will actually merit to see the revealed inner essence of these physical distractions in our dreams. He explains that one can even achieve prophecy through the internalization of this lesson, because HaShem says that He reveals Himself to His prophets in dreams. (Only Mosheh Rabbeinu had the spiritual eyes to see to an objects' essence even while awake) Unfortunately if we don't look with our minds to the spiritual essence of these objects of desire while we are awake, then when we sleep we will see only their physical clothing and (chas' v'shalom) come to sin.

So the answer is that for all objects of desire, even for ervah and lashon hara, we can belay our evil urge knowing that at another time, that which is currently forebidden to us will be permitted.


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