Letter from Rabbi Wolff to GYE
Listen to the recording of the most-attended phone conference on "Kosher Sex." Rabbi Wolff's letter was written as a follow up to the feedback he recieved after the call.
Dear Chevra HeKedoshim VeHaM'Taharim,
I appreciate all of the positive feedback from our call on Thursday night and I am inspired by the yearning for kedusha that is out there. I feel that perhaps a few concluding comments would be helpful in summarizing our call and addressing some of the issues that arose from it.
We are all working very hard, with tremendous kochos hanefesh, to build and improve our shalom bayis- building trust, showing appreciation, and conveying the message of "you're #1". While it is certainly a formidable challenge, it is of the greatest priority and we all have the ability to succeed. ANYTHING we do that will compromise this goal, no matter how "muttar" it is, is not good for us and not good at all- you can even call it "assur". It may not always be easy to stick to these guidelines, but that is where we have to "be man enough" to be strong and keep on course.
The subject of our call on Thursday night revolved around a powerful "tool" and gift that Hashem made part of our existence.
When we are appropriately using it to reach our goal- by focusing on the other, connecting emotionally, expressing and demonstrating appreciation and respect- it is giving, godly, and kadosh. If not, it is lustful and degrading. Think of the Para Adumah and how the very same procedure could be matamei or be metaher. Rav Wolbe zt"l (Alei Shur Vol.1 page 39- please read the maamar if you haven't yet) quotes the Tomer Devorah in the name of the Zohar that "the yetzer haTov was given to us for our benefit, and our Yetzer HaRa was given to us for the benefit of our wives". We all know our Yetzer Hara- and while a sizeable part of him should be expelled, part of him isn't going anywhere, and we would be foolish to think otherwise. If only we could get him on our team to reach our goal!
It should be obvious that Thursday night's call was intended solely for the amazing chevra who want nothing more than to get the yetzer hara on our side, but struggle with the parameters of how to manage the "old yetzer" in developing a healthy new one. Clearly, the approach taken was not the one we may have heard from our chosson and kallah teachers. And anyone who feels that their guidelines work for them is highly encouraged to stick to them- far be it from me to go against what was taught and what might be the minhagim of your community. However, for some ( many? most?), that approach is going to leave their "good yetzer hara" pulling at them and tormenting them. What a shame, when he could have been included and not left out. It was for that group that we spoke. There were details that we spoke about which we could say are allowed- and even recommended.
Then there were other issues that are more questionable, even highly discouraged, both from a halachic and from an SA 12 Step point of view. At this point I admit that I did not respond correctly to the question regarding pornography. It is completely assur to use it under any circumstances. But returning to those inyanim which are highly questionable, I believe I made it clear that every case is different and we must be honest with ourselves. If only we had a Rav with whom we could honestly lay out the circumstances and honestly assess the situation- just as easily as we could ask about other "sha'as hadchak" questions that come up. Our call was assuming that that option may not be available and we must face our challenges with simcha and not with doubts and depression. Let us not forget that in the vidui before kol nidrei we admit that we were at fault when we were meikil when we should have been stringent AS WELL AS that we were machmir when we should have been lenient.
I may be wrong, but I really believe that if we are "machmir" in our bein adam l'chaveiro- in being giving to our family and friends, forgiving of those who did the unforgivable, helping those that need help- as well as being machmir in limud haTorah and using our time wisely- and of course being machmir in our davening and crying out to Hashem- Those will be the "chumros" that will bring a yeshua to our lives, our marriages, our children, and our communities. And the "old Yetzer Hara" will surrender, leaving us with the real, eternal, good pleasure of being "domeh l'shchinah" - the shchinah that will be resting "bein hakruvim" in the kodesh hakodoshim that we call our bayis and that will continue to accompany us in Olam Haba.
Rabbi Binyamin Wolff
Netzach Yisrael Kollel and Community Beis Medrash
22 Ibn Ezra St.