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Guilt is More Dangerous

We received the following e-mail from a Bachur who tried hard to stop many times but was never able to fully succeed. He wrote:

GYE Corp. Tuesday, 13 December 2011

There were times when I felt that maybe I should just let go of Yiddishkeit since I can't stop masturbating and it is such a grave sin. I was in touch with Dr. Sorotzkin and I asked him the following:

"The cold-turkey approach doesn't seem to work for me, but I can't become perfect over night, and I am trying to do the best under the circumstances. The way I see it, Hashem does not expect me to be perfect; he just wants me to try, even if I grow slowly. Do you agree, or do you think I need to always feel guilt?"

He answered as follows:

"You are certainly correct: See Rav Matisyohu Salomon, With Hearts Full of Faith (Mesorah, 2002) regarding Balei Teshuvah who are unable to instantly give up bad habits, where he distinguishes between "compromise, which is absolutely forbidden, and gradualism, which is acceptable and unavoidable." pp. 264-266.

See also "The Chinese Bamboo".

See also Rabbi Aharon Feldman, "The eye of the storm" p. 236 re. a Jewish Homosexual who is unable to change his orientation... He "only needs to cease forbidden activity. It is obvious that for many people this will be difficult, and might have to be accomplished over an extended period of time..."

When I asked Dr. Sorotzkin if I could go to a non-Jewish psychologist who does not think that masturbating once in a while is a problem at all, or if I should be concerned that this may make me apathetic, he answered:

"The danger of feeling too guilty is greater than the danger of not feeling guilty enough(See Sichos Musser from Rav Chaim Shmulevitz Ma'mer 55 in the new edition). If the non-Jewish psychologist can help you be an emotionally healthier person while he respects the fact that your religious perspective can motivate you to try to grow in areas that seem less important to him, that sounds like a good idea."

And I will end off with something Dr. Sorotzkin sent me (translated from Hebrew):

Harav Moshe Munak (Aspaklariya shel Torah" Jerusalem, 1974, page 103-104):

A Mechanech once told me: A student came to me with a Kitzur Shulchan Aruch in his hand and read: "It is prohibited to masturbate, and this sin is more stringent than all the other sins of the Torah, and those who do this, not only are they transgressing a big sin, but they are in excommunication, and on them the Pasuk says "your hands are filled with blood" and it is as if he killed someone". (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 151, 1). So the student said, "I am a serial killer, I have no atonement, and I will continue to kill, my life is lost". So the Mechanech asked me: "What should I answer him?".

I told him that the expression "worse than all the sins of the Torah" is not literal (see Even Ha'Ezer 23, 1, and the Beis Shmuel there). And I opened up for him Hilchos Lashon Hara and there it states: "...and it is a grave sin that causes killings of Jewish people, and that is why the Torah puts it together with the commandment 'do not stand on your friend's blood', see what happened with Do'eg Ho'adomi". And afterwards: "And the decree was not sealed on our fathers in the desert only on the sin of Lashon Hara" (siman 30, 1-2)".

So tell your student: "I too, the teacher, am a murderer, for I too do not always succeed in holding back from speaking Lashon Hara. We are both sinning grave sins, and both of us should not give up hope, but rather strengthen ourselves to fix our ways, each one in his area."

By equating masturbation with Lashon Hara, I took out the thorn that accompanies sins in the area of "arayos". I took the sin out from the realm of abnormal and put it into the realm of sins that every man stumbles in. I didn't get rid of the shame altogether, I simply moved it over from the realm of irrational fears to the realm of the conscience and the sphere of universal Fear of Heaven".