Day 7: Know the Laws of Shmirat Einayim
In recent years, many of us have become more aware of Torah laws governing Shmirat HaLashon, and now we are careful about what we say and what we hear.
When we were first introduced to the laws of Shmirat HaLashon, we might have felt overwhelmed. But with study and practice, keeping these laws became easier.
In the same way, when we first hear the laws of Shmirat Einayim we may think, "This is impossible! There's no way I can be this careful." But as we study, we understand the wisdom of these laws and the more motivated we become.
The Four Primary Laws of Looking at and Thinking about Women
Below is a summary of relevant rulings. Familiarize yourself with these laws, and you will have a ready and practical guide to live by: (Shulchan Aruch Even HaEzer, Chapter 21, Law 1)
(1) It is forbidden to look at a woman if she is dressed immodestly. (There are different laws regarding one's wife.)
(2) a. If you know of an area where immodestly dressed women are present, it is forbidden to enter this area. An alternative route must be taken.
b. If there is no alternative route, or the alternative route is impractical or costly, you are permitted to pass through the area providing you make every reasonable effort to avoid seeing the immodest sights.
(3) It is forbidden to have thoughts of desire for any woman. (There are different laws regarding one's wife.)
(4) It is forbidden to derive pleasure from looking at the beauty of a woman, even if she is modestly dressed. (There are different laws regarding one's wife.)
Clearly, these laws are not easy to apply in situations where women cannot be avoided, such as a work setting. The upcoming segments will deal with specific advice and techniques regarding various scenarios.
Does the Torah think men are angels? How can any man realistically fulfill these laws?
It's very true that controlling your eyes is a tremendous challenge. The Torah does not expect that we will gain total control instantaneously. Changing ourselves takes study and the persistent practice of new behavior - until it becomes second nature. With sincere motivation, studying this guidebook and applying its principles, eventually you will win the "battle of the eyes."
Today: Know that like every law in the Torah, the laws of Shmirat Einayim were designed for real people, just like you. Resolve to review these laws periodically in order to strengthen your observance of them.
Dave and I finally got serious about learning the halachot of Shmirat Einayim. We reasoned that you can't decide to just "be careful" in this area any more than you can just "be careful" about kashrut. You have to know the laws. So last night he came over to my house and we reviewed and discussed these four basic laws.
At first, these laws seemed overwhelming, but I can handle them knowing that we don't have to change overnight. Little by little, I'll try to integrate them into my life. So we started to learn. I committed the four basic rules to memory.
Wouldn't you know, I had a challenging test today. This morning, I walked into the conference room for a business meeting. Three of the six people in the room were women, and two of them were dressed immodestly. The laws were fresh in my mind, so I was immediately conscious of being careful where I looked. Knowing the specific guidelines made a real difference. I felt I was in control.
These e-mails are excerpts taken from the book "Windows of the Soul" by Rabbi Zvi Miller of the Salant Foundation.