Principle 2: Fear of Heaven can’t always stop us, but it can PUSH us
Often we are aware of how serious these sins are, yet our “Fear of Heaven” alone isn’t always enough to stop us when faced with an attack of lust. It’s not that we don’t fear Hashem, but will power alone is often not sufficient when dealing with these extremely addictive behaviors. Not only that, but lust is so powerful that even the greatest Tzadikim who feared Hashem with all their hearts, sometimes felt powerless when faced head-on with lust. See what happened with Masya ben Charash and Rav Amram, Rabban Shel Chassidim. In both these cases, these great Tzadikim had to take extreme measures to ensure they didn’t stumble.
The Medrash Yalkut Shimoni (Vayechi) tells this story :
Once the Satan fixed his sight on Masya ben Charash who was a big Tzaddik, and said to himself: "Is it possible that this man does not sin?" Then the Satan went and asked G-d: "How do you view Rabbi Masya Ben Charash?" And G-d replied: "He is a perfect Tzaddik". The Satan said to G-d: "Give me permission to put him to the test". G-d told the Satan: "Go".
The Satan appeared to the Rabbi as a beautiful woman, the likes of which had never been in the world. When the Tzaddik saw her, he immediately turned his face away. Then the woman quickly moved to the side where Rabbi Masya had turned his face to, and again he quickly turned his face away. Then the Tzaddik said: "I am afraid that my Yetzer Hara will overpower me and cause me to sin". What did the Tzaddik do? He called a student that was with him and ordered him to bring him fire with nails. The student brought him nails and the Tzaddik put them into the fire and then to his eyes and became blind. When the Satan saw this, he trembled and fell on his back.
At that time The Holy One Blessed be He called the angel Raphael - for he is in charge of healing - and told him: "Go and heal Rabbi Masya Ben Charash". Then Raphael came in front of the Rabbi and the Rabbi asked him: "Who are you?" and he replied: "I am Raphael the angel, I came for G-d sent me to cure your eyes". Rabbi Masya replied: "Leave me alone, what is already done is done". Raphael returned before the Holy One Blessed be He and said: "Master of the World, thus spoke Masya". G-d said to Raphael: "Go back to him and tell him that I will personally guarantee that the Yetzer Hara will have no power over him". Immediately Raphael went and cured Masya. From here our Sages said: "All those who are careful not to look at women, the Yetzer Hara has no power over them".
The Gemara in Kidushin 81/a tells this story:
Some women who had been taken captive were redeemed and brought to Nehardai. They were kept in the attic of Rav Amram the Chasid and the ladder was removed. At night, a beam of light reflected off one of the women, revealing her beauty. Rav Amram was seized with lust and he moved the ladder (which normally needs 10 people to move it) to ascend. As he was halfway up, he screamed "There is a fire in Rav Amram's house!" and the Rabanan (Rabbis and students) flocked to his house. After they saw that there was no fire they said to him, "You embarrassed us (with your behavior)!" Answered Rav Amram: "It is better to suffer embarrassment in this world than in the next".
What we can learn from the two stories above is that, although Yiras Shamayim is not always enough on its own, it should push us to take EVERY step we can to break free of these pitfalls (see Part 1 of this handbook to learn the steps you can take).
With this in mind, let us explore a few aspects about these sins that can help strengthen our Fear of Heaven to make sure that we indeed take every step we can to break free:
Chazal (Niddah 13a) write that HZ”L is as if one has spilled blood or worshiped Avodah Zorah, and that those who do it are chayev misah biday shamayim. The Zohar even goes so far as to say that it is the worst sin in the Torah. Another terrible result of these sins that is brought down in the holy books, is that they desensitize us to spiritual connection. The more we sin in these areas, the more desensitized we become. This is a commonly experienced phenomenon, where people slowly lose their yearning for spirituality and they start to feel ever more disconnected from Torah, Shabbos and Mitzvos. Unfortunately, this also makes Teshuvah all the more unlikely, as one becomes more and more disconnected.
Also, these behaviors require hiding, lying and living a double life. This cuts us off from the world around us and doesn’t let us feel the tremendous kindness of Hashem that fills our lives. It blinds us to the goodness in the world around us, to our souls and to Hashem. We begin to lose appreciation for our own wives and children. We are unable to find inner peace; we can’t stop lusting and we remain closed up within a shell that no one can penetrate.
It is also brought down in Kabalistic texts that every drop emitted in vain causes souls to be created, and these souls are snatched up by the forces of evil and become demonic forces that cause much suffering in a person’s life. The souls themselves also suffer in misery with no hope (unless we fix ourselves), and after we die they stand as terrible accusers against us.
But do not let all these dramatic revelations cause you to despair. Teshuvah was created even before the world was created, and Hashem knew that we would stumble in these areas. Hashem has infinite patience and He understands us far better than we understand ourselves. Chazal say that Hashem even brought David Hamelech to stumble with Bas Sheva, only to show us the incredible power of Teshuvah.
Also, it is brought down in the Holy books that, through a sincere Teshuvah, all the souls that we created through our sins actually become uplifted, and they change from being “accusing angels” to “defending angels” instead.
So never despair! Although the standard Teshuvah model may not always work well when dealing with these addictive behaviors (see part B where this is discussed more in depth), by learning the proper perspective on this struggle and by taking the steps we can to break free, we are doing exactly what Hashem intended for us to do all along. That is our Teshuvah.