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I am looking for the best and most practical suggestion as to what a man can do to curb his yetzer hara (evil inclination) for sexual desire. Please provide sources for why your answer should be effective, and be specific as to why you think your answer is most practical.

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Regarding sleeping posture, see "II. Prakdan" in this article. (It is about Shema', but RaMBa"M brings the rule about sleeping as well. Looking for that source now.) –  Seth J May 31 '12 at 18:22
    
I've heard of this before, does it really work? –  user1552 May 31 '12 at 18:25
    
I only skimmed the article and missed the part that gives the source I was looking for. See DoubleAA's answer for more information. –  Seth J May 31 '12 at 22:14

16 Answers 16

The Rambam says (Issurei Biah 21:19):

וכן אסור לאדם שיביא עצמו לידי הרהור, אלא אם יבא לו הרהור יסיע לבו מדברי הבאי לדברי תורה שהיא אילת אהבים ויעלת חן.‏
It is forbidden for a person to bring himself to [sexual] thoughts. If a [sexual] thought comes to his mind, he should divert his heart from profligate and destructive matters to the words of Torah which are "a beloved hind, arousing favor (cf. Proverbs 5:19)".

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Two commentless downvotes? –  Double AA Nov 12 '12 at 21:18
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later on (Isurei Bia 22:21): "thoughts of lusts do not strengthen except in a heart devoid of wisdom" i.e. to not leave any room for these thoughts to arise, namely, by not allowing one's mind to go idle in the first place - through the study of torah or engaging in work –  ray May 20 at 10:44

Get married. This gives one the feeling of פת בסלו (bread in his basket) even when he is halachikaly forbidden to his wife. The Talmud says (Yevamos 63a) that a man should appreciate his wife simply for the fact that she saves him from sin.

Also, another piece of practical advice given to me by my Chosson Teacher was to go outside for a walk. It works. Spending mental energy learning Torah is also recommended by the Talmud and works (as mentioned by another user above). Also, avoid looking at women needlessly if possible.

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-1 the getting married thing simply doesn't work. ma'asim b'chol yom. Also, the talmud is not stating that being married saves a man from having sexual desire (which is what is being asked) it is saying being married saves him from acting improperly on those desires. –  not-allowed to change my name Jun 18 '12 at 0:25
    
@vram: Are you married? (I'm not.) Also, what does "ma'asim b'chol yom" mean? –  tealhill Oct 21 '12 at 16:38
    
Sexual desire is not to be curbed down but used to fulfill the commandment "go and multiply".Marriage is the only way I know so maybe try to find someone? Rav Nachman the son of Shmuel's comment on Bereshit Rabbah 9:7:“Behold it was very good” - this refers to the good inclination; “And behold it was very good” - this refers to the evil inclination. But, is the evil inclination very good? How so? Were it not for the evil inclination, a person would not build, would not marry, would not have children, and would not engage in business. (...) . lookstein.org/nechama_parasha1_bereshit.htm –  MichaelS Nov 26 '12 at 2:14
    
and what if that is not an option? as is the case for many such as young people. –  ray May 16 at 6:08

The tamei minhagmim brings down in the inyanay segulos, that a way to get rid of bad thoughts is to say this pasuk many times "Aish Tamid tukad al mizbeach lo tichbeh" (vayikra 6:5)

source: http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=14556&st=&pgnum=578&hilite=

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He doesn't seem to be referring to sexual thoughts specifically. (Agav, I particularly like his Segulah to avoid toothaches.) –  Double AA Jun 1 '12 at 5:46

I'm surprised no one has mentioned Rebbi Nachman's tikkun haklali which many say as a preventative measure as well as a rectification. Furthermore the Noam Elimelech states that repeating the 7 names of the cannanite nations over and over as a mantra will aleviate sexual desire.

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Do you have a source for the assertion that saying the tikun k'lali helps for this, or a citation to the Naom Elimelech? –  msh210 Jun 1 '12 at 17:25
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@msh210 - You can rely on me for corroboration that the tikun haklali does work. –  Adam Mosheh Jul 18 '12 at 19:40
    
The Noam Elimelech's advice reminds me of those who try to avoid thinking about sex by trying to name all of the players on their favorite sports team. As you try to remember the shortstop's name, your brain can't focus on sex. Presumably any list that you know but is hard to remember would work (name all the cranial nerves or all books in Tanach or the like). –  Ze'ev Felsen Nov 12 '12 at 21:09

Rashi on the top of Bechoros 46a, the last Rashi of the perek (chapter), says to make a neder.

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b a Welcome to Mi Yodeya and thank you for your contributions. I hope to see you around in the future! –  Double AA Jun 4 '12 at 0:51
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Rashi is talking about a neder that he won't have relations with his illegal wife (and more broadly that he won't benefit from her in any way). This doesn't necessarily speak to whether it will curb his desire; presumably the point is that he will be less reluctant to divorce his wife because a vow prevents him from benefiting from the marriage. –  Fred Sep 23 '12 at 20:09
    
related judaism.stackexchange.com/a/20678/1857 better to tie the neder to a monetary fine, since on an impulsive day, he may transgress the neder and be in big trouble. –  ray Feb 28 at 8:35

You didn't say which sin you're struggling to avoid. If it's masturbation:

Kitzur Shulchan Aruch chapter 151 (available online in English and Hebrew) lists a whole slew of suggestions for avoiding masturbation.

My favorite is from Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 151:6: "Be careful not to sleep alone in a room." Mishnah Berurah 239:9 and Sha'ar Ha'tziyun 239:17 expand on this: According to the world's custom, be careful not to sleep alone in a room if the door is locked. According to the stringent view, even if the door's closed but unlocked.

The above advice works better if you don't live alone.

You may also find it helpful to sleep with your window blinds open and your bedroom lights on. To cover your eyes, use a toque, scarf, or sleep mask. When I'm in bed, the window behind me opens onto my backyard. If the people in the house behind me look outside, they can see me lying in bed. I'm doing much better at not masturbating nowadays, and I'm pretty sure this has helped.

Or maybe it might work to sleep in a lit or partly-lit room, plus be on webcam or night-vision webcam with an accountability partner found through the http://www.guardyoureyes.com forums. I don't know anyone who's tried this. If you do, then please edit this post or leave a comment.

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If you use pornography, see "How do you quit a pornography habit?".

Otherwise:

Guard Your Eyes puts out a 75-page-long book called The GYE Handbook. It discusses all sorts of ideas in depth. Different ideas from the book will be most useful for different people. It's targeted at pornography users, but it's useful even for people who have never used pornography at all.

Here are a few ideas I've copied or adapted from the book:

  • Find daily activities to fill your time in non-sinful ways.

  • Join the 90 Day Journey.

  • Go to 12-step meetings: SA, SAA, SLAA, SCA, SRA, or PAA. Sexaholics Anonymous is best for frum men, according to R' Avraham J. Twerski.

  • If you masturbate, but you can't quit cold turkey, at least cut down on your habit gradually.

The following organizations may have helpful websites and/or telephone hotlines.

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I think this answers one aspect of the question - how to prevent oneself from indulging in a temptation-induced habit that leads to even greater temptation. Ultimately, the best advice is how to avoid giving in to temptation, because the temptation itself is natural and given to us by G-d. One of the answers, appropriately, is to get married. Marriage doesn't reduce temptation, but gives it an outlet. –  Seth J Jun 17 '12 at 21:58
    
@SethJ that might be the question you are answering but it doesn't seem to be the one that is being asked here. The question was not how to avoid giving in to anything, it was how to curb the desire in the first place. If I have a taivah for sweets telling me not to look at junk food doesn't help me curb the desire. I believe the OP is asking how to stop the source of the problem. Struggling with pornography is a to'tzah –  not-allowed to change my name Jun 18 '12 at 0:21

I have never found anything that works to curb the desire. The only thing that actually works, is a stronger desire to not act on your desires. Being distracted by something else might help you avoid the desire, but it really depends on how you relate to those other things for how well they will work. I can study Torah and still feel sexual desires, I can run or do exercise and still feel those things. The main thing is not to remove the desire, but rather to remove the need to act on those desires.

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If you're single, then when tempted:

  • Ponder this: Hashem imbued you with sexual desire only to encourage you to get married.[1] Masturbation or other sexual-related sins go against your purpose in life. They feel good but they really only make your life unhappier in the long run.

  • Now go do something productive.

If you're married, then when tempted:

  • Ponder this: Hashem imbued you with sexual desire only to encourage you to get married.[1] Once you're married, "the 'lust' aspect of sex should be relegated to the side". Try to have sex for the purpose of emotional bonding. Lust is "a poison [...] the more you feed it, the more you need it ... Either we win it over or it wins us over."[2]

  • Now go do something productive.

[1]. Guard Your Eyes FAQ #29, s.v. The "lust" aspect of sexual desire.

[2]. The last several sentences were adapted from the second half of Guard Your Eyes FAQ #29, starting from Once a couple is married. Do read the original.

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I recently read in Rabbi Wolbe's name the suggestion that (if I recall the advice correctly) someone seeking to curb his sexual indulgence should work on his indulgence for food first, curtailing excess eating.

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See Even Shlemah ch. 2, especially 1 and 9 –  b a Dec 18 '12 at 5:04
    
@ba, that chapter has some answers to the question above, and you might wish to post them as such, but I don't see how it's related directly to my answer. –  msh210 Dec 18 '12 at 5:11
    
My point was that he said in the first note "תאוה הוא הנאת הגוף ממש כגון אכילה ושתיה וכדומה," and in note 9 he says that a person can't serve G-d without repressing his "תאוה," so it turns out that a person can't serve G-d without repressing his eating and drinking. I was just showing another source concerning "curtailing excess eating," though not specifically about "sexual desire." But I didn't think it would be worth putting as an answer, because it doesn't refer to sexual desire specifically. –  b a Dec 18 '12 at 5:22
    
Ah. I'm not very familiar with his style of writing, but I thought "וכדומה" and paragraph 9 both meant to include also sexual desire. –  msh210 Dec 18 '12 at 5:24
    
there are ample kabbalistic and hasidic sources for this idea. Controlling one's desire for food can have a direct affect on the ability to control one's sexual desires. +1 –  not-allowed to change my name Jan 1 '13 at 15:37

Another approach might to understand your own sexuality better and the nature of the sexual drive as chazal understood it (call this the mind over matter approach). There are lots of good resources for this online including http://www.jewishsexuality.com.

Even if you find that having a better understanding of the topic, its implications etc. doesn't help you to control your desires right away, it may provide motivation to keep up the fight.

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There is a great book by Rav Benyosef about the issue.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Light-Ephraim-Simcha-Benyosef/dp/9655551148

book is build as a dialog of young married man, who is a baal tshuva and a kabbalist. Firstly author explains implications of the improper behavior on the person's soul, he's abilities and world as whole. Further he explains ways to get off the hook and fix the past.

Book has endorsements form HaRav Berland, HaRav Scheinberg and HaRav Dayan Ehrentreu.

I think three more books of HaRav Arush can be helpful.

  1. Garden of Peace - it is The guide for marital life also useful for men who are not married yet.
  2. Garden of Emnuna - besides all other good things has well explained chapter on how a person should do proper tshuva without sadness, despair and depression.
  3. Briti Shalom - (there are two editions for married men and for bachelors) concentrates itself on Schmirat HaBrit.
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Can you summarize its key points? –  Monica Cellio Oct 17 '13 at 15:24

I heard a true story on the radio 2 weeks ago that still makes me visibly cringe and double over whenever I think of it. I bring this image to mind often, when I see a woman or begin to think about one, which promptly ends my reverie. This story is about an MMA fighter and can be found on google, with images. I will type this as a euphemism:

  • A man was fulfiling his needs, her above. She rose too high and as she descended she broke his limb, like a corner of a door post. There was so much blood and pain worse than he had ever experienced. He passed out and took a long time to heal.

Conjure up this image in your mind and you will be hard pressed to maintain a lustful state. It has not failed me yet, it has been a real bracha.

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Study Chapter 5 of the Shaar Perishut of Chovos Halevavot.

If you work on curbing your other desires then this one will also be easier. If you don't then this too will not be possible. They are all interrelated as he writes there:

"It is proper for you to know, my brother, that it will not be possible for you to fulfill any of these things (regarding curbing desires for extra food, sights, hearings, etc), unless you do all of them and you don't omit even one of them, for they are like a string of pearls, if you release one of them, all of the others will be scattered and their unity will be destroyed. Therefore, strive to be careful in all of these rules, and then each one of them will help the others"

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Have you considered chemical castration? It has nothing to do with physical castration: your testicles would still be intact and attached to your body, and it would not render you sterile. It is guaranteed to reduce your sexual drive, and unlike physical castration, and in most cases it is also reversible, although I'm not aware to which extent have the risks and side-effects been studied.

Edit: I do not intend for anyone to actually follow up on this (myself being a sex-loving atheist), it just fits disturbingly well with the way the question was posed.

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-1. I don't believe that this is what the OP wanted -- he asked on the Judaism site, which implied that he wanted Judaism's take on it.....and chemical castration is forbidden, AFAICT. See, eg, judaism.stackexchange.com/q/15555/5323 and answers there. –  Shokhet Nov 30 at 19:37
    
@Shokhet chemical castration is not the same as vasectomy, and if Wikipedia is to be believed, it usually doesn't inflict any harm to the person. –  Alexei Averchenko Nov 30 at 19:41
    
All the same, I'm pretty sure that Judaism does not permit castration in any form, chemical or not. Like I mentioned before, I don't have a good source for this, but try Yevamos 65b for a start. –  Shokhet Nov 30 at 19:44
    
@Shokhet it's called castration, but it has nothing in common with physical castration - your testicles remain intact and attached to your body. –  Alexei Averchenko Nov 30 at 19:47
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I understand that. I should have realized that you probably wouldn't get the Aramaic on the page I linked to; sorry. That gemara discusses "סמא דעקרתא," which is a potion that makes a person unable to reproduce -- basically, chemical castration. There is a very strong implication there that it would be forbidden for men to take סמא דעקרתא, but I'm not 100% sure. –  Shokhet Nov 30 at 19:50

Try the Litveshe' approach:

STOP THINKING ABOUT IT

put your strength into limud hatorah which is matzil and mechaper for all cheit

If it happened, move on and thank HaShem he made you healthy with healthy desires, focusing on it will just serve to bring you back down. Rather make the proper guards so you dont fall again.

This method is tried and true in the litveshe yeshivas. The Steipler in Kreine D'isgresa puts forth this method. As well as Rav Moshe Feinstein in Iggros Moshe

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How is this different from judaism.stackexchange.com/a/16737/759 –  Double AA Dec 2 at 5:25
    
may be predicated upon it, but not the same –  Nafkamina Dec 2 at 5:30

protected by Isaac Moses Nov 30 at 19:07

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