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There are a couple of questions, here and here, on this site mentioning masturbation. Both of them assume that masturbation is a sin and some of the answers cite specific texts backing that up. Nonetheless, I believe there is more room for discussion as to why, exactly, masturbation is considered sinful. I think this is especially worthwhile, given the often claimed effect of masturbation to lower the libido and thus reduce the propensity toward other sexual sins.

I understand that there are sources that say it is sinful. What I'm asking about is, why, given its "calming effect" of other sexual urges, should masturbation be considered sinful?

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Adam, since you are still searching for reasoning behind "masturbation is sinful", it is too early to conclude that masturbation is less sinful than other sexual sins. –  YDK Aug 9 '12 at 2:24
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Note that in the context of this site, the question is only valid in searching for understandings based in Jewish tradition. –  Double AA Aug 9 '12 at 4:50
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@AdamRedwine Then you should ask for clarification of its reasoning. Whether or not its conclusions are valued by you seems to be irrelevant. –  Double AA Aug 9 '12 at 12:17
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@AdamRedwine, how is this edit? –  Seth J Aug 9 '12 at 13:06
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@AdamRedWine I don't really understand what premises you are operating with. Are you agreeing that it is wrong or not? If it is, who cares if it makes other sins go away? If eating a cheeseburger during the year will curb my desire for eating on Yom Kippur does that prove that eating cheeseburgers is not sinful? And if you are suggesting that it isn't wrong at all, then the whole part about the calming effect doesn't belong. –  Dov F Aug 9 '12 at 15:29
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up vote 8 down vote accepted

Tosafot (Sanhedrin 59B) says that the commandment to "be fruitful and multiply" is not only a positive commandment, but a negative one as well. The prohibition aspect of the commandment is the injunction against masturbation.

Based on this, we can say that the philosophical reason why masturbation is considered sinful is because one is taking the potential to "be fruitful and multiply" and destroying it (The terminology Tosafot uses is "to destroy seed".)

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Under that reasoning, masturbation would be prohibited for men but not for women. Is that the case? –  Monica Cellio Nov 20 '12 at 3:09
    
@MonicaCellio According to an answer given here( in Hebrew), the Ben Ish Chai and R. Moshe Feinstein seem to forbid women masturbating, where others only suggest against it. –  Tamir Evan Nov 20 '12 at 9:17
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Orthodox Judaism places canonical value on the Talmud's interpretation of the Law. The Talmud says that masturbation is wrong, in the beginning of the second chapter of Niddah.

Obviously if one will inevitably do one of two improper things, one should choose the thing which is less improper. But that doesn't make it right.

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@Adamredwine Really? "Because xxx says so?" You couldn't have worded a comment about THIS topic a little more carefully? –  Seth J Aug 9 '12 at 1:06
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If you are asking about sin, you have to start from a position of acknowledging that sin exists (and is bad). Otherwise you will just reject anything anyone presents to you that doesn't agree with your stated belief that it is not sinful. If you reject the body of work that tells you it is sinful, what are asking for? –  Seth J Aug 9 '12 at 1:08
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@AdamRedwine I am not here to convince you whether or not Orthodoxy is the way to go. Orthodox Halacha is based on the Talmud, so this is your answer. As for a direct quote, the place I directed you too has over a page of direct quotes, so I suggest you look there. The second chapter of Niddah in English begins here:halakhah.com/niddah/niddah_13.html#chapter_ii (Also, to accurately understand Orthodoxy's interpretation of these passages one needs to see the commentaries) –  Dov F Aug 9 '12 at 1:22
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@AdamRedwine I think you need to clarify your question somewhat. One possible question to ask is for discussion about if it is sinful or not. Another is given that it is a sin, what are ways we can understand this rule. The former question has been dealt with rather conclusively in this answer. As to the latter question, remember that Orthodox Jews keep all laws ultimately because that is the law. Sometimes we offer explanations or understandings but these are in no way meant to be conclusive. If you seek a sampling of these in this instance, I think you should clarify that in your question. –  Double AA Aug 9 '12 at 4:04
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@AdamRedwine with respect, if you reject that the Talmud is true, it will be difficult to provide you with a satisfactory answer in this site's context. The Talmud is traditionally regarded as inerrant on matters of law. –  yoel Aug 9 '12 at 14:49
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First, have to have on mind that when we stop to do some sin or star to do some mitzva is just because is a G-d commandment. We cant understand the logic of G-d. Even if we find some logical argument to stop, probably is gonna be wrong and is gonna have another logical argument in the future to bet the first one because our logic is too limited.

So, my philosophy for why is a really bad thing for our humanity nature:

Imagine in a pure scientifically view: If the human being cant masturbate. Is phisicaly impossible. (example ...made our arms to short to touch there...dont know...). Also You have 16 years old, the age that starts the strong sexual desires. And until there you never had a sexual relation and, of course, you never masturbate, because you cant and because even don't exist this concept in our world. One day, you see a lot of beautiful(tzanuot), sympathetic, intelligent women on the street, on your work, on your school. Then, you go home and... you cant do nothing about all the women that are in your mind. The next day same thing.. Same the next... One day, you gonna start to explode inside and feel the natural need of talk with some women. Why?? because naturally you need to release. And your mind will know that if you dont start to talk, you gonna keep feeling this forever...

If some kind of animal feel tired, it gonna sleep. Hungry, search some food. Thirst, search some water. A lot of libido, search a partner. If this kind of animal starts to ignore one of the natural desires. This specie will disappear after a while. This specie is gonna fail in the fight for survive. So, scientifically, you are a specie of animal called human. And for your animal nature you shouldn't masturbate.

But we are not just animals. G-d gave us the freedom to choice. You choose when you gonna sleep, what you gonna eat or drink, and with who you want to have sex. For what do you think is your best you gonna make all the choices. You can see that the best natural way of living for the human being is to be fat and spend all day in bed. But after a while, you gonna realize that this vision was immature and wasnt the best way to live. We, am Israel, believe that we have a way to sleep, eat, drink, have sex, talk to other people, do business, etc... Once, before the sin of Adam, all of this was natural for the human being. Now we have to choose things with our logic. And a lot of times we are wrong. Sometimes the scientists said that this kind of food is good for our body and mind, after a while they're saying that they we're wrong and this kind is bad. So, because our logic is limited we have to follow whats the unlimited logic says. One logical reason to not masturbate is to be the best human being.

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Interesting. Thanks for your response. –  AdamRedwine Nov 20 '12 at 2:53
    
Haha, had a time that I had the same problem... Since get married wasnt a valid possibility for me that time, I searched about the subject and apparently (dont remember the sources...) that masturbate is really bad and repulsive by G-d and is WORSE than some kinds of sexual relations... –  juanora Nov 20 '12 at 13:06
    
I find it fascinating the degree to which Conservative (Masorti) tradition encourages questioning and logic versus how much the Orthodox and Haredi traditions encourage blind obedience. –  AdamRedwine Nov 20 '12 at 13:13
    
Have a gemara(dont remember also when) that says that have a member that more you feed more is the hunger. So when the person stop in the begging is very hard, but tend to get easier. –  juanora Nov 20 '12 at 13:19
    
Also here is a advice for my own experience: know that each sin is sin. If you fail once after 3 weeks of fasting, you DONT have a free pass to sin until the new fast. Each sin is a sin, and a new challenge that you have to gain. If you truly believe that commit this sin will be harmful for your soul, body and mind, you will see that any argument that you have to do it, you are fooling yourself(you will realize this just after the desire is gone). Control yourself. Worth. After a while with abstinence, you gonna start to change your mind and you behavior."eize hu gibor hakovesh et itzro"(avot) –  juanora Nov 20 '12 at 13:25
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Some teaching Kabbalah, show the role of the male aspect of creation is to bring its light into the work of creation. As @Menachem said, you can think of this as a positive commandment (do it) as well as negative commandment (do not do things that inhibit it).

(I've never seen an author directly say it is a mitzvoh - but the correlation to sin surely seems well understood.)

Masturbation is recognized as 'bringing [light] to yourself' - which is perhaps 3 acts against the way of creation

  • not giving your light to the world
  • 'giving' light to yourself (you could instead do nothing)
  • it's actually not really 'light' anymore when you do this, because of yetzer hara
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