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.
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.
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)".
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.
If you use pornography, see "How do you quit a pornography habit?".
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
If you're single, then when tempted:
Ponder this: Hashem imbued you with sexual desire only to encourage you to get married. 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. 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."
Now go do something productive.
. Guard Your Eyes FAQ #29, s.v. The "lust" aspect of sexual desire.
. 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.
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.
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"
(Brachos Daf 5a)
R. Levi bar Chama : A person should always arouse his Yetzer Tov to fight his Yetzer ha'Ra , 1. If he does not overpower his Yetzer ha'Ra, he should learn Torah 2. If he still does not overpower it, he should recite Shema 3. If he still does not overpower it, he should think about the day of death
There is a great book by Rav Benyosef about the issue.
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.
- Garden of Peace - it is The guide for marital life also useful for men who are not married yet.
- 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.
- Briti Shalom - (there are two editions for married men and for bachelors) concentrates itself on Schmirat HaBrit.
Try the Lithuanian Yeshiva approach:
STOP THINKING ABOUT IT
Instead channel your desires into Torah Study which is saves and atones for all sins.
If, G-d forbid you "failed", DO NOT DWELL ON IT, instead actively move on and thank Hashem that He made you a healthy person with healthy desires, that will help you later in life fulfill the mitzvah of "Pru U'rvuh". If you just dwell, ruminate and hyper focus on the failure, it will just serve to bring you back down. Rather, make the proper guards so you dont fall again. Positivity is extremely important when it comes to these issues. Torah study is the best thing that you can be involved in.
This method is tried and true in the Lithuanian yeshivas. The Steipler in Kreine D'isgresa puts forth this method. As well as Rav Moshe Feinstein in Iggros Moshe.
Another method - which might be a bit controversial - is after you fell - to just simply pretend it didn’t happen. Not because we don’t care about the sin - on the contrary of course we do - but it’s very hard to move in a constructive way if you feel “weighed down” by your actions. Rather get up the same way you get up, don’t change your schedule or daily activities- and function the same way you would if you hadn’t fallen.
By doing this - you’ll slowly start to gain the strength and momentum to keep going and actually helps to curb the initial desires to begin with. As you’re not constantly oscillating between a feeling of success and intense failure. You’ll be more even keeled and actually find your ability to control yourself is easier.
Sefer Chasidim (in many places) brings several practical advices regarding this. (See, for instance #175). It says that a person should always try to create barriers toward yetzer hara when it is about to subdue him. If these thoughts happens when one is sleeping, he should wake up and try to sleep in an uncomfortable position (in a chair for example). If the problem still persists, he should study Torah. It also says that walking also helps to distract ones mind and entering in conversation regarding other things will deviate from these preoccupations
This question is old but after reading it and then seeing the answers given I feel I have to answer.
There is nothing wrong with sexual desire, as was quoted above from Beraishis Rabbah. Curbing or repressing this desire is not good for you. And the Torah doesn't require you to repress this desire. The Torah requires you to channel this desire in a positive way.
I recommend you read Sod HaNachash by the great Kabbalist Rabbaynu Yosef Gikatalia, זצלה"ה . I can't do justice to the entire work, but he explains that even base desires have a place in the world. God did not create anything in the universe that isn't necessary in His plan. But each thing must be put in it's proper place. Man is the only being that can sort between the pure and impure and put each in it's proper context.
You need your Yetzer HaRa. Just as was quoted above from the words of our Sages, without it we wouldn't eat or have children or accomplish. But we need our Yetzer HaTov and our Yetzer HaRa to work together. This takes incredible courage and strength. It also takes the objectivity and humility to realize that we really are almost powerless against our innate desires and must rely completely on God to help us. The Gemarrah in Succah 52 says that our Yetzer HaRa defeats us every day and seeks to kill us. We must use our desires for Good to channel our base desires in a permitted and healthy way.
We do NOT need to hurt ourselves, sterilize ourselves or beat ourselves, God forbid! We need to accept that we are frail beings, and that we can continue to exist only through God's great kindness and love for His creations. As the great Kabbalist Rabbi Chaim Vital זצלה"ה says in Shaarai Kedusha, "the Good God will not withhold his Goodness to those that seek Him sincerely".
"Seek God where He is found, call to Him when he is near". Why do you need to seek and call to God if He's here already? Because God is waiting for your prayers. He is waiting patiently for you to express your troubles and ask for help. It is the service of the heart to grapple with your shortcomings and wrestle with them. Rejoice in your portion and strive for more, and don't be surprised if your urges are transformed from a source of despair to a source of joy.