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 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 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'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.
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"
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.
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.
(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
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.
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.
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
The way humans work is that when one thinks about something it comes with some degree of an emotion to the thing being thought of, and the more one deepens his thoughts or the longer he thinks about it the stronger that emotion grows.
Now, the mind doesn't rests from thinking, unlike other abilities of the person (like speech and action). According to this it only makes sense that if someone isn't focused on a specific thought or action rather he is 'spacing out' his mind is a 'threshold' waiting to be stepped on by anything that he sees or enters his mind, and it is only a matter of time until Machashovos Zaros make their way too with an emotion to it that most probably lead to action C"V.
Based off this your answer is to remove your thoughts from this topic, and even more so to constantly stay focused on something (including when walking in the street and ETC).
There is a neurotransmitter called DOPAMINE, which is involved in the reward system in the brain. I was diagnosed to had psychotic crisis, then I started to take Dopamine antagonist (Risperidone). Previously to start taking the medicines I was addicted to pornography, and after taking madications, the websites were like senseless. Later, I started to take Finasteride (to stop hair loss) which as a "side effect", according to Mayo Clinic
More common Decreased interest in sexual intercourse
Ask your doctor about it, because, for example, Finasteride can cause also, depression.
There is a wonderful series of videos (on YouTube) or gedale.com from a business owner/teacher of breslov chasidut named gedalia fenster. He offers out of the box ideas that can be very helpful.
Another proven method is to work on a Torah topic in depth and write down novel ideas that you create. The ability to procreate stems from the brain and travels down the spinal cord to emit semen. This is why we have the word 'And Adam Knew Chava". רבנו בחיי על בראשית פרק ד פסוק א ודע כי התשמיש בלשון התורה נקרא ידיעה, והטעם לפי שהזרע בא מן המוח שהוא מקום החכמה והדעת. Using ones mind to create Torah fruit (chiddusei Torah) is a greater pleasure than any physical pleasure. One should curb the desire but never eliminate it. It is a great gift to want to create and connect. The sexual desire is a desire of connection to the ultimate pleasure, Hashem himself (see path of the just-introduction). By connecting to Torah in depth that comes from your toil (as opposed to a shiur or a surface level learning) you will experience a strong connection to the divine.
Another powerful idea is that sexual desire is often connected to a weakness in Emunah and bitachon. When one strengthens their Emunah and bitachon, this can curb sexual desires. I would suggest considering "a life with bitachon" by R. Zevy Golombeck. 732-719-3898. It promotes a radical positive navardok mindset to life and has helped thousands improve their bitachon.
I haven't read through all 22 other answers (at time of writing for this excellent question), but of the ones I did read, I notice that the answers given are all tricks and techniques to avoid the desire from arising in the heart, and quashing it when it arrives. These are all very important tools to use during the galus time in your life when you are struggling uphill to achieve a real measure of Tzidkus, which is the ultimate cure to this sin. How to achieve this has been taught, and it's very clear and straightforward, available and incumbent upon all, and I'll get there at the end of this answer.
Firstly, let's say it straight away. Sexual desire is the only desire that is never conquered. As Rav Dessler states, at any point in our life, we are at a certain "level" of free will, with some sins we are tempted by and some that we have "grown out of". Sexual desire is the one "temptation" that one can never conquer, so that even the sages in their old age would go to great length to avoid being in a situation of sexual temptation (I believe the example brought is the story of Rabbi Amram and the female prisoners of war in Kiddushin 81b - see also the story of Rabbi Hiya Bar Ashi).
However, it IS possible to get to the point where one will no longer pursue this sin. Even though the temptation remains, strong as ever, and you are to be vigilant to avoid all possible situations of yichud and temptation, one will, still, no longer be plagued by this sin, consumed by it and sinning often. Indeed, every Jew is capable of reaching a level where he will never commit any sins of this nature, and the sages tell us exactly what it takes to be that kind of person.
In Mesilat Yisharim, the stage at which you reach this is only the third level: Nekiyut, cleanliness. As he opens in chapter 10:
The virtue of cleanliness is associated with a person who has completely cleansed himself of all bad traits and all sin.
Someone who has merely attained the level of Zehirut - vigilance - he writes:
...such a person is one who is careful about his actions and makes sure not to sin in those areas that are already known to him and that are universally acknowledged as sin. However, such a person is not sufficiently masterful over himself to prevent himself from being emotionally drawn towards his innate desire, which then misleads him by permitting him those things whose evil is not widely known. This means that although he tries to conquer his evil inclination and subdue his desires, this will not change his nature and he will still be incapable of removing corporeal lust from his heart. All he can do is sublimate it and pursue wisdom rather than lust. But the darkness of corporeality is nevertheless effective in swaying him and enticing him.
This, the Ramchal says, is called a Tzaddik (see Ch. 13). It's a high level, true, but it is available to all, not just the more sagely and saintly. In the Tanya, this level is called "Benoni" or the middle Jew. In Chapter 1 it is written:
the Benoni is not guilty even of the sin of neglecting to study Torah.
So here is the answer. This is the only thing that will really, truly work, truly free you, forever, from this sin in a healthy way that doesn't require chizuk or inspiration. Both the Ramchal and the Baal HaTanya describe what it "feels like" to be a Tzaddik/Benoni. In Mesilat Yisharim Ch. 10 we get our first clue:
...by intensifying his love and longing for the Eternal, then the power of these habits will distance him from corporeal matters... anyone deficient in this can only feel embarrassment and shame before His presence
Similarly in Tanya Ch. 11:
the impression retained in his mind from his meditation, [during prayer, on G‑d’s greatness], and the [natural] love and fear of G‑d hidden in the right part of his heart, enable him to prevail over and dominate the evil [animal soul’s] craving
To paint the picture, as Rabbi Manis Friedman, for example, explains: the Tzaddik/Benoni can't sin because he couldn't do that to Hashem. He has made Hashem so real to him, that he is unable to "hide" and sin. The idea of a sin might be interesting, exciting, and sound pleasurable, but he couldn't actually go through with it, Hashem is watching, he'd be too ashamed, and loves Hashem too much to do that to him.
So the solution is: learn Torah, and learn it in such a way that your goal is getting to know Hashem. That's what the Torah is, Hashem revealing Himself on every page, telling you how much He needs you to be clean, dignified, holy and close to Him, and keep all His commandments, and be His. As this awareness and love and fear enter your heart, you feel His strong need for you and your obligations towards Him, every time you engage in a sexual sin, and you feel that disconnection, you feel that guilty embarrassed feeling, it gets harder and harder and then one day, overnight practically, you just can't do it anymore. Everyone can achieve this because shame is the most human of all traits, and we already know what it's like with many other mitzvot. We could break Shabbat, we do love our internet and our microwaves, but we simply would be unable to break Shabbat, don't offer me a million pounds, I'd just cant.
That will be a fine day, a day when you are able to see the colours of the world again, and begin the first step in absorbing the entire Torah life, climbing the much more interesting ladder that begins right after you are able to cleanse your actions so much that you are no longer dangling over the precipice of good vs evil and are now in the world of becoming a mensch, a true chassid, sitting in Hashem's tent all day every day, utterly at home with your God, your Father, your Friend and your Chatan, and relishing finding out all the amazing wonderful delights Hashem has in store for someone who chooses life.
As the Ramchal states:
David rejoiced over his possession of this virtue and declared: "I wash my hands in cleanliness and encircle your alter O Eternal" (Tehillim 26:6). Only one who has been completely cleansed of any stirring of sin and transgression is worthy of seeing the countenance of the King