Friday, May 18, 2007

Question & Answer With Yonason Shmuel Edelstein - Shmiras Einayim

A Simple Jew asks:

I once heard a shiur from Rabbi Yissocher Frand who said that shmiras einayim is an incredibly difficult daily challenge for the working man who has to leave the shelter of his neighborhood and go out into the world. As an unmarried man, do you also find shmiras einayim to be difficult? What techniques have you found to be successful in order to prevent yourself from slipping in this area?

Yonason Shmuel Edelstein answers:

There's a story with Reb Meir Premishlaner – he would hike daily up an icy slope to use the Mikvah. Despite already being an older man, he seemed to make the trip with great ease –an act which prompted a group of youths to attempt the difficult trip themselves. They, however, were unable to successfully make the trek, and returned to the town with bruised and soar. When asked how he managed to make the trip, the Tzaddik replied,

"One who is tied above does not fall below."

This then is the task that one must take upon himself when venturing into the world at large –we must remain tied above, so that come what may we shall not fall below.

There is a famous Chassidic adage concerning a Rashi on Chumash. The Torah tells us that when Yosef Hatzaddik was thrown into the pit by his brothers, 'The pit was empty, it had no water.' Rashi asks 'If the pit was empty, don't we already know that it had no water? Rather it was empty of water, but filled with scorpions and snakes.'

If our minds are empty and void of content then they will become filled with undesirable thoughts and sights –for nature abhors a vacuum. Rather we must work to fill our minds with words of Torah, holy letters, and they will become our thoughts and guide our minds. By saying words of Tehillim or Mishnayos by heart we will not only purify the air, but our lives as well.

Though in our age fasting is looked down upon (for we are a weaker generation) and even Iskafiya –the withholding oneself of world pleasures, particularly in ta'avas ha'achila –lust for food, is rare, by not indulging in every frivolous desire, we keep ourselves purer and refined. Our minds become less gross from the constant inundation of worldliness, which in turn helps keep us away from other, far greater, distractions.

And like the slippery path mentioned in the story of Reb Meir Premishlaner –once one slips, it is ever more difficult to stay up . . . for as one becomes coarse and unrefined through looking in the wrong places, then it further schleps him into an unrefined state.

May it be G-d's will that by increasing our separation from the mundane, we will increase our purity, which we will add in holiness, in turn bringing about the coming of Moshiach.

A Simple Jew responds:

While the theory behind your words is indeed true, the practical application of these ideas is much more difficult. Even a tzaddik like Rebbe Nachman of Breslov had to struggle greatly in this area (see Shivchei HaRan #16). Now that you have provided the theoretical answer to my question, perhaps you could provide a practical answer drawn from your own experiences.

Yonason Shmuel Edelstein answers:

While the philosophical musings of Chassidus on Shmiras Einayim may seem only theoretical, they are in truth quite pragmatic.

I myself can attest that days when I involve myself in learning, daven with more kavana and the like, are days where the nisyonos on the street are far less powerful.

I feel more eidel and therefor to a greater degree, I am more eidel. But as I am only human, at times Yirah Illah and Yirah Tatah just aren't pulling the strings they should . . . when it comes to that point one must come on to emergency measures.

Hesach Hada'as is a must - what ever works to pull my mind to better things . . . A Rosh Yeshivah once paraphrased the Lubavitcher Rebbe (though I have not seen this written anywhere, I must however assume that the Rosh Yeshivah has seen a source) as saying, 'If one is walking in Manhattan and Yichudah Illah just isn't working -get out of there . . . think Baseball!'

One must be careful though, because thinking in matters of Klippas Noga - of the mundane - may stop us from falling into shalosh klippos hatameios - utter impurity - but if one involves himself to long in Klippas Nogah, that itself will serve as a gateway down.

Another tactic is in a slightly mussar'dike way . . . Coming from a chassidisher background, I find it difficult to use pure mussar - yiras ha'onesh and the like; if that works for someone though, who am I to take away from it. I find on a personal level a saying of Reb Hillel Paritcher to be of use, "How can I do such a thing? I, a chossid of the [Alter] Rebbe, a person who has involved himself in purity and holiness, how can I stoop so low? I have a hat, a long coat and a beard! How can I be so foolish to go down that path."

Whichever way works for you, may it work well!


At May 18, 2007 at 5:41:00 PM EDT, Blogger A Talmid said...

Pele Yoetz says that, among other things, learning all Shavuos night without wasting time is a tikun for the forbidden sights one has seen with his eyes.


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