Jerusalem – Liberation From Lust

    46

    Jerusalem – The recent item in a Jerusalem Hebrew weekly that a downtown Internet café had opened a whole floor for young haredi men offering private booths for viewing pornographic videos was a titillating item for the average reader.

    But for “Ya’acov” – an observant computer programmer living in the Jerusalem area who two years ago singlehandedly established a virtual “community” to help haredi men fight their addiction to porn – it brought only sadness. A happily married man with several children, Ya’acov had “personal experience among some family members” with this specific addiction and wanted to help sufferers.

    His free English-language project, called Guard Your Eyes (at www.guardureyes.com and www.guardyoureyes.org), has already helped thousands.

    THE WEB sites include 250 pages of information, all composed or collected by its founder. The site with the .com ending provided information such as how to filter out pornographic Web sites and Frequently Asked Questions, but the newer site is more dynamic and includes blogs and new articles. By the way, as his own sites sometimes use “forbidden” words, users may have to make it an exception so that filters allow access.

    The project, says Ya’acov, has received the blessings of leading haredi rabbis who are aware of the problem in their communities. The project continues off tax-deductible donations and without help, but the man behind it says that despite the uncertainty, he is determined to reach more religious men and their families.

    “I have seen the family problems that Internet pornography has caused. It is one of our generation’s biggest tests. We have to learn to deal with it. Pornography available in a public place is much more difficult to obtain.”

    Ya’acov (who can be contacted by e-mail at eyes.guard@gmail.com) notes that nearly all modern Orthodox families are online at home. One rabbi Ya’acov quotes has stated that 80-90% of modern Orthodox men have been exposed to pornography. “But modern Orthodox don’t make such a big deal of it because they are involved in the secular world, so it doesn’t destroy the fabric of their community.”

    The rate of haredi (Lithuanian-style and hassidic) who have Internet access is difficult to pin down; he estimates a minimum of 25%. Since many haredi rabbis realize that Internet cannot be banned from homes merely by “prohibiting” it, efforts must be made to prevent its abuse and protect men from addiction; a small number of religious women are addicted to pornography as well, but it is much less attractive to them, Ya’acov says, as “women tend to prefer an emotional connection to men rather than only lust.”

    Pornography is “very powerful” and difficult to shake off for both religious and secular men, he continues. One can reach millions of images with a click of the mouse. “Once you start looking, you begin to think evil thoughts and become powerless. You can never get enough.” Ya’acov says the pleasure centers in the brain and the secretion of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine are involved in the development of such addiction. “They can be more powerful than any drug. It doesn’t happen overnight. Pleasuring oneself [masturbation] gradually blazes neuron pathways in the brain, causing a man to want repeated stimulation.” Maybe, he suggests, genes are also involved.

    If a man is raised religious and continues this way of life, says Ya’acov, he won’t eat non-kosher food or violate Shabbat, but he could nevertheless get hooked on Internet porn. Men may let their curiosity get the better of them. After all, the Web has become a routine tool for obtaining information and also for Torah study. But haredim who develop an addiction to pornography “eat themselves up alive. They are sure they are dirty people and that God despises them. They had always considered themselves believing Jews, and here they are unable to control themselves. They feel like hypocrites, and may question their own faith. Sometimes they hide it from their wives for years.”

    THIS IS a “promiscuous generation,” says Ya’acov, although he concedes that there is plenty of promiscuity mentioned in the Bible. “But the religious – and especially haredi – communities see the subject of sex as taboo and don’t offer sex education to the younger generation until they are engaged. Many haredi youths have no idea how babies are made, even though their mothers are frequently pregnant. Sex is part of life, but Judaism recognizes it as kosher only in a holy context.”

    He says he “tries to use the power of the Internet against itself.” So far, more than 700 people have become anonymous members of the “community” and automatically receive daily support (called hizuk in Hebrew) on how to cope with their addiction and eventually free themselves of it. About half of them are Israeli, with the rest from the US and other English-speaking countries. Ya’acov says he aims to make the information and support available in Hebrew and other languages. “We are building a forum in Hebrew for producing material for a Web site.”

    As the Web sites cater to the religious community, many of the “treatment” techniques are based on the wisdom of Jewish sages and the desire to get closer to God. However, says Ya’acov, his approach uses or endorses all the contemporary tools for breaking addictions, such as psychotherapy, medication to minimize libido, 12-Step groups, online filters and accountability partners. The sites also have a “Wall of Honor” for members (using false names) to be recognized for abandoning their addiction. An English forum (one for men and one for women) allows people to voice their feelings and offer advice. One man writes: “You can’t wrestle with a pig and not get dirty. The thoughts will come – accept that. It doesn’t mean anything. At those times, try to just acknowledge that they popped into your head, wish them a friendly ‘Shalom Aleichem!’ and then move on to try and do something else. Worrying about them or doing something with the express purpose of getting rid of them just won’t work. Pray to God and say: ‘I know it’s my fault that I have these thoughts. I don’t want them. Help me to distract myself.’ ”

    “The 12 Steps isn’t Jewish,” Ya’acov explains. “It was launched in the 1930s to help alcoholics, based on moral principles that when implemented could turn their lives around.” The technique can also be applied to pornography addiction. Abandoning the addiction is gradual, like “learning the Alef-Bet before learning Kabbala or Mussar [ethics literature],” he maintains. “We try to give people the tools they need to end their addiction. First you must become humble, want to make amends and take a personal accounting. Maybe addiction could turn out to be a gift from God, because you have to examine yourself from the beginning and start learning all over again.”

    IN ADDITION to daily support on the Web, GuardYourEyes also offers a variety of other services, including anonymous phone conferences and handbooks. Suitable psychotherapists are presented in a recommended list.

    The site has begun to be used by religious community leaders and educators who can download handbooks and distribute them among yeshiva students, says Ya’acov. “I would be very happy if there were support groups in yeshivas for those who need them if it were done discreetly.”

    There are a few other sites, such as www. jewishsexuality.com, but it has only one page of material on pornography addiction. “There is nothing online like this,” maintains Ya’acov. “It is a revolution. I have hundreds of testimonials from people who say they have been helped, and even that their lives have been turned around. They learn that they are not just weak-willed; they understand that it is an addiction, an illness, and they are anonymously introduced to people who are worse off. I know the service is important also because numerous Jewish sites have posted links to GuardYourEyes.”

    One member of his Web community wrote to Ya’acov: “I wasn’t talked to about this until I was caught two years after I was already addicted. I bet most don’t realize it’s an addiction similar to alcoholism.”

    Another confides: “Over the years, I have tried nearly every conceivable method of trying to break this habit on my own, but none worked. So far, the thing that seems to be working best for me is just going on this site and browsing through the forums and posts, which are inspirational and infuse me with strength. There are other people who are going through the same trials as I am. God willing, we will all be successful.” A third writes: “Your Web site is like a rope thrown to a drowning person. You’ve saved me from the depths.”

    Ya’acov would welcome suitable volunteers, and states that he won’t rest “until every religious Jew with such a problem understands that he is not alone and can get help.”

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    46 COMMENTS

    1. No question, all of us browsing VIN are amomgst the estimated 25% haredim who have access to the net. We’re all just barely a click away from the real chazarei. Who would’nt put a fence around a cesspool? Let’s wake up and do what we know is right – for our wives and children’s sake. And just maybe for ourselves too. Myself included.

    2. I suffered from this addiction for many years until I relized how my curiosity is destroying my life- all day at work I was thinking of new sites to xplore…. my davening was imposible… learning torah- not a chance…. I confined anonimously with a rabbi who brilliantly got me ‘cleaned’ I am a different person with a better understanding of myself and a closer relationship with Hashem and my wife and children

    3. are these numbers acurate? is it so common in our heilige tzibur? my hubby works all day at a computer and I would never CH”V suspect anything

      • I don’t think the numbers are accurate – I think they are low!

        Let’s try an informal poll: To all the men out there, I ask if there is any one out there who can honestly claim to have never visited a pornographic website. If so, please tell us!

        • I for one has never visited either purposely or accidently any Porn site and that is without a filter for at least 2 yrs. I only made a filter when my kids started getting older, kleenweb by Koshernet.
          I’m sure there are many people like me that are just happy with themselves, and know that relationship with a women is an act of love (yes, and this too from a physical point of view, let alone spiritual) and can’t even get myself to loke at it just from an animal point of view!
          No I’m not an Angel I’m just “HUMAN” But not “INHUMAN”

            • Dealing with your yetzer hara alright but not with animal desires! Do you have to deal with not wanting to kill?! I hope not!
              The point is yes I can understand someone that has to fight feelings he feels towards forbidden females, but I can’t understand someone that has to fight animal instincts ie, looking and seeing some producers idea of 2 people having a relationship and trying to imagine himself in that position (I think that, that’s what it is, I’m not sure is I’ve never been there) what type of happiness or fulfillment does this bring you?!
              YES IN MY VOCABULARY THAT’S “INHUMAN”

          • Most people that end up on these sights didn’t intend to (at least not the first time). Check out the gemara in Kiddushin – once someone does something once, it becomes a lot easier to do it the second time. Even if the first time was by mistake. If you would c”v end up on one of these sights by accident (late at night, no one else around), I sincerely hope that you would be able to quickly X out. If you could, I envy you.

    4. That cafe (if it is the one near Crack Square) is a toevah which is run by gangsters who pose as charedim in order to entrap kids. I used it by accident for a business emergency one motzash and had the very distinct displeasure of meeting the owners.

      I have no problem saying that they probably also deal in drugs and worse and that askonim in EY should see if it is mutar to call the tax inspector on them (like all cash businesses the tax inspector will always find something on them) if there is no other way to close it down. I am sure it is connected with the Abargils or other organized crime gangs who sadly take advantage of the underbelly of the frum world.

      And GuardYourEyes is great; it got me to install a filter and give someone the password even though BH I am not tempted much by porn I was able to block all the orthoskeptic, LH, MSR and kefira sites where I used to waste time arguing.

    5. I have Jnet I can’t even go to Utube but by the end of the day I do more business and no time to BS I the only distraction from work is VIN by now

    6. “One rabbi Ya’acov quotes has stated that 80-90% of modern Orthodox men have been exposed to pornography”

      Pure speculation…and Motzei Sham Ra

    7. Guard your Eyes is doing a great job.. But the part about Modern Orthodox is just not right. just because u deal with the secular world dosent mean porn is not bad. on the contrary a modern orthodox must be extra careful from porn and the like. and reemind himself he is a jew who happens to work and encounter the secular world. I hope we all can learn from this website to be the holy chosen ppl Hashem wants us to be.

      Moderation is the Key, Striking the proper balance is the question.

      • While you are right in what you say about the Modern Orthodox, moderation is not the key when it comes to sin, especially watching pornography which is extremely addicting for Jew and non-Jew, orthodox and secular. In Perkei Avot, sin leads to sin, good deed leads to good deed. Thus Ya’cov, May Hashem give him blessings in abundance, has a site called “GuardUreyes” because even Chazal say once one sees his heart desires and then he’s prompt to acting the sin.

        • 100% correct. btw I never ment moderate ur sins. cause a sin is a sin. its Just my Motto that in life one should have a moderat approach and do what is right.

          Moderation is the Key, Striking the proper balance is the question!

    8. #3 & #5, Which numbers, the 25% figure? That’s referring to the # of Haredim online, not those addicted to porn. Hopefully most Haredim, like myself, are using provider based prefiltering or reporting programs.

    9. I think most of the frum people who do such things is because they have emotional trauma in their lives; I don’t mean that they are insane but that they need to get behavioral help. Unfortunately, it is still very taboo to seek professional help in our community because of all the gossipers. So someone going through an emotional crisis will look for the easiest outlet- namely looking at bad things. We have re-evaluate our priorties and stop all the loshon hora on people and dan people l’caf zecus. When we do these things people will stop using addictions (including drugs & alcohol besides the net) to solve problems and go for the help they need without the fear it will come back to haunt them & their families!

    10. I was an english teacher in a Yeshiva -(plus I am Yeshivesh frum) – The boys connected with me more than they did the Rabbeim (especially because I told them that learning secular studies was important for them to get along in life). They told me that they were pretty much all exposed to porn. This is in two different twelfth grade classes. The numbers were 80 percent. This is not conjecture but fact. Also, the boys were not MO they were from modern Yeshiva type homes..

    11. #15, Yes, I can say that I never viewed a pornographic website. You see, I only have internet access on my PDA and my provider T-Mobile has a web guard feature.

      • Well, I was referring to people who don’t have such restrictions. I’d say that at least 99% of men with regular (unrestricted) internet access over a computer have seen pornography at least once.

    12. i dont understand. i have interent in my home since 1999. i or my family never had a problem with the interent. i feel people whom find problems will find this either via the interent or other means.

    13. u guys are all clueless its much more the question is whats defined as addiction we all fall sometimes but our lives are not destroyed unless your not in control and you cannot say hmm maybe thats not a good thing to do

    14. The mishna in avos states ” az ponim l’gehenom”. Look at the rabbeinu yonah (on that mishna). He explains that if not for BUSHA a person would not daven, put on tefillin,etc
      The anonymity of the internet creates a situation of ‘az ponim’. V’hamaven yovin’

    15. Ha! I know plenty of normal people that while they don’t set out to look for porn, their curiosity does get the better of them. They’re just regular healthy people with a normal yetzer horah. Our tendency to brush things under the rug and stick our heads in the sand is mind boggling. It’s normal and healthy for men to lust. What’s assur is not to fight it. In internet filter like Jnet is a wonderful tool in this fight with the yetzer hora.

    16. Hi everyone, I’m yaakov from the article. If you struggle in these areas, do not be ashamed to ask for help. All it takes to begin your journey to recovery is two things. 1) to admit you have a problem and 2) to want to change. The rest Hashem will help you with. Please download the handbooks on our website, they will change your life. Especially the GYE Handbook over here: http://www.guardureyes.com/GUE/PDFs/eBooks/GuardYourEyes%20Handbook.pdf
      We love every Jew on GYE, and anyone who turns to us for help is answered personally.
      May Hashem save our generation from these terrible nisyonos!

    17. scores of ‘regular’ frum adults- men and women alike- married and singles- have admitted to me that they frequent on-line dating sites- just for curiosity…. many ended with divorce-or worse

    18. I sit here and atest to this article completely. I am a curretn memeber of GUE and more and more people join everyday. Most Orthdox people dont even know of this website. I stumbled upon it by accident. The number of people doing these acts, including me, is way up there. GUE gears people who need help with this matter to prevent further steps backwards. Anyone who bashes this website has no sensitivity towards anything but what they see in front of them.

    19. The Gemorah in Sanhadrin on Daf 92. stated “one who gazes upon a womans nakedness (private parts) becomes impotant (not able to have children. Chas Veshalom

      People I know its hard. And yes many ppl stumble and many ppl make mistakes. But we must repent. Know that you are children of Hashem who loves you and wants to help. Reach out to him and he will help.

      Guard Your Eyes is doing a great Job. Keep up the great work.

      Wish u guys all the best. Btw repentance as Rambam says in Hilichos Teshuva Perek Aleph. is when u have the chance to do it again and you don’t that’s called a true repentance. Remeber what we Jews stand for.
      Hatzlach Rabba.

      Moderation is the Key, Striking the Proper Balance the question!

    20. as me being a menahel at a yeshiva high school, i was recently at a chinuch conference about the ‘ dangers of the internet’, all the rabbaim where saying that pornargerphy is by far the worse, when i spoke i said it was FACEBOOK the reason why is as follows 1) when s/o looks at pritzus there r destroying themselfs, but when a boy whats to meet a girl on FACEBOOK it is 2 lives that r getting destroyed. 2) When s/o looks at pretzus there are fantisizing, they know that the model or image there are looking at, they will never have a physical encounter with. whereas FACEBOOK (or sefer ponim as the yeshiveshe velt calls it) meet ups and eventuly physical encouters starts.
      this nesoyon is affecting b’nei yeshiva and bais yaakov girls ( even in tha most frum schools) way more than pornargraphy.

    21. Don’t you all realize that when you say e/o or most people do this or that..it really means that u are doing that b/c u have no way of knowing what e/o else is dong

    22. #38,
      I cant agreed or disagree as I am a grown adult.. But I dont see facebook as bad as you paint it.. one does not ruin their life via facebook (i’m sure it happens but not the norm) the only facebook addiction I have is to playing mobwars and using it to chat with normal friends, read notes etc..

      And facebook is a powerfull tool torah wise.. I cant see how you can compare the 2.. one is inherently evil.. the other is like all things hashem created which can be usesd for good and bad (eitz hachayim tov v’ra)

    23. i am in one now, next to central bus station…

      i come for news and email… its scary what happens here. behind me yeshivish bochurim are watching untznius goyishe music videos with kol isha…

      i regret comming here, but i need to check urgent matters.

    24. Dear chamor 🙂

      Yakov from the article here again… Contrary to logic, marriage does not solve the problem of lust addiction. It only gets worse if not taken care of, and marriage only complicates it and has the potential to destroy two people’s lives, instead of one.

      As one addict on our forum wrote:

      “When I was your age, I too struggled with this addiction, and I sought help from my Rabbonim / Masgiach and was given completely misguided advice.

      I am now married in my early 30’s with children, my wife has been through pure hell as a result of my acting out, and if I do not stop I will loose my children too.

      Whenever I see or hear of Bochurim struggling with this issue, I want to shake them and scream at them to get into recovery at an early age. When I was 17 my m/o was just mags, but as you know, this illness is progressive and by the time I was in my mid 20’s I was doing things that in my wildest dreams I never thought I would do. If you still think that you are not so bad and that you have not done a certain behavior yet, you should know that “yet” stands for “you’re eligible too”. Please, please, I beg you to take recovery seriously leave no stone unturned in finding a solution that works for you. Spare yourself and your future wife & kids, years of hell and recovery.”

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