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HomeFoundations of JudaismHoliness for Men and WomenAre Thoughts Worse than Deeds?
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Are Thoughts Worse than Deeds?    

Are Thoughts Worse than Deeds?

This article is specifically written for men and their challenges. May we be blessed with marital peace, good income, and Divine compassion and salvation.


This article is specifically written for men and their unique challenges. 


While studying the Daf Yomi, I came across a startling maxim in Gemara Yoma page 28 declaring that thoughts are worse than deeds. How can thoughts be worse than deeds?  A simple understanding would assume quite the opposite. 


The answer is particularly relevant this time of the year when we face formidable  challenges in guarding our eyes. 


One answer is that when one sins with his intellect, he is misusing his prime asset. The intellect is an adjunct of the soul and should be used solely for exalted purposes. By using the intellect for sordid or illicit fantasies, one is engaging in behavior that is reprehensible to Hashem. 


We must also realize that failing to guard our eyes is in and of itself a sin. This is clearly stated in the third paragraph of the Shema we are where we are enjoined not to follow our heart and eyes. When our eyes wander, sinful thoughts inevitably follow.  


I once read a teaching by Rabbi Abraham Twerski, zt”l, that when it comes to sinning with the mind, there are no social inhibitions. A person can think whatever he wants without anyone knowing what he’s doing. Moreover, one’s imagination can traverse the entire world, conjuring up all sorts of degenerate fantasies.  


Since the time Rabbi Twerski originally wrote this, the internet has become prevalent and has vastly expanded the potential for misuse of the intellect and imagination. Now there is a plethora of filthy images and content that would have previously been inaccessible to the unaided imagination. 


The Steep Costs of Failing to Guard Your Eyes 


The first casualty is Shalom Bayit or peace in the home. Inevitably when a man begins looking at other women his wife seems less attractive and desirable. In effect, he is stealing from his wife by taking desire and affection that belongs to her and giving them to strange women that are forbidden to him 


Rabbi Shalom Arush explains that women have a sixth sense. Somehow even though they may not know exactly what's going on, they feel that something is amiss, and they begin to detest a husband who is coveting other women. As a result, the husband starts receiving loads of abuse from his wife and his home life becomes miserable and unbearable. 


We need to remember that our wife is a Bat Melech – a daughter of the  King.  Your  Heavenly  Father-in-law does not take kindly to a man misusing his eyes and mistreating  His  daughter in this way. 


Income also begins to suffer. It is mentioned in the emuna CD and booklet Debt-Free Living that if a man knew how much money he was losing every time he looked at another woman, he would be shocked! 


The biggest loss comes in damaging one's relationship with the Creator. A man’s prayers become impaired. This is because he is damaging the vessel that he needs to receive heavenly blessings. For example, one would not pour expensive wine into a cracked and dirty glass filled with filth. Similarly, Hashem will not  bestow  beautiful  blessings on a contaminated vessel. 


The Benefits of Guarding Your Eyes 


When a man guards his eyes, he his marital harmony improves. In The Garden of Peace, Rabbi Arush says that a husband will benefit from the radiance of his wife's soul which is meant for him alone. 


Guarding one's eyes is not just for married people. By maintaining one's personal holiness, a single person creates the vessel he needs to be blessed with finding his ideal soulmate, and he will find his wife that much faster and easier. 


A person's income will also improve as our sages explain that income is bestowed on a man in the merit of his wife. Guarding your eyes and having peace in the home opens the pipes of abundance. 


Our prayers also become much more powerful. The book “Vaha’eir einenu(And Open our Eyes) which is all about guarding our eyes, quotes first Derech Eretz Rabbah (a baraisa) that says when one holds back from looking at someone forbidden to him, he merits to receive the Divine Presence. Rav Yitzchok Zilberstein shlit”a, is quoted that he heard from the author of  Taharas  Hakodesh  (Rav Aharon Roth, zt”l) that this very moment is an extremely auspicious time to pray. One should immediately pray for whatever he needs.  


What Happens When You Fail? 


This is an extremely tough challenge in our times and we may not always be 100% successful. A key danger is to feel despair and worthlessness after a setback. 


A couple years ago I heard a teaching from Rabbi Y. Y. Jacobson based on the teachings of the Seer of Lublin. There is a Satan in front of you that tries to lead you to sin. After he succeeds and after the sin, he walks behind you and has a new role. He tells you that you are a lost cause and that you are worthless. 


In many ways this role of the Satan is even more dangerous. We know when he says to sin that he is the Satan. However, when he then tells you that you are horrible, he sounds like a saint. He really is a liar and a fraud. This poisonous propaganda is designed to cause you to give up, and become depressed and paralyzed. The key is to realize that  Hashem  still loves you and he wants you to repent and make a new beginning. 


Our Challenge 


A couple years ago I saw a video from Rabbi Elimelech Biederman in which he spoke about the greatness of someone who guards his eyes. Barley is a type of grain that is usually fed to animals.  The  omer sacrifice of the barley is to remind us to lift ourselves above our animalistic level. The difference between an animal and a human being is that a human being controls himself. This is a key message of the period of counting the Omer as well. 


By clearly visualizing the potential costs and benefits, we can be more vigilant in guarding our eyes and have many more victories than losses. In the merit of guarding our eyes and protecting our personal holiness, may we be blessed with marital peace, a good income and be able to pray in a way that elicits Divine compassion and miraculous salvations. 

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