Save Our Sons

Your son does it.

Yes, your little angel. He does it. And he does the other thing as well.

(Don’t ask him, that will just make him a liar.)

It shouldn’t really be a surprise. In seforim it is referred to as “the known sin”.

The “other thing” has only been made possible in the last few years with the availability of the internet, but it basically falls into the same category.

It’s not that he’s a bad kid. He truly might be the angel you say he is. But he was born with an addiction crouching at the door of physical maturity, when he’s little more than a child.

He didn’t know what it was. And I’d venture to say it won’t find expression until it is given a form or a name.

But a form and a name it will get, whether from a classmate, the TV shows you don’t (or perhaps do) know he’s watching at Grandma’s, or that innocent looking novel he’s reading right under your very nose.

And it will torment him for the next decade.

He’ll feel disgusted with himself, he’ll feel like a freak, he’ll feel like an animal.

He’ll scream silently at his reflection in the bathroom mirror, outraged at his own existence.

He had sworn he wouldn’t go so far.
He had sworn last time would be the last.

Why did his body ignore the voice inside his own head, pleading for him to stop?

He stares at his hands, feeling weak, defeated.
“Am I not in control of myself?”

What happened to the pure child he once was?

And so the scene repeats itself, just a few short days later.

He might hold off for a week or two, or perhaps even a month, or maybe more.

But it seems inevitably our prince will fall again to this seducer within him.

– – – – –

What can be done?

One problem is actually quite simple to fix.
Block his access to the substance of his addiction.
He’ll be grateful. He wants to be helped, but he’s too ashamed to ask.

But the answer isn’t, as many have recommended, dumber devices.
It’s smarter devices.

He still wants to be connected, to have access to social, communication, shopping, travel and information apps. So giving him nothing will likely just lead to him securing access to these services via illicit, unrestricted avenues.

He needs a device that will let him do what he wants, and not what he doesn’t want.
It doesn’t have to be done by force or trickery. Like I said, he wants to be helped.

And it’s really simple to do.
Click on the name of each device for instructions on how to protect the user.



– – – – –

But what about the other issue?
The one which doesn’t take two to tango?

That’s far more difficult to solve.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe’s advice seems to simply be, don’t think about it. Keep busy. What happened happened, and hopefully the future will be better.

As the Kotzker Rebbe put it, “I don’t demand of my chassidim to not sin, I demand they not have time to sin”.

To be perfectly honest, that’s not particularly encouraging.

Neither is the advice given in chassidus to learn Torah so deeply that it is equally pleasurable.
It’s just not going to happen.

Tips for improved self control include plenty of sleep, exercise, and a healthy diet.
In yeshiva? Good luck with that.

Perhaps we do need a monumental re-emphasis on physical well being in yeshiva. (More accurately, we probably do, but again, good luck with that.)

Or perhaps we need to tackle this pre-emptively.

It’s taught that it’s far easier to refrain from doing something you’ve never done, than to stop once you have experienced it.

Perhaps we need to raise our boys with an awareness of the sanctity of the mark upon their flesh.

With the understanding that some things, like the parchment of a Sefer Torah, are too holy to be touched.

With a knowledge of the deeper meaning of the words “ושמרתם את בריתי” – And you shall guard My Covenant – Bris.

With an appreciation of the gravity of the act about which it is said the entire Iggeres HaTeshuvah in Tanya was written to combat, it being the final hurdle before the coming of Moshiach.

Perhaps this way we can prevent our boys from stumbling into this pit of sweet tasting poison.

Perhaps this way we can save our sons.

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  1. Anonymous February 15, 2017 at 11:33 am

    Thank you for this post.

    As far as anyone knows, I’m a frum guy. I keep Shabbat, I keep kosher, I daven, I learn. But also, I struggle with this. You are right that education is needed. When I started doing this, I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t have a name for it. I had a vague sense it was wrong, but mostly I felt confusion about my body and my desires and what was happening to me (to be honest, I still do). And I wasn’t even frum back then! My parents were in some ways fairly liberal, but my sex education was severely limited, mostly about the physical aspects of reproduction. For several years I didn’t actually realize that the man had to penetrate the woman during intercourse for conception to occur. I had a very vague sense of what sex actually is even on a purely physical, biological level and to be honest, it didn’t interest me very much until the hormones kicked a few months after my bar mitzvah.

    For me masturbation and pornography have always been tied in to my mental health issues. I’ve struggled with my mental health all my adult life (used to think I was being punished for the masturbation, actually) and pornography is a very easy way of self-medicating when things get too much. I’ve had limited real world romantic experience (few people ever wanted to date me), so it is easy to get stuck in a fantasy world where beautiful women are available to me, when real women are so unobtainable. I desperately want a real relationship though, not just for sex or even for love, but to be able to give to someone. To have real emotional intimacy. It seems very distant, though, and the further away it seems, the easier it is to fall back into fantasy.

  2. Chaim February 16, 2017 at 4:08 pm

    I can relate fully to the sentiments shared in this post. I experienced so much guilt and shame as a teenager because of this, and would have given anything for someone to help me with it. So I have an idea; instead of pretending there’s something wrong with kids who masturbate, maybe we can normalize it for them. I intend to teach my son that there’s nothing wrong with it, and to educate him on how to be healthy sexually.

    The way I see it, our prohibition on masturbation is unreasonable and arose from a human evolutionary need to procreate as much as possible. There is no evidence of a divine commandment against “spilling of the seed”. So from my perspective, I will advise my son to pleasure himself in a healthy way-avoiding porn for its unhealthy qualities- and to not feel at all guilty for doing something that all men do.

    1. Mendel March 7, 2017 at 5:53 pm

      I think another option can be to educate your son how to deal with sin in the first place. Shame and guilt have no place in Judaism (except at certain times and for certain people. See chapter 29 in Tanya). Teach him that G-d accepts him no matter what, that our relationship with Him exists without the prerequisite of sin and merit (Tana Devei Eliyahu 14).

      The secular world too is beginning to see the advantages of not masturbating and if one slips up once in a while, don’t kill yourself over it. Shake off the dust and aim for a new horizon. I’m not married yet and while i struggle with the same, I don’t let it get me down. i actively work to make my life more fulfilling and healthy and you’d be surprised by how long you could go!

    2. Yanky June 14, 2017 at 10:50 am

      At the risk of being perceived as an apikorus, I think that a forgiving attitude towards teenagers and not-yet-married guys about masturbation, and not shaming and guilting, is what is called for. If you review the various opinions in the Shulchan Aruch and elsewhere, you will find that not everyone thinks it is so horrible. Some authorities say that if it is not done to destroy seed, but only from an urge that is difficult to control, then it’s not levatala.

      And in some sefarim, I am sorry to say, the scare tactics make those who promote them look silly. To promote “science” from hundreds of years ago as Torah is just not honest.

      A reasonable approach, considering the bombardment guys have these days (even if they are careful not to seek out porn) with sexual images and less-than-tzniyut females, would be that as long as a guy is not doing it deliberately to prevent his wife from becoming pregnant, then let it go. And if he has no wife, what do you want from the poor guy? If someone is able to refrain, then Kol Hakavod, but until a guy is married, it happens, and it is not the end of the world. I am not a posek, and you can ask your local orthodox Rabbi, I am merely expressing my opinion.

  3. Sara February 20, 2017 at 11:45 pm

    Thank you for publishing this.

  4. Mayer February 25, 2018 at 10:22 pm

    In your article, you mention the devices which have a hand in leading young men to this practice. Suggestions are made towards discouraging and disabling smartphone accessibility.

    Certainly, crude material available on the internet is much more accessible nowadays. But the activity discussed in the article pre-dates the internet by thousands of years! For eons, all that men needed was a healthy imagination – no other stimulants were necessary!

    In reality, absolutely nothing has changed – the same holds very true in our times too. The mind is the canvas and any (young) man is free to draw whatever images he fancies, from whatever experiences he may have had in his lifetime. Turning off internet capability is like sticking a finger in a flooding dam. Maybe it will stem the flow, but the battle is not with internet accessibility alone. Unless you want to stick a man in a room by himself all day, so that he does not use any of his senses, he will always find challenge in this regard.

    There should also be a recognition that just as ‘sexual assault’ is not always for sexual reasons, men don’t always engage in this behaviour for sexual purposes. It may also be used as an outlet for releasing stress / frustration or as a way of dealing with other emotions. Sexualizing the activity is approaching this affair with a one-dimensional attitude and doesn’t allow for a full recognition of other issues at play.

    I know that this is true because: you just wouldn’t guess or imagine who is ‘guilty’ of this behaviour. As a man who talks to others, I know of plenty ‘frummies’ who indulge themselves, while the biggest ‘sheygatzim’ refrain. It’s really a personal matter and each man deals with it as he is best able to.

    Respectfully, was this article written by a woman? I think that it was. I believe that a man’s attitude would be more accepting of any man who engages in this activity. Who are we to judge another? Who are we to pass judgment on someone until we’ve walked a mile in his shoes? As a man, I don’t think that this proclivity makes someone good or bad. It is a personal matter that every man has to deal with as he seems fit. Each man has to find his own way with this.


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