15 Tamuz 5781 / Friday, June 25, 2021 | Torah Reading: Balak
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A young man asked me what his first task during these weeks of the Shovevim period should be, and what he should seek to achieve. I told him to start by guarding his eyes...


A young man asked me what his first task during these weeks of the Shovevim period should be, and what he should seek to achieve. I told him not to look for lofty levels of spirituality, but to learn how to guard his eyes and maintain personal holiness. This is our main task in the world.


Bachelors sometimes think that they have a right to look at women, since they're not married and they have to pick a wife. Wrong! One is only permitted to look at a woman if she is a serious candidate for marriage. Many of the women out there are married and no one but their husbands may look at them! So, if you're not yet married, pray that Hashem should help you guard your eyes, and at the right time, send you your true soul-mate.


Many people seek practical advice in guarding their eyes. I was privileged to be the understudy of Rabbi Shmuel Shapira zt"l, who for forty years succeeded in refraining from looking at the image of a woman. His daughter testified that he didn't even know what she looked like because he guarded his eyes even at home; I can bear witness to this, since I saw it first-hand when I was in their home. The holy "Beit Yisroel," Rebbe Yisrael Alter of Gur, zt"l of blessed memory, once said that a third of the world is sustained by virtue of Rabbi Shapira's holy, guarded eyes.


I asked Rabbi Shapira for advice on how to guard my eyes. He answered, "Only prayer! Pray constantly. Be immersed in prayer wherever you go. While walking in the street, ask Hashem to help you guard your eyes."


Several years ago, I asked Rebbe Elazar Abuchatzera zt"l about guarding my eyes, and he too answered, "Prayer and a strong desire to pray! Master of the World! Guard my eyes for me! Help me resist straying after my eyes. Help me avoid seeing anything that I shouldn't see or anything that doesn't belong to me, so that I won't lose what does belong to me. Help me be happy with my lot in life, so that I won't have any urge or desire for anything that doesn't belong to me."


Each person can compose his own prayers, adding whatever he feels in his heart. Most importantly, one must ask Hashem to help him close his eyes and walk with his head down, for he can avoid forbidden sights only when his eyes are closed.


Even those who lecture and work in outreach and distribute emuna books and CDs in public places – all challenging tests in guarding one's eyes – can succeed in guarding their eyes if they pray enough.


The moment a person steps foot outside of his home, synagogue or house of study, he must be on highest alert in guarding his eyes. Rabbi Shmuel Shapira would arrive at the synagogue at midnight, and remain there in prayer and study the entire day until after Maariv, the evening prayers. I'm mentioning this so that the reader can understand what type of pious and righteous person we're talking about. One might think that he'd forbid a man to teach women. Yet, I asked him about teaching women, for when I first started teaching, only women would come to my lessons. He told me that I'm absolutely obligated to teach them, but I'm also obligated to pray that I don't look at them. One who engages in holy work and seeks Hashem's help in guarding his eyes and maintaining personal holiness will benefit from Divine assistance.


I have a student who runs a store in downtown Jerusalem; nevertheless, he guards his eyes.


The Gemara tells about Abba Omna, a pious physician who excelled in personal holiness and guarding his eyes. I told this story to a doctor I know. The doctor, enthused and inspired, began to guard his eyes. A relative of his told me that he speaks to patients without raising his glance, and even during examinations, doesn't look at anything that is not directly connected to treating the patient.


Physicians of course have the Jewish-law dispensation of doing anything necessary to save lives, but they must be careful. They would be best-advised to ask a qualified rabbinical authority about how to act in certain cases.


Jewish law requires a person to give his life rather than perform an act of illicit sex. Therefore, a man may not engage in such vocations as women's hairdressing, where he must look at women and have his hands on them all day long. A hairdresser commits thousands of transgressions a day; he should therefore seek the advice of a qualified rabbi, and find something more appropriate.


I've come in contact with a number of people who dealt in businesses and vocations that put them in close contact with women, such as one individual who owned a women's shoe store and would wait on customers himself. Each person I encountered like this has suffered from terrible marital and/or financial difficulties; they can't possibly enjoy inner peace because they're souls are badly blemished from so many repeated transgressions.


Personal holiness depends on prayer – there are no shortcuts or quick remedies.

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  3 Talkbacks for this article    See all talkbacks  
mike1/11/2021 8:38:38 PM
  Guarding eyes
Pin1/18/2018 11:58:14 PM
  very difficult but ...
David Miami1/5/2016 12:12:25 AM

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