6 Tishrei 5781 / Thursday, September 24, 2020 | Torah Reading: Ha'azinu
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The Toughest Challenge    

The Toughest Challenge

Is Hashem asking the impossible from us? He implanted a strong inclination for sexual lust within us that literally forces a person to transgress. Is that fair?


Sexual lust is deeply ingrained in human nature. The Torah commands decisively that one shall not stray after his eyes and heart; in other words, the Torah is telling us that if a person doesn't guard his eyes, he will surely – not maybe, commit transgressions in the area of personal holiness. Because of human nature, this is a fact. No wonder that the word in the Torah for "straying" - zonim – is that same exact word as pandering or whore-mongering. If a person doesn't guard his eyes, they will see what they shouldn't see and their heart will surely stray!


It seems that Hashem is asking the impossible from us. After all, He implanted such a strong evil inclination for sexual lust within us that literally forces a person to transgress. Is that fair? Is a person doomed to be a sinner, Heaven forbid?


The answer is no! Hashem wants us to overcome our natural, inborn inclinations by way of prayer. Prayer is capable of overriding nature since prayer is above nature. A person must plead his own case to Hashem, like this: "Master of the World! You created me with a massive natural drive for lust; this is such an insane evil inclination that my whole body is ignited anytime I see a woman. Not just my eyes are a problem, but my whole body! You made me this way, Hashem! Yet on the other hand, You command me not to commit any transgressions with this lust. I have no other choice, Hashem, but to beg You to take away this lust from me altogether. Give me the power to guard my eyes and to keep them closed when they should be closed. Give me the power to overcome lust; and, if it arouses within me, give me the power to control it. Hashem, help me and don't forsake me - rid me of this animal urge and bodily desire, and enable me to channel all these energies into loving You and Your Torah!" Every individual, in his own words, should pray like this daily, over and over.


Praying for the same thing daily for half an hour yields results, and the gains are tremendous: having your prayers answered is a magnificent reinforcement of emuna, both in Hashem and in the power of prayer. It also encourages a person, for he knows that there's always a solution - that daily half hour of personal prayer devoted to a single request. This is the way to accomplish anything, to overcome the worst problems and break the most stubborn of habits. A person must be aware that he has an evil inclination, but with prayer and Hashem's help, he can prevail!


Someone who has difficulty seeing past what seems to be logical or rational doesn't take everything we say about prayer seriously. That's because his emuna is still undeveloped. But as an incentive, everyone can and should give prayer a chance and prove to himself the power of prayer. Take a bad habit, like overeating, anger, impatience or especially failure to guard your eyes. For one week - seven days consecutively - devote a half hour of personal prayer daily in asking Hashem to help you improve in this area. In one short week, Hashem will show you results and a bright ray at the end of the tunnel. Give yourself a chance - try it and see the fruits of your labors! Naturally, completely uprooting a bad habit takes much more than one week, but seeing initial results is a marvelous incentive to persevere in our personal prayers.


In addition to being an incentive and source of encouragement, praying daily for 30 minutes while focusing on one subject or request is a wonderful way to strengthen ourselves spiritually and emotionally. We never lose hope because we know that there's always a solution, no matter what we've done wrong or what we need to rectify or improve.


Rebbe Natan writes how Rebbe Nachman encouraged him in this area: "He told me that it's good to speak my heart to Hashem like one speaks to a true best friend...asking for mercy and begging for each thing, that Hashem should help me be an upright individual; these words are what brought me close to Hashem."


Rebbe Nachman also told Rebbe Natan about one of his personal prayer sessions during his trip to the Holy Land: "I stood in the cave of Elijah, and I imagined how Elijah the Prophet would pour his heart out to Hashem..." Rebbe Natan said that these words created a strong spiritual arousal within him, fueling his desire to talk to Hashem more and more. He understood from Rebbe Nachman that Elijah the Prophet attained his lofty spiritual level in which he never tasted the taste of death and burial by virtue of his extensive personal prayers. Rebbe Nachman had already said that all of the great tzaddikim had attained their exalted spiritual levels by way of personal prayer. We can too!

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