Torah Perspectives on Boundaries, Restrictions and Sexuality

A significant portion of the Torah revolves around boundaries and restrictions. Many youngsters’ mental image of G-d and His rules can be described thus: A very powerful god, who for some mysterious reason, needs us to provide him with nachas by doing positive deeds, and who needs us to avoid transgressing his rules. If we break the rules we will incur his wrath upon us. In the worse case scenario the mental image of god will most closely resemble the gods of the ancient pagans who had no interest in morality or the welfare of people and were basically very powerful bullies whom one needed to appease in order to avoid getting “beaten up,” or worse.

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Psychological Factors in Sexual Acting Out

Some may protest the above title. “Why do we need to look for psychological explanation when someone acts out sexually?” they protest. There is a simple explanation. It’ s called taivah (lust) and yetzer hara (evil inclination). Looking for psychological explanations, they assert, merely serves as an excuse to act out.

Perhaps we can address this legitimate concern with the following example. If a frum person occasion ally transgresses the prohibition against lashon hara (slanderous speech) we can indeed attribute this to the yetzer hara (evil inclination). The appropriate treatment would be learning mussar. What about someone who incessantly speaks lashon hara withou t a break? How likely is that to be purely an expression of an over – active yetzer hara ? It is far more likely to be a result of a deep sense of inferiority which often induces a need to put other people down in a desperate attempt to bolster one’s self – image. 1 If this person tries to deal with the problem just by learning mussar, without the guidance of a rebbe muvhok who really knows him well, it will likely just make his problem worse, since it would further depress his self – image thus increasing his impulse to speak lashon hara. Psychological help is needed to repair the inferiority complex that is feeding the excessive need to put others down. Only then can he deal with the “normal” yetzer horah for speaking lashon hara via mussar.

 

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