Addicted Teacher Seeks Help
Written by Rabbi Elyakim Levanon, Rabbi of Elon Moreh   
Sunday, 16 December 2007

As the teacher of Torah with many students, everyone assumes that I am Mr. Clean. Holy Macaroli! How they err. I can't take it anymore. Free my mind!
Kids, you're coming to me? I'm part of the problem, not the solution!
I am a religious teacher and counselor, and lead a happy life with my wife and family. But I live in two worlds. Ever since I discovered the Internet, I looked at non-kosher sites. I know that this is forbidden, but I lack the inner strength to stop. My conflict is when students come to me seeking my advice on how stop their own addictions to Internet pornography. I am torn apart inside by the falsehood I am living. I beseech you to assist me to break free of this inner darkness.


In every generation, the Almighty sends a temptation, an evil inclination specific to the times, and this causes many people to fall. In the distant past, there was an evil inclination (yetzer hara) to worship idols. The Talmud relates that King Menashe said to Rav Ashi in a dream, "If you had lived in my generation, you would have raised the hem of your robe to run to worship idols." Subsequently, the Sages used their powers to wipe out this temptation, such that today we no longer feel tempted.

In our time, sophisticated, modern enticements have taken the place of idol worship. The greatest of all is the Internet. On the one hand, it offers outstanding technological advancements that can improve our lives - but it can also bring about many terrible downfalls.

As an educator, you should know that a teacher cannot truly teach as long as he himself is morally ill. There are professions where a person can get by with his work in this condition, as if nothing were the matter, but education is not one of them. Students recognize that their teacher has a problem.

A person must be directed by his intelligence and reason, and not by the pull of his emotions and imagination. These faculties of emotion and imagination are wondrous powers that afford us great expanses of experience and thought, joy and warmth. But one must use them at the proper time and place.

The Double-edged sword: The imagination can carve out uplifting imagery or obscene debauchery
As with all types of energy, imagination and emotion function as a double-edged sword. One can reach the level of prophesy on their wings, because prophesy comes only with joy, a function of our emotions. Also, a prophet requires a powerful imagination. But when these elements step over their boundaries, they bring us to negative imaginations and thoughts, and to behavior that causes us inner shame when we examine our actions with clear reason, leaving us in wonder to see how far we have fallen.

Furthermore, a man has to take responsibility for his behavior. Spending one's time playing computer games or surfing on the Internet stems from an unwillingness to take responsibility for our actions. It is like running away from ourselves. One can run away for a short time, but it is similar to the usage of drugs or alcohol. They also take us away from our real situation to another distant and unreal place. But when their influence wears off, we wake up to a damaged life that sometimes cannot be healed.

Therefore, when you are immersed in the Internet, you completely forget that you have a wife and children, and in place of the happiness that you spoke about in your question, you have a passing pleasure that takes you out of your real situation.

Imagine that your dual life would be discovered by them, as happens in many families - all of your life and the life of your family would be devastated. You would lose your standing as a husband and as the head of the house, your wife would lose her trust in you, and your children would cease to honor you as before.

Rabbi Elyakim Levanon, the author of this article, is the Rabbi of Elon Moreh in Samaria, Israel
If you should think to say - I know all of this already, but I still am drawn after the seducements of my yetzer and continue to look at the forbidden sites, then I can offer you the following advice: find yourself a rabbi, or acquire a friend in whom you can confide. Our sages have taught that "a prisoner cannot free himself from his imprisonment." But a helping hand from outside of your prison can afford the needed assistance to free you. This rabbi or friend should be unconnected to your regular life, unconnected to your family. It is not right to reveal your weakness to your wife with the hope that she will provide the salvation. Find someone whom you can trust outside of your immediate family circle. By following his guidance, and by believing in yourself that you have the inner strength and willpower to pull yourself out of your present darkness, you will learn once again how to stand on your own and not give in to your yetzer.   

[This question and answer appeared in the weekly newsletter, "Komimiot," December 15, 2007.]

Last Updated ( Sunday, 16 December 2007 )