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Shmiras Einayim is Frum Masochism

The Rabbi gave a men’s only shiur on shmiras einayim last week (guarding your eyes – for the frum illiterate) and I decided to go through with character building and try it out. Once in a while I find myself trying not to look at scantily clad ladies for the challenge of it, I didn’t know I was wracking up schar and gan eden seat upgrades for doing it. Like many regular dudes, I find myself staring at ladies an awful lot, my wife says I need to be more discreet, but if you saw the half naked yoga moms that pack into the JCC in San Francisco every day you would stare too. I joke around with the security guards about how good their jobs get at about 2 in the afternoon. That’s when these hot rich ladies with thousand dollar strollers walk on in wearing sports bras and leggings that show every crease in their butts. I didn’t realize how tough shmiras einayim was until I actually tried it.

The Rabbi said something interesting, he said to look women in the face when you talked to them. Funny, because all the frummies I ever met look down. So one day last week I actually gave it my all, I looked straight ahead and literally avoided looking at half naked ladies for the day. It felt good, my neck kind of hurt and my eyes stung, but just when I thought I had given it my all – I failed miserably when a bunch of college girls wearing what appear to be the new booty shorts style (they look like leggings that end right at the butt cheek bottoms) walked past me in the Presidio .

It’s an ongoing challenge, I’m not exactly sure that I’m helping myself, but I guess it could be a good thing and since I can’t exactly go out and randomly hook up anymore (not that I would have ever touched a girl before I was married either) those pretty women still beacon the eyes. The Rabbi did say it wasn’t an all or nothing kind of mitzvah, so I challenge myself with not looking some of the time. Of course I haven’t put a blocker or filter on my internet and don’t intend to so maybe I’m just a faker.

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{ 51 comments… add one }
  • Michael K. January 29, 2013, 10:39 AM

    Funny, I also like the challenge of not staring. I was on vacay recently and, while relaxing in the jacuzzi, willfully did not stare at the two 20something bikini-clad gals as they got in and out of the tub. Of course, their incessant whining about the lack of anyone around to bring them a drink (among other complaints) was a turn-off, too, so that kinda helped drive my lack of interest.

    • Heshy Fried January 29, 2013, 11:08 AM

      The other problem is that when you get one of those boners that won’t go away, it’s hard (pun intended) to get out of the tub.

      • Michael K. January 29, 2013, 11:17 AM

        Dude. I was in a hot tub with two gorgeous girls. I wasn’t going ANYWHERE.

  • Marcos January 29, 2013, 11:29 AM

    The only biblical character who did Shmiras Enayim was Joseph when he was around Potiphar’s wife, but that’s because the midrash says he saw his father in her image!

    • Heshy Fried January 29, 2013, 11:30 AM

      That’s because he knew he’d shack up with her even hotter daughter.

      • Michael K. January 29, 2013, 11:40 AM

        Go, go, go Joseph you know what they say
        Hang on now Joseph you’ll make it some day
        Sha la la Joseph you’re doing fine
        You and your (wet?) dreamcoat ahead of your time

    • ModernOrthodoxObserver January 29, 2013, 9:32 PM

      some commentaries say it is because it was the first time he ever looked into a mirror, and he was a splitting image of his father.

    • A. Nuran February 1, 2013, 9:40 AM

      Yep. Saw his father saying “Son, if you even look at her sideways they’ll tear you into pieces and throw the pieces to the crocodiles”

  • dorot January 29, 2013, 11:43 AM

    this is when i thank Hashem who has made me a woman. I can stare all day long at the firemen across the street and still avoid gehenna. The women’s balcony section in shul is also custom made for a good gawk.

    • Heshy Fried January 29, 2013, 11:55 AM

      Yes, but you’ll still be stuck being a woman. I’d take standing up to take a pee, no menstral cycles and no giving birth any day.

      • Michael K. January 29, 2013, 11:57 AM

        You forgot wearing stockings – and, pertinent to this discussion, being stared at by creepy men. sheh-lo asani isha indeed!

      • Anonymous January 30, 2013, 2:33 PM

        at least her shmuck does now grow to embaress herself

    • SG January 30, 2013, 10:56 AM

      @dorot, good point., but you might not want to stare at the shul, you might get bitch slapped by the guy’s wife.

  • Reb Yid January 29, 2013, 12:03 PM

    With all that’s going on in this world, this is what your rabbi chooses to give a class about? Where in the Torah does it say anything about not looking at women? And, in any event, what does he think this will accomplish? Men in prison have no problem fantasizing about women without ever even seeing any. Shtus!!

    • DRosenbach January 29, 2013, 12:42 PM

      Where in the Torah does it say anything about not looking at women?

      I find this position so outstandingly poor in form that your legitimate participation in the debate ought to be reconsidered. Hardly anything is “in the Torah” and whatever is becomes fodder for rabbinic interpretation far too early for you to come along and insist on anything regarding its practical application.

      If you question the authority of Judaism, then so be it — but quit pretending to attack it from the inside.

      • Heshy Fried January 29, 2013, 1:44 PM

        I should have stated that it was a shiur specifically in relation to Shovavim, I should also state that there is always more “going on” than whatever someone chooses to give a shiut in.

        However, I think that upkeep in the mussar and ethics department is quite important, not all of us can just mow down a blatt gemara or an entire section of iggros moshe on a daily basis, many of us need modern day mussar and halacha l’maysa for the day to day stuff.

        • Ex bochur January 29, 2013, 1:58 PM

          At this rate, Heshy will have Net-Tzach installed by Elul …

        • Reb Yid January 29, 2013, 3:12 PM

          Heshy- I am really beginning to loose interest in this blog. You used to have a healthy degree of skepticism about most things in the frum/yeshiva world. Now you seem to be just another frum/yeshiva guy, which is actually kind of boring.

          • Heshy Fried January 30, 2013, 9:59 AM

            I guess I should have mentioned that I watch more porn now that I’m married and I’m trying to even the keel by the heter I received to watch fake women on screen but avoid real ones on the street.

      • Telz Angel January 29, 2013, 2:50 PM

        “in the Torah” :- The author of Shir Hashirim must have peeked a few times over the mechitza (or at the mikva) to gain some appreciation of the love clusters that top the curvy mountains, the gazelles that leap off her heaving chest, and the patch of wheat stalks that border the innermost chambers.

        “Rabbinic Interpretation” :- Rabbi Yochannan and Rav Gidel would watch the young women when they dipped into the mikva too. The gemara says that Rabbi Yochannan was so attractive that he wanted the women to see him right when they got out of the mikva — so that their children would look like him. And I guess “magically” there were many children who somehow looked like him — all this by hanging out by the women’s mikva. Magic. Rav Gidel’s excuse was his classic line (he used it to justify his practice of dancing with girls): “They are like white geese too me.”

        Yup. Both Torah she’bichtav and Torah she’bial pe give us fine examples of men who enjoyed the female form. I think the real breacha is B”H she’asa nashim, He made women to be enjoyable to gaze at and appreciate.

        • anon January 29, 2013, 4:48 PM

          There’s got to be a “like” button.

        • F.Y.L. January 29, 2013, 5:35 PM

          Telz Angel, Rav Gidel did no such thing! I suggest you revisit the relevant Gemara in Brachos 20a. He stood by the gates of the mikveh, i.e. outside the mikveh, not in the mikveh actually watching them immerse! Also, There is NOTHING on this daf about him dancing with the women!

          Go a few pages later to Brachos 24a where the “Torah sh’baal peh” says that anyone who gazes at the small pinky of a woman so as to gain pleasure it’s as if he’s gazed at her privates. And in Torah sh’bichsav there is an ENTIRE pasuk devoted to histaklus b’nashim: “v’lo sasuru…”.

          • Telz the Malach January 29, 2013, 7:58 PM

            Rashi explains that Rav Gidel was close to the mikvah’s fence since he needed to instruct the women on how to dip — he was peeking for sure — otherwise he would have just given a shiur in shul why did he need to be there in person? He uses the expression “kakei chaveri” (they are like white geese) elsewhere when he is found dancing with young girls. In Kidushin 81b, Rav Acha bar Abba (or perhaps it was Chana bar Raba) was chided by Rav Chisda for having his granddaughter on his lap — to which he responds that you can “use the services of a woman” if it is leshem shamayim — ironically quoting the same Shemuel (with no source) who allegedly takes the position that saying hello to a married woman is a violation of Kol Isha — since she might answer back! This statement about shimush is quoted in halacha allowing a man to be serviced by a female bath attendant at the Roman baths.

            The Ba”ch explains R’ Yochannan had long eyelashes and could not see the women — but modern scholars speculate he might not have been as interested in women as he was in strong men like Reish Lakish (who became frum after seeing how attractive R’ Yochannan was).

            The interpretation of brachos 24 is a machlokes rishonim between the ashkenaz and sefardic poskim (see R’ Saul Berman’s article of 1981, the one so many others have attacked — and indeed it’s not a perfect essay, but it does demonstrate that this gemara you quote of Rabbi Yizchok [related to the statement of Rav Yehudah attributed to Shemuel in Kiddushin 70a as Rav Yehudah is being a total jerk to Rav Nachman his elder.] is both subjective to the viewer and could be limited to only be an issue if you are about to say shema or daven amidah where you need a location devoid of “ervah” (See Rav Hai Gaon, Rabenu Chananel, and Mordechai on this gemara), and only if she is actually distracting you (see R Eliezer ben Yoel Halevy, the Rabiah). The Rif, Rabad and Meiri reject the idea that this is even a problem for davenning, since you might be used to this (ragil) and you have to know your own boundaries.The gemara also says in brachos that you can’t daven next to wet poop — and of course this is not because the wet poop is arousing, but because it is a distraction to concentration and unbecoming to the act of t’filah. Same too, if a pinky is distracting, then you can’t daven in front of her pinky. Also see Ramban Hilchos Kriyas Shema 3:16 vs. the Behag and Shulcha Aruch O”H 78:1 vs Rema on the limitation of “beIshto” if it’s his wife’s pinky.

            As for me, I only consider the pinky an erva, if it’s inside the privates at the time.

            viLo Sosuru is a problem, since Hashem gave us desire to look and then tells us not to. Yet He also tells us “lifne iver” I can only conclude this means Hashem is oyver on lifne iver, so we can be oyver on lo sosuru.

      • Reb Yid January 29, 2013, 3:10 PM

        I am not pretending to do anything. Every mitzvah has an origin in the Torah, correct? I know of no origin in the Torah for not looking at women.If I am wrong and you have such a source, please share it. That’s more constructive than attacking me. If you choose to live your life based on social mores from the 18th and 19th century that somehow seeped into certain segments of the Jewish population, you are certainly free to do so. I, on the other hand, will be guided by the Torah and the oral mesorah and not give much heed to people who live in fear of natural, healthy human inclinations.

        • F.Y.L. January 29, 2013, 5:56 PM

          Yes, every mitzvah has an origin in the Torah and this one comes from a outright pasuk in Chumash!

          Will be happy to share several sources, from both Torah and the Oral Mesorah to not look at women.

          See Numbers 15:29, which the entire gamut of the Oral Mesorah understands to be prohibiting this.

          See the book of Job (Iyov) 31:1 where Chazal learn out it’s not only wrong to look at married women, but single ones too. (An exception made by the Oral Mesorah would be single woman one might possibly marry; one is obligated to see her first to make sure he’s attracted to her.)

          Here are several more from the Oral Mesorah. Go see Talmud Brachos 24a: “Anyone who gazes at the small pinky of a woman so as to gain pleasure its as if hes gazed at her privates.”

          See Talmud Sanhedrin 92, Sanhedrin 75, and Nedarim 20.

          See Talmud Eiruvin 18 where where we see that even if one is similar to Moshe Rabbeinu, but he gazes at women for pleasure, he will not be spared Gehinnom, and Talmud Brachos 61 for something very similar.

          See Rambam Hilchos Teshuva Chapter Four Halacha Four.

          See Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, the Code of Jewish Law, in 152:8, where it discusses the prohibition of gazing at women for pleasure.

          Finally, see Nitei Gavriel at this link for an entire chapter of halacha, with documented footnotes from the Torah and Oral Mesorah about the prohibition of looking at women:


          This is just a drop of endless Torah sources on the prohibition.

          • Reb Yid January 29, 2013, 8:35 PM

            You are off your rocker. Everything you cite is a prohibition against seeking arousal for adulterous purposes. Somehow this became a prohibition against looking at women for any reason. Only a severly repressed pervert gets aroused looking at women.

            • F.Y.L. January 30, 2013, 10:48 AM

              not really sure how you come to that conclusion based on all these gemara and halachic sources. histaklus b’nashim is an issur d’oraisa, clear as day; you might not like it, and you might think it’s crazy, but that doesn’t change what it is.

          • F.Y.L. January 29, 2013, 9:36 PM

            CORRECTION- I made a typo. It’s Numbers 15:39, not verse 29

            • Mir Man January 30, 2013, 3:52 AM

              That Numbers 15:39 means you cannot look at women is a yeshivish construct,not mesorah.

              • Marion January 30, 2013, 8:45 AM

                Numbers 15:39 seems to mean looking at women with lust–and looking at mansions and Maseratis with lust.

        • SG January 30, 2013, 10:18 AM

          The way I understand it, it’s a gezairah, to prevent men from thinking of women that way & then eventually jerking off (wasting seed).

          • Anonymous January 31, 2013, 3:44 AM

            And so it goes, I knew there was a reason I had a problem with Torah She Bal Peh. Too ambiguous and loosely interpreted by everyone for their own purposes. Same goes for Nach, where Rabbis have “learned out from” I find the whole thing BS. The only remotely solid source is Numbers 15:39, but even that is about using your tzizit to distract yourself, or remind yourself not to look. That may indicate its bad to look, but that totally admits that you will look. Where is the big prohibition?

            • Reb Yid January 31, 2013, 8:29 AM

              Totally agree and even then Numbers 15:39 is not explicitly talking about women, it is referring to all forms of lustful behavior- money, riches etc. but the frummies have somehow whittled this down to just looking at women. Also remember that all of the prohibitions about tznius, pre-marital sex, masturbation etc were written by men. I wonder what these rules would look like if women were involved in crafting them. When it comes to matters of sexuality, please keep in mind the following: There is NO prohibition in the Torah regarding per-marital sex between two consenting people, there is no prohibition in the torah on masturbation, there are no tznius rules in the torah and no rules in the torah against men looking at women. There are rabbinical decrees that rely on sometimes extremely vague textual references to justify rules against things that made cloistered men who lived several hundred to over a thousand years ago very uncomfortable. But that is all they are! My favorite example is the so-called prohibition on male masturbation which is tortuously gleaned from the story involving yehuda spilling his seed on the ground and the text saying that G-d was upset with him. Many scholars say G-d was upset at the deceitful way Yehuda behaved in this whole narrative, nothing to do with the spilling seed part. Yet, for those looking to prohibit an activity that they probably did not fully understand, they sunk their hooks into this reference to justify this ruling. Look, I’m not saying the attitude of the Torah is libertarian in these matters, what I am saying is that if you really read the Torah with an open mind and look at the behavior of those who are held up as the heroes of the torah (Yaakov standing at the gate to the city looking for a prostitute and mistakenly picking up his daughter-in-law and having sex with her, and nobody seemed to think that was strange, or David Hamelech sending a man to his death in war so that he could sleep with the dead man’s wife, how are these things even possible?) and then you compare that to the obsessive attitude prevailing in the frum world regarding matters of sexuality (rulers to measure sleeve lengths on per-pubescent girls!!), you will see that that the frum world has gone way off the derech in these matters. So much so that some Jews do not consider these folks to be truly Torah observant. Can you imagine how much richer the Jewish world would be if the frum world just instituted a broad common sense approach to these matters and instead devoted their considerable energies to really important Torah values?

            • SG January 31, 2013, 6:07 PM

              I am not a posek, but there is Torah base prohibition of jerking off. It does not state this explicitly but there is a story about a guy who did it & was punish for it. However, its natural thing to do, so Rabbis added rules to prevent one from heading that direction & help us guys out avoid this prohibition.

  • Ex-bochur January 29, 2013, 12:34 PM

    Its an ongoing challenge, Im not exactly sure that Im helping myself,

    You might find that it gives you more ability to concentrate on important things. There was a major goyishe literary figure who said that he can’t write for a week if he has been “distracted”.

  • Mo January 29, 2013, 1:46 PM

    And you couldnt take several pics so that we may practice not looking?

  • A. Nuran January 29, 2013, 3:39 PM

    Interesting thing the researchers have discovered – when a man in a committed relationship talks to a woman he’s not involved in he will avert his eyes from her face much faster than a single man will. Your difficulties looking a woman in the face for extended periods are normal. There’s something particularly intimate about it.

    Of course, staring down at “all that meat and them potatoes, too” is plain rude.

  • A. Nuran January 29, 2013, 3:51 PM

    As I’ve said before, bodies are bodies. Some are attractive. Some aren’t. Most are much better looking with clothes on. As long as you’ve got a functional set of boy-glands you will lust. And it really doesn’t matter what the ladies wear. Millions of Catholic boys are imprinted on nuns. (Like the old joke ends “No leprechaun nuns? I told ye. Ya fewked a penguin!) Your hormones get carbonated by clothes and wigs designed to turn you off. What your eyes don’t see your imagination will fill in.

    Trying not to notice won’t work.

    The key is to guard your heart, not your eyes. See, but don’t stare. Notice, but don’t linger. And pick your tongue off the floor you great lecherous gawk!

    • Catholic Mom January 30, 2013, 7:37 AM

      Millions of Catholic boys are not imprinted on nuns because:

      1. Very few nuns still teach at parochial schools
      2. Very few nuns still wear a full habit
      3. Parochial schools are not sex-segregated and the boys are sitting right next to normally dressed girls their own age, so why would they be interested in a 45 year old woman in a habit?
      4. Notwithstanding the endless propoganda from Reform rabbis about how anti-physical world and anti-sex Christianity is compared to Judaism (“hey, it’s a mitzvah to have sex with your wife! See how carnal we are!) Christianity has never made any actual rules about what might be called “the occasions of sin” vs. the sin itself. Take a look at the outfits worn in Elizabethan England (and everywhere else in Europe at that time) for example. Women would get arrested for walking down the street today with some of the tops they wore at court in those days.

      • Anonymous Shiksa January 30, 2013, 11:57 AM

        Actually, in Catholicism, if you think about having sex with someone, it is as big of a sin as actually doing it. Why do you think so many teenaged Catholics give up and decide if they’ve already earned the same punishment whether they’ve thought about it or done it…why not at least enjoy doing it?

        Some Catholic schools are still gender segregated, not as many, but some still are. And, as to boys lusting after nuns, from personal experience Catholic boys lust after almost anything female with a pulse…just like most healthy young men. Do a google search for sexy nun and see if there isn’t a market in such things.

        • Catholic Mom January 30, 2013, 6:10 PM

          Some (actually most) private Catholic schools are sex-segregated, virtually no parochial schools are, at least not anymore. Private Catholic schools are for rich kids. The teachers are very unlikley to be nuns and, if they are, they wear Prada.

          I have no idea why you got the idea that thinking about illicit sex is considered as serious a sin as engaging in illicit sex, but in any event that has nothing to do with my point, which is that Christianity does not and never has had any rules designed to keep people from thinking about sex by segregating the sexes in any manner (including in church), by dictating that any specific type of clothing be worn (other than that dictated by the general rules of society at any given time) or by stating what (clothed) body parts could or couldn’t be looked at any time.

          Not to agree with A. Nuran but Christianity has always been about guarding your heart from sin, not wearing burkas and blinders.

      • A. Nuran January 30, 2013, 9:34 PM

        A wonderful theory demolished by a few inconvenient facts.

        Nun-based erotica is a Thing, especially among Catholic men of a certain age. Denying it won’t make it go away.

        • Catholic Mom January 31, 2013, 5:43 AM

          I wrote a reply tha went into never-never land. I won’t repeat it. “Nun-based erotica is a thing”? Well, I will freely admit there are all kinds of perversions I never heard of. Not exactly sure how I would get the list unless I was searchng for it on the net. Frankly, I have spent my life among Catholic men/boys in one form of relationship or another (sister, daughter, mother, etc.) and I think if I asked them if they were getting off on nuns they would laugh themselves sick. Nun JOKES, yes. Nun erotica, not so much.

          But even if it were so, and apparently you’re placed much better than I to know the 1) background of the people who find it interesting and 2) psychosocial reasons they find it intereting is unknown to you. It almost certainly isn’t because of their exposure to nuns as teachers.

    • SG January 30, 2013, 10:22 AM

      Excellent points!

  • Micah T January 29, 2013, 5:06 PM

    My version of this is to avoid talking to women (especially married women) at work. As far as looking at them, its hard to avoid, but I try to be discreet. Happily, there aren’t that many attractive women where I work. Easier to be pious, when there is less temptation.

    • A. Nuran January 30, 2013, 8:45 AM

      Sneaking glances but not talking to them?
      That comes across as very creepy.

      • Telz Angel January 30, 2013, 10:51 AM

        Yah think? I thought women like to be objectified as things to stare at, and not people to speak with. 😛

        Teaching your boys to be socially inept with women does not solve the shidduch crisis. And it does not help fix the spilled seed crisis either. Seed will be a’spillin ‘cuz that’s what happens. And it’s healthy too. Why do we care so much about where men inseminate? Why do you think God created kleenex in the first place?

      • Michael K. January 30, 2013, 11:06 AM

        There’s a difference between being discreet and being sneaky. I’ve mastered that art.

        I hope.

        • A. Nuran January 30, 2013, 9:35 PM

          How about mastering the more useful art of treating them like people, taking them seriously, and interacting with them in ways that aren’t based on what’s between their legs?

  • Nice January 30, 2013, 4:52 PM

    You have just summed up the SF JCC better than anyone I’ve ever met. Well done!

    Of course, in the men’s locker room, I always end up changing next to the 80-year-old guy who finds no need to put some clothes on or just allow a towel in his vicinity and is about to spend an excessive amount of time drying the more sensitive portions of his anatomy with the communal hairdryer.

    • NY Man January 31, 2013, 7:57 AM

      Every locker room of every gym I have ever been in has some old guy parading around in the bluff and drying himself with the blow drier. Are these guys in a union or something?

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