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  • Writer's pictureRabbi Raffi Bilek

Making It Real

In my previous post I spurred us all to pay heed to our own personal evil inclinations and to take action against them. I am proud to say that I follow my own advice. After some time spent in personal reflection (not a whole lot of time, to be honest), I came upon a way in which I could attend more to the spiritual-physical battle inside. To wit:

As a therapist, I spend a good deal of time one on one with clients. The truth is most of my clients are couples, and of the individual clients, not many are women. I do plan to be much more circumspect about taking on a female client going forward, though I can’t say I will never do so. In the meantime, I think hilchos yichud is where the avodah is.

I can’t remember if it is Rav Yitzchak Aizik Sher or Rav Dessler where I saw this piece (if you know, please remind me!), but in any case it is a mussar giant who makes the following point. When it comes to taivah of whatever variety, you can fall down a very deep pit if you cross a certain line. The avodah in this area is not to stand strong on the edge of the pit and not fall in. It is to never get close to the edge of the pit to begin with.

When it comes to taivah, once you are caught up in it, it can be almost impossible to stop the train. You cannot always predict whether a gust of wind will come and knock you over when you are standing by the pit. Don’t go near the pit. As Rabbi Orlowek is fond of saying, a diabetic shouldn’t walk into a candy store. An alcoholic can’t go into a bar. And you can’t be alone with a member of the opposite sex, because ein apotropus l’arayos – everyone is at risk in this area.

Most men can be reasonably confident that they are not going to suddenly be nichshal with a woman they are having a conversation with in solitude. So it’s easy to think that for any one given conversation it’s okay to walk by the pit.

It may be true that there is no present risk of aveirah in that instance. But that is not the point. The point is that you must protect yourself from ever finding yourself at the bottom by maintaining a strict adherence to the gedarim that make it impossible for that to happen. You want to be a hero against your yetzer hara? Then don’t ever find yourself in direct combat with him. You are a hero when you make sure to keep the laws of yichud with your administrative assistant, with your patients, with your 93-year-old great aunt Sally. That is where the avodah is.

I took this on myself by speaking with the rav at my shul about upping my observance of the relevant halachos. I am sponsoring a shiur on hilchos yichud for my yeshiva alumni community. And I will bli neder be starting a small podcast on hilchos yichud, learning through the sefer Gan Na’ul (watch this space for more info). Even if not all of the halachos will not be specifically relevant to me (I’m not sure I will ever be alone with 5 women who hate each other), I think that the limud will be impactful on me and on the world as well. Just as we can fulfill our obligation of korbanos today by learning the halachos thereof, so too I believe we can bring a tikkun to the area of kedushah by learning these halachos.

It’s a not a huge overhaul. It’s one small step. This is my contribution to fight back against the force of the yetzer hara and against the chilul Hashem caused by Walder.

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