Click HERE to see the letter from Torah Umesora to schools regarding GYE.
UPDATE (11:48 AM): According to Yonasan Rosenblum of Mishpacha Magazine, GYE has helped many people with the support groups they offer. I highly recommend support groups when they are moderated by skilled therapists. If you wish to use them, find out who is moderating the group and what his credentials are. However, a support group can be very helpful regardless of the therapist's credentials. The shame surrounding sexual issues can be very much alleviated when it is shared with fellow frum Jews struggling with the same issues. Although it's great that support groups are provided for this greatly under-addressed issue, I am suspicious of GYE. Their Handbook on how to deal with sexual addiction contains some kinky ideas.
Click to view the Guard Your Eyes Handbook (from the Torah Umesorah Convention) in PDF form.
This stuff is worse than garbage. They tell you to punish yourself, and they are wrong. Before you write me off as being against Da'as Torah, you need to realize that today's poskim hold that sigufim (self-flagellations) are not only uncalled for nowadays, they are assur - prohibited. That is because we are not on the level of being able to grow from sigufim; we can only lower ourselves by punishing ourselves. The reason this site is so successful, is that people think they are right! More Painful = More Frum. But this is against Da'as Torah.
There is much nonsense on the web, and I can accept that. But this particular nonsense claims to be supported by a man who has my respect: Rabbi Abraham Twerski. That's what gets me mad!
On the homepage of the Guard Your Eyes website, there is a link to articles from Rabbi Twerski, along with his warm recommendation of this website. Follow the link, read Rabbi Twerski's articles on sex addiction, and you'll see why I don't believe that Rabbi Dr. Abraham J. Twerski actually read this handbook. Nowhere does Rabbi Twerski tell people to punish themselves. Instead, Twerski advises people to work on their character. Here is what Rabbi Twerski himself says in response to a frum person who "cannot stop masturbating:"
[You need to change your character in order to overcome the addiction.] How does one become a different person? By working diligently on improving one’s character traits. Learning how to manage anger, to rid oneself of resentments, to overcome hate, to be humble, to be considerate of others, to be absolutely honest in all one’s affairs, to admit being wrong, to overcome envy, to be diligent and overcome procrastination.... This does not happen quickly.
When one has transformed one’s character and has become a different person, one will find that this “new person” can accomplish things that the old person could not.
(Click for the entire letter, the question and Twerski's response.)
By the way, nowhere will you find Rabbi Twerski advocating self-harm in the name of overcoming an addiction.
The Handbook advises making a Shavua (the most severe Torah oath) in the name of Hashem that each time one loses control of his urges, he will punish himself. To elaborate, the Handbook gives some examples of a Shavua:
"Some examples might be: 'Shvuah bisheim Ado-nai [an oath in the name of G-d] – for one week, that if I masturbate, then within the following 24 hours, I will:
- tell my Rebbe
- tell my wife
- take a bus to the kever of a tzadik and stay there for 2 hours before coming home.
- fast for 24 hours
- give ‘a painful’ amount of money to Tzedaka."
The Handbook mentions that therapy might be necessary. Why "might"? Therapy is absolutely necessary for a person to overcome an addiction. Why are self-punishments mentioned before therapy? Take a look at the order in which the Handbook lists the various "tools" for fighting sexual addiction:
2.Guarding the eyes [see below - "Make it Hurt"]
3.Making Fences [includes making vows to punish yourself]
5.Using the Tools on our website [GuardUrEyes.com]
18.The Very Last Resort."
Why are the self-punishments listed as Tools 2 and 3, while therapy is relegated to number 13, almost as a "Last Resort?!" You will not heal from your addiction by hurting yourself; you need to address the underlying problems. Check out this article by Dr. Sorotzkin, called "Psychological Explanations for Sexual Acting Out." He'll tell you about how he's been treating sexual addictions in the frum community for more than 20 years. He's the most sought-after frum psychologist, so I'd rather listen to him than to a website that won't even identify its own authors.
Here is one of the ideas listed under Tool #2:
"Make it Hurt: We can try to accept upon ourselves (not forever, just for "x" amount of days or weeks, at first) [emphasis added] that every time we take that second look at something triggering, we will (either):
• give ourselves a pinch that hurts,
• wear a rubber-band [sic] and snap it against our skin,
• give 25 cents to tzedaka,
• give our eyes a 'time out' by closing them for 6 seconds."
Rabbi Twerki supports this? Nowhere does Rabbi Twerski tell addicts to pinch themselves, and I've read many of his books.
[Side note: That last bullet point is ludicrous! By closing your eyes, you will be perpetuating the image that you just saw, making it sink deeper into your brain. You don't need a degree in psychology (although it helps) to know that the sensory imprint of an image you see gets erased when you look at a different image. Closing your eyes prevents the image from getting erased.]
This is garbage. Following this advice will make you more depressed, because you are hurting yourself. The fact that you have a rubber band on your hand will constantly remind you that you are trying not to think about sex, and you'll just think about it more. Whatever you think about gets reinforced. Better you should think happy thoughts, encouraging thoughts. That way, you'll be strengthening your self-esteem. How can it be that Rabbi Twerski, who is the biggest proponent of the idea that low self-esteem is the underlying cause of addiction, would support a website that tells you to destroy your self-esteem? Rabbi Twerski, take a look at what you are supporting.
Besides for doing more harm than good, self-hurting is an aveirah - a sin. Why does a Nazir (person who vows to abstain from wine for a month) need a Kaparah - forgiveness? Because Hashem does not want people to hurt themselves. He considers it a sin!
Guard your eyes when you visit the Guard Your Eyes website. Use their support groups. As Rabbi Twerski is fond of saying in regard to healing from addiction: "Therapy is the icing on the cake. [The support group is the cake.]" But don't heed their advice to fast for 24 hours every time you lose control. Instead, get a good therapist. Ask Dr. Sorotzkin to recommend one - his email address is posted on his homepage - email@example.com. For good psychological advice, go to a real Jewish website, run by a person who shares her name. A Jewish point of view can be found on Dr. Miriam Adahan's website. Her idea is that building your self respect - by taking care of yourself, being disciplined, and keeping a Growth Notebook with small acts of self-control - will eventually strengthen your spiritual muscles enough to help you fight your personal addictions.
Don't commit spiritual suicide by hurting yourself. Hashem loves you.