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What is the Jewish view on masturbation?

by Rabbi Mendy Hecht

  

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CRAIG: Is masturbation a sin?


Rabbi: Masturbation is forbidden according to Jewish law1


CRAIG: Why?


Rabbi: Kabbalah is very explicit about the negative spiritual side-effects of masturbation. The idea is as follows: Your seed is the material by which you procreate; it is the genetic material within you that allows you the opportunity to partner with G-d.


When we let human seed go to waste, we squander G-d’s sacred and divine potential
CRAIG: How’s that?


Rabbi: When we use it constructively, we channel the Divine sparks and energy within it correctly, and it comes to good use within the world via children who in turn will produce more children, in this way continuing the path of humanity. When we let it go to waste, however, we squander G-d’s sacred and divine potential. (This allows for what Kabbalah calls “Chitzonim,” negative forces loosely translated as “outsiders,” to snatch the energy and convert it for negative purposes.)


[Ed. note: Also read "Where does the Torah say masturbation is a sin?"]

Footnotes

  • 1. See Genesis 38:7-10, Talmud tractate Nidah 13a, and Maimonidies laws of Forbidden Relationships 21:18; also see the entire Chapter 151 of the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch

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COMMENTS

Masturbation

Posted by: Jim Black, Houston, Texas on Nov 22, 2004

Not without flaw in this regard myself, I think that masturbation also takes you away from honoring your responsibility to your spouse through this blessed way of intimate communication and allows you to grow apart beyond simply the procreation issue.

Masturbation

Posted by: Dave, Brooklyn, NY on Mar 03, 2005

Besides all that is discussed in kabbalah,

Maimonides writes that semen (Zerah) is man's "chayos nafsho" (all his life and strength.) The more that goes out, the more the man weakens. "His hairs turn white, his teeth fall out, he looses his eyesite, a bad stench comes from his mouth and he get's thousands of sicknesses",

(maimonides continues..) "Doctors say: one out of 1000 sicknesses come from other problems and 999 come from emmision of semen".

Maimonides, besides being one of the greatest Torah-scholar's that ever lived, also happened to be one of the greatest doctors of all-time. He wrote all this in his famous "Yad Hachazaka", in a section dedicated to health related issues. (Hilchos Deyos)


P.S. The Alter Rebbe writes in Tanya chapter 7 that masturbation (emmision of semen in vain) is worse [ed. note: in one aspect] than all the other illegal relationships mentioned in the Torah. [See http://www.chabad.org/library/archive/LibraryArchive2.asp?AID=7886].

What about females?

Posted by: Mischka F. on May 02, 2005

What about females? Unlike males females will "Waste" an egg every month if we do not have intercourse and concieve a child, likewise, we are only alotted a certain amount of eggs where as men will always produce sperm. Is masturbation forbidden for a female as well, according to scripture?

Editor's Comment

1. The "waste" of the woman's egg is part of nature, not her own doing.

2. Female masturbation is not expressly forbidden by Jewish Law.


Masturbation

Posted by: Anonymous on May 25, 2005

Is masturbation before marriage as serious a sin as masturbation after marriage? Please could the editor provide some useful advice in how to quit masturbation, after a person has been addicted for many years?

Please keep this comment strictly Anonymous

Editor's Comment

1. There is no difference between a married person and a bachelor with regards to masturbation.

2. See "How do I control my desire to masturbate?"


Masturbation

Posted by: Anonymous, Valencia, CA on Aug 29, 2005

I'm a bit confused. Since masturbation is considered a waste of semen and since semen should only be used to procreate, does this mean Jews should not use contraception and only have sex when they want to have children? Sounds more like Catholisism to me. Please help me understand befeore I stop having sex for the rest of my life...

Editor's Comment


wet dreams

Posted by: Anonymous, Santa Monica, CA on Sep 10, 2005

What about wet dreams? I understand that one can have control of masturbation, but what about nocturnal emissions? It's not like masturbation where you are fully conscious and forcing it on yourself. When you are asleep, you loose control, and sometimes wet dreams happen. Even if one controls ones thoughts during the day, it can still happen during sleep. How can one really control this?

Editor's Comment

You must do that which is in your control. More than that, G-d doesn't ask of you...

Rav Nachman and Sexual Immorality

Posted by: Anonymous, Skokie, IL, United States on Nov 14, 2005

Rav Nachman of Bratslav, a descendant of the Baal Shem Tov said that the greatest force we have to combat today is sexual immorality. I'm guessing this includes Masturbation since the majority of us don't do things so immoral as adultery or homosexuality.

Masturbation

Posted by: Anonymous, New York, NY on Nov 24, 2005

Joe: Maimonides writes, "It is forbidden to expel seed in vain...It is also forbidden for a man to intentionally cause himself an erection or immoral thoughts. Rather, if an immoral thought comes to him, he should remove his thoughts from nonsense to the Torah, which is [deserving of love]." (Laws of forbidden relationships, 21:18-19) A Talmudic rabbi named Amram once had the opportunity to cohabit with a captive woman on the second floor of his house. As he was climbing the ladder, he stopped himself and yelled, "There is a fire in Amram's house!" The neighbors came. Amram explained to them, "It is better for Amram to be embarrassed in this world than to be embarrassed in the next world." (Kiddushin 81a) Lessons: (1) Think about God and the Torah. (2) Try to imagine that other people are watching what you do. That said, no strategy guarantees success. I struggle with this problem.

Masturbation

Posted by: Anonymous on Dec 30, 2005

So, if masturbation is wasting seed. Once a woman is past her child-bearing years, and there is no chance of creating new life via intercourse, does marital sex stop? No new life is being created, seed is essentially wasted....seems kind of frustrating to me. Help me on this.

Editor's Comment

The Halachic definition of masturbation is seed that is spilled outside of a woman's womb. Regarding a couple that cannot have children, a) sacred intimacy between husband and wife is hardly a waste. (See Why do we fall in love? ) b) According to the teachings of kabbalah, every holy union between husband and wife creates holy souls. Some occupy physical bodies, and others remain in the spiritual realms.

Its a package deal

Posted by: Ariel on Apr 26, 2006

The reason people have such a hard time not masturbating is because they aren't paying attention to some other key laws in the torah, first the torah commands a man not to look at improperly dressed women, which is quite a problem today since you can't walk down the street without seeing some disgusting ad, now all these pictures a man sees all day long be it on Television (and I'm not talking about x rated movies just normal programming) have posioned our souls to the point where peoples sexual urges and fantasies are completley out of control (and they think its normal and healthy haha), I was once a part of the secular world (a guitar player in a punk band) and when I became a yeshiva student I had a year and a half (till I got married) in which I had to deal with this issue. After a few months of learning and keeping my eyes and mind clean of today's "pop culture" I can honestly say the urges simply dissappear, but without censoring what your eyes take in you have no chance.
Kabbalah
Jewish mysticism. The word Kaballah means "reception," for we cannot physically perceive the Divine, we merely study the mystical truths which were transmitted to us by G-d Himself through His righteous servants.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.