The Kabbalah And The Exalted Mitzvah To Guard Your Eyes

One of the most difficult things in Avodat Hashem is to guard your eyes.

The brunt of the work is centered on men because, arguably, we have more desire than women (in most cases). While most of the work depends on guarding one’s eyes for the sake of not lusting, it can also apply for the sake of not coveting or not hating.

It’s astonishing that such an important aspect of Jewish life has been dismissed or relegated to “religious extremists”. People often say “it’s just a minhag” to justify their behavior, as if this was not coded in the Shulchan Aruch.

The people who walk with their eyes down or avoid gazing at women are often mocked and called “backward” or “primitive”. It’s very difficult to find someone like this here in Israel, but I have occasionally seen it. I’m still far away from this ideal though I acknowledge (and envy) the astronomical merit such individuals have.

The eyes are the focus of “da’at”.

They are a straight portal to the soul and because of this are the most spiritually sensitive part of the human body. It’s not farfetched to say they are an accurate measuring rod to where a person stands in Avodat Hashem.

I don’t think I could do justice to the importance of guarding one’s eyes against all forms of immodesty and abstaining oneself from immoral thoughts, but I will try my best in this article.

the Kabbalah of guarding your eyes

Where in Halacha does it say to guard your eyes?

As it turns out, guarding your eyes is not some deep Kabbalistic ritual reserved for Tzadikim and Rebbes. It’s plain and simple Halacha every Jew must follow.

It basically involves being careful not to look at anything that could potentially lead to immoral or sinful behavior. The concept of guarding one’s eyes is rooted in the verse from Proverbs 4:25, which instructs us to “Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you.”

Rabbenu Yonah, a medieval Spanish Rabbi and commentator, writes in his Sefer HaYirah that the obligation to guard one’s eyes is one of the foundations of piety (or “chassidut”). He explains that the eyes are the gateway to the heart and mind, and what one looks at can have a profound impact on one’s thoughts and actions.

The Talmud (Brachot 12a) similarly states that the eyes are the windows to the soul, emphasizing the importance of guarding them.

The Shulchan Aruch, also teaches the importance of guarding one’s eyes. In Orach Chaim 239:1, it states that a person should be careful not to look at a woman, even if she is fully [i.e. modestly] clothed, if there is a chance that it will cause him to have impure thoughts or desires.

The Mishnah Berurah, a commentary on the Shulchan Aruch which many Ashkenazim follow, elaborates on this, stating that one should not even look at the small finger of a woman if it is sexually arousing to him.

This Halacha applies not only to men but also to women, who should guard their eyes against looking at the immodest images or situations that could lead to sinful behavior.

The Kabbalah of guarding your eyes

According to the Holy Zohar, it is forbidden for a man to gaze at the beauty of a woman, as it may arouse evil thoughts and lead to even worse actions. When R. Shimon walked through town with his companions and saw a beautiful woman, he would lower his eyes and caution his companions not to turn their gaze.

The Zohar explains that whoever gazes at the beauty of a woman during the day will be plagued with lustful thoughts at night, which may lead him to transgress the commandment, “You shall not make to yourselves molten gods.” If he gives in to these thoughts and has intercourse with his wife while under their influence, any children born from that union are considered “molten gods.”

R. Abba adds that it is also forbidden for a man to fix his gaze upon heathen idols or gentile women, or to receive a benefit or healing from them.

Everything depends on intention. One can make the greatest mesirut nefesh (self-sacrifice) in doing the greatest act in the world like saving another person’s life but if he asked his friend next to him to “film him”, he might lose it all and even be punished for it, as we learn in Sha’arei Kedusha.

Here are some real Torah insights on the issue of guarding your eyes:

  1. “Closing one’s eyes is the greatest barrier to sexual arousal” (Sefer Chassidim 9).
  2. “To attain holiness, the first gate is to guard your eyes against looking at forbidden things” (Dibre Shmuel, Chaye Sarah).
  3. “The Tzaddikim, who possess the likeness of the image of G-d on their face, are careful to turn their faces away from looking at forbidden places. They even close their eyes when speaking with women” (The Alshich, Noach).
  4. “Even people as great as Moshe, who received the Torah from G-d’s hand, will not escape judgment if they gaze at forbidden women. Such a person will eventually sin in matters of forbidden relations and will be susceptible to the evil impulse, leading to the wasting of semen, which is a grave sin” (Shaare Kedushah, Part 2, Section 5).
  5. “Our Rabbis have taught that Samson rebelled against G-d through his eyes, as evidenced by his desire for a Philistine woman in Timnah. This eventually led to the Philistines gouging out his eyes” (Sotah 9b).
  6. “R’ Yehudah HaNassi earned the title Rabbeinu HaKadosh, which means ‘our holy teacher,’ because he never looked at the place of his Milah (circumcision)” (Talmud Yerushalmi Avodah Zarah 3:1).
  7. “It is forbidden even to look at the small finger of a woman if his intention is to enjoy looking at her, and it is as if he is looking at a graver place.” (Shulchan Aruch, Even ha Ezer, 21)
  8. “Therefore in the markets and in every place where there is indecency, one must go with alacrity and with speed and not with a slow pace, and much less to stop to talk to friends in the marketplace, for women pass by with uncovered parts.” (Ibid.)
  9. “The way of walking through public places is to have his eyes look down as when he is standing in prayer, and walks in the market like a man occupied with his dealings.” (Rambam, Hilchot Deot 5:9)
  10. “There are desires that are very difficult to control unless one has been taught from childhood like for example refraining from looking at women. Therefore, must a man teach and educate his sons on the right path so when they grow old they will not abandon it.” (Sefer Chassidim 10)
  11. “When he will guard his mouth and his eyes, he will merit all the levels of Holiness.” (Shnei Luchot HaBrit, Kedusha – by the Shelah HaKadosh)
  12. “In the Talmud (Baba Metzia 107) it says that almost all forms of death come through the agency of the Ayn HaRa [Evil eye] and the advice to save ourselves from this is to guard our eyes against looking at forbidden things (Berachot 20) for because of this behavior Yoseph and his descendants merited that Ayin ha Ra had no power over him.” (Shne Luchot ha Brit, Kedusha)
  13. “The majority thinks that the prohibition to look at women is only for pious or saintly people. It is forbidden to listen to their words.” (Derech Pikudecha, 35 Lo Taase)
  14. “It is strictly forbidden to look at women or at their dressing.” (The Chidda, Avodat ha Kodesh, Tziporen Shamir 83)

Blessings for guarding one’s eyes

There’s an interesting insight based on that teaching that in the future the Tzadikim will inherit 310 worlds. Some say there are 620 Mitzvot (Gematria of Keter, crown), including the 7 Rabbinical ones, and that the man receives 310 and the woman another 310.

According to Sefer Tikkun haBrit, the Hebrew word Shuv (to “return”) has a Gematria (numerical value) of 307, but when you add the values of its three letters (SHIN+VAV+ALEF), it becomes 310, which is also the Gematria of Keri. The Mishnah teaches us that in the future, Hashem will give 310 worlds to each Tzaddik.

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One called Tzaddik is one who guards the Brit.

Therefore, we can conclude that the Tzaddik who guards his eyes from looking at shuv or other wrong places, deserves to guard his Brit by not spilling semen in vain (Keri has a Gematria of 310 as well). Through this accomplishment, he will merit 310 worlds as a reward for successfully avoiding keri.

Here are some of the blessings conferred upon a man (and presumably a woman), who keeps their eyes pure, again from legitimate Torah sources:

  1. He becomes a chariot [Merkava] to the Shechina, and it is as if he has offered all the sacrifices himself. (The Chida, Avodat ha Kodesh, Tzipporen Shamir, 9:128)
  2. When he prays to the Holy One, Blessed be He, He listens attentively to his prayers and answers him in his time of need. (The Chida, ibid)
  3. The force of his holiness and his labor endures forever, for him and his descendants to come. (Yesod Tzaddik, Chap 3)
  4. He will merit to enjoy the pleasantness of the Most Holy, the King of Kings, the Holy One Blessed be He, and behold the beauty of the supernal worlds. (Beer Moshe, Parashat Bo)
  5. He will be among the most elevated in the future, counted among the Tzaddikim and the holy ones of the land whose merit sustains the world. He will bask in the brilliance of the holiness of the Bet ha Mikdash when it is rebuilt. (Yesod Tzaddik, Chap 3)
  6. He will merit beholding and listening to G-dly visions, and feeling the essence of G-dliness. (Yetav Lev, Vayera)
  7. He will be blessed with righteous sons and long life. (Sefer Chassidim, Siman 495)
  8. His sons will live without being afflicted by the problems of the world. (Imre Kodesh, Hasref MiStralisk, 38)
  9. His sons will have the merit to author interpretations of the Torah. (Sefer ha Middot, 60)
  10. He will merit to behold the Higher Merkava. (Reshit Chochma, Shaar ha Kedusha 88:47)
  11. He will retain his eyesight even in old age. (Tochachat Chayim, Achare mot)
  12. He will be blessed with the creation of holy and pure angels who will unite with him in the future. (Yesod Tzaddik, Chap 5)
  13. The Ayn haRa has no power over him or his descendants. (Berachot 20, Devash LePi)
  14. He will merit abundant sustenance. (Tochachat Chayim, Achare Mot)
  15. He will merit special protection from above, as the Holy One will protect and save him. (Tiferet Shelomo, Maamre Shabat)

Concluding remarks

Guarding your eyes is a lifetime work.

The rewards are immeasurable, and obviously can only be repaid in the next world though, as we saw, a small part of it can be paid here.

During my early teshuva days, I used the Guard Your Eyes website a lot. It gave me a lot of chizuk to continue on this path.

I pray I can bring some inspiration to those who come to my blog.

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Chaim Apsan

Chaim is a teacher and Kabbalah enthusiast. He loves helping Jews connect with true Torah teaching and enhancing their spiritual growth. With a focus on meditation, he guides individuals on transformative journeys of prayer, contemplation, and connection with Hashem. He lives in Jerusalem with his wife and kids, and is committed to sharing the wisdom and power of Kabbalah in a genuine way.

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