Guard Your Eyes
Many blessings come from guarding ones eyes. The Rokeiach (Hilchos Kedushah) writes, “If you will guard your eyes you will merit being like Yosef who ruled over the land.” The Maalas HaMidos writes, “Whoever had an opportunity to do an aveirah and he refrains –because he loves Hashem, and not because he is afraid of people – he will merit to be raised to greatness. The proof is from Yosef who became the ruler because he passed the test with Photiphar’s wife.” It is written (Kohelos 7:10), אל תאמר מה היה שהימים הראשנים היו טובים מאלה כי לא מחכמה שאלת על זה, "Don’t say ‘The past days were better than the present because that isn’t a wise statement." The Beis Avraham of Slonim zy’a repeated this passuk at his tisch one Friday night in Teveria, and he explained (with immense hislahavus), "It’s wrong to say that there used to be tzaddikim and today there are no more tzaddikim. Because when a Yid walks on the street, and he guards his eyes he is almost like the tzaddikim of the past." A few minutes later, the Rebbe repeated this same explanation again, only this time he added that those who guard their eyes are just like the tzaddikim of the past. A few minutes later, the Rebbe repeated this idea a third time, and this time he shouted, "When one walks in the street and guards his eyes, he is greater than the tzaddikim of the past." Reb Avraham Estralenski zt’l (a Polish Yid who lived in Eretz Yisrael) said to the Beis Yisrael of Gur, zt’l, "Things are different here, than what I remember from Poland. I remember the batei midrashim being open day and night, with scholars studying there all hours of the day..." He was saying that he doesn’t find this in Eretz Yisrael. (In addition to the annihilation of millions of our people, the Holocaust also destroyed an atmosphere of Torah and holiness that’s hard to replicate.) The Beis Yisrael replied, "I say that when a Yid walks down Rechov Yaffo and he guards his eyes, he’s greater than those tzaddikim who were up all night long studying Torah..
Rebbe Shlomke of Zvhil zt'l would often speak about how much one gains when he doesn’t answer back when he his humiliated. He said that this saves a person from many troubles and punishments and at times even from death. The distress and humiliation of the shame frees him from having to endure other kinds of pain. Rebbe Shlomke of Zvhil zt'l was once at the Kosel, and he was sitting among the paupers (as he would do at times). Someone came by and gave a small coin to everybody. This man didn’t know Rebbe Shlomke, and he thought that he was a pauper like all the others, so he gave Rebbe Shlomke a small coin. When the man left, Rebbe Shlomke gave his coin to the man sitting next to him. "Why didn’t you tell him that you aren't poor?" the man asked. Rebbe Shlomke replied, "I didn’t want to lose out on the opportunity to experience shame." Once, Rebbe Shlomke's granddaughter told him how she and her family were suffering from immense poverty. They almost didn’t have bread to eat. Rebbe Shlomke advised her to daven at the Kosel. In that era, the Kosel plaza was just a small area, and her shouts and loud prayers disturbed one of the women standing nearby. "Sha! Sha!" The lady kept shouting at her, but she didn’t pay attention to her and she continued crying and praying. When she left the Kosel, this lady asked her, "Do you think the entire Kosel is yours? Why can't you daven silently…?" And she disgraced her some more in this manner. Rebbe Shlomke’s granddaughter bore the shame in silence; she didn’t answer back. On the way home, she found a Napoleon coin, which could support her family for half a year. She came to Rebbe Shlomke and said, "Baruch Hashem, Hashem heard my tefillos and sent me the money. But why did I have to undergo all that shame?" Rebbe Shlomke explained, "The shame was the beginning of your salvation. Embarrassment removes all troubles and hardships. After you were shamed, you were able to find the money."
Exchanging Sorrow and Hardships for Easier Measures
Just as pleasures of this world take away from other opportunities of pleasure, similarly, distress and hardships in this world can save a person from worse kinds of hardships. Once, Rebbe Shlomke’s granddaughter (wife of Rebbe Mordechai of Zvhil) was wearing ripped shoes. Rebbe Shlomke’s rebbetzin showed this to her husband, expecting him to immediately give money towards buying new shoes. But Rebbe Shlomke said, “This distress will save you from the distress of childbirth.” This granddaughter was pregnant at the time. When she gave birth, she said that she never had such an easy childbirth. Someone once came to Rebbe Shlomke, complaining to him that he just lost a lot of money. The Rebbe replied, “Instead of blessing you that you should find the money, I bless you that you should have a child.” This man was childless for many years. In the merit of this blessing he bore a child. Rebbe Shlomke’s granddaughter (wife of Reb Elazar Adlar zt’l) was diagnosed with the dreaded disease shortly after her wedding, and the doctors said that there was nothing they could do to save her. They told her that she has a few weeks to live. She went to her grandfather, Rebbe Shlomke, who told her to take on three things, and in their merit, she will have a refuah sheleimah. (1) She shouldn’t wear jewelry for two years. (2) She shouldn’t ever kiss her children. (3) She shouldn’t go to her children’s weddings. She accepted these challenges and was immediately cured. The logic behind this counsel is, as we explained, that by limiting one’s pleasures in this world, he removes greater suffering.
Guarding one’s eyes also means not looking at people in a negative way. Many people came to visit Reb Isser Zalman Melzer zt’l on Chol Hamoed. Reb Isser Zalman had a small piece of paper with him that said, ,יישירו ועפעפיך יביטו לנכח עיניך" Your eyes should see straight; and your pupils should look at the truth…" (Mishlei 4:25). This pasuk was his reminder to judge the people who came to him favorably. He explained, "Hundreds of people come to visit me on Chol Hamoed. Some come from long distances. It isn't fair if I look at them negatively and think about their faults. These words remind me to judge people favorably..."
Once Rebbe Shlomke's daughter-in-law (wife of Rebbe Gedalyah Moshe) told Rebbe Shlomke that she doesn’t have enough money for Shabbos. The Rebbe replied, “What’s wrong with bread and herring.” In other words, she had enough money for that, and that is sufficient. She asked, “But for others, you give regular fish and foods for Shabbos.” The Rebbe replied, “What different does it make, what others have?”