(Posted March 2012)
[ NOTE from the JONAH Directors: This letter was written by "R.L.", a former client of Israeli Psychologist Dror Zandman, and was written in two parts, one immediately prior to R.L\\\\\\'s marriage and the second part 5 months after his marriage. It was written to encourage men dealing with unwanted SSA. This letter is part of a soon-to-be-published book in Hebrew by Israeli Psychologist, Dror Zandman, entitled: "The Treatment of Sexual Orientation".]
My Dear Friend,
I am writing this letter a few hours before my chupah [wedding canopy & ceremony].I want to tell you about what I\\\\\\'ve been through in these past 10 years. I know that you are suffering great pain and are going through many crises growing up. Life feels much harder for you than it seems to be for most of your friends. You are constantly fighting your sexual feelings; you are attracted to men, but you are also religious. You live with a tremendous inner contradiction. You struggle desperately between wanting to satisfy your "natural" desires, and your emunah [faith] in the Ribono shel Olam [Master of the Universe], who seems to be cruelly torturing you by having placed you in the position in which you find yourself.
I know exactly how you feel.
I have been dealing with this exact problem since my early adolescence; from the time when I was 12 years old. I "always" knew that I was different. I wasn\\\\\\'t attracted to girls. (not that there were many girls around - I studied in various national religious schools where for many good reasons, the sexes are kept separate). I was attracted to men. I found men to be very sexually exciting, and I felt like I just had to find a man who I could lean on, who would protect me.
I spent years looking at magazines and then on the Internet searching for more and more pictures of sexy men. Naked men. More recently, in high school, I "graduated" to spending hours with homosexual pornography. Many, many hours. And all the time, my emunah [faith] in the Ribono shel Olam grew stronger and more profound, and I believed, deep in my heart, that He created me just as I am, with a goal and a purpose in this world.
I knew perfectly well that homosexuality is not compatible with the Torah, and that the "gay" lifestyle is deeply, and diametrically, opposed to the Jewish vision of life. The homosexual lifestyle consecrates the material world, it worships the bodily passions, and it destroys the most important basis of Jewish life - the family. Relationships between men, as wonderful as they can ever be (also between straight men, by the way), can\\\\\\'t even begin to approach in any way the deep connection between a man and a woman. G-d created the world in such a way that every man is missing something; a man needs a woman, and a woman needs a man. There is no other way to realize our potential or to achieve real satisfaction in any field of life, without the intimate partnership of man and wife.
It was my great good fortune, which I understand as Divine Providence, that in 9th grade, my Rav [Rabbi] noticed that something was troubling me. After many heart-to-heart talks with him, he gained my trust and I opened up and told him what I was going through. He supported me; he helped me to understand that I was not sick, that G-d didn\\\\\\'t hate me. He explained to me that every person has different challenges in his life, some less, some more, and that every man is given the strengths that are necessary to achieve the goals and overcome the challenges that G-d places in his path.
The rest of my high school years, and the beginning of my days in a "hesder yeshiva" [religious Zionist program combining yeshiva studies with military service], went by in the same way - but with my secret helper, my Rav, who supported me and helped me to maintain my sanity, along with a healthy and constantly developing relationship with the Ribono shel Olam [Master of the Universe].
It was a very, very hard time: in high school, in the yeshiva, and in the army. I was always surrounded by men, and at the same time surrounded by a world of Torah and religious belief. I was living a life of intense and constant contradiction.
Baruch Hashem, [blessed be G-d] I never had any sexual contact with another man, Heaven forbid. I never met another man like me - neither a religious nor a secular one. Everything I did was between me and myself; it was me and the Internet, me and the pictures, me and the masturbation, just me by myself.
Somewhere during my army service, during a very difficult time of profound despair, my Rav (with whom I have kept up a very important and meaningful relationship to this day) recommended that I see a psychologist who could help me, because he felt that he himself did not have the tools with which to move me forward, despite his enormous desire to assist me. The psychologist who helped me was Dror Zandman.
(The continuation of this letter was written 5 months after my marriage)
It was worth everything: all the suffering, all the constant coping, all the frustrations, all the crises. It is impossible for me to describe the enormous happiness, the emotional, spiritual and sexual satisfaction that I have experienced with my wife. Yes, yes, with my wife.
It is infinitely deeper, satisfying, fulfilling, and empowering; way beyond any fantasy that I ever had with men.
You can believe it! It is possible!
I was in therapy with Dror for over three years. It was standard, verbal psychological therapy, with the addition of some sex therapy. Together, we tried to ascertain the reasons behind my homosexual feelings. What was I missing? Why was I attracted to men? Why wasn\\\\\\'t I attracted to women? What was I attracted to in the men I desired? The therapy also included work with initiating conscious, directed arousal towards women. I learned how to redirect the amazing power of sexual imagination - which until then had only been utilized for fantasies about men - into fantasies about women. Imagining her body. Imagining a relationship with a woman. And I am telling you - all of that pales a million times when compared with the real thing - relations with a real woman.
Throughout all the time I was in therapy I would experience regressions - mostly with the Internet. (It\\\\\\'s unbelievable how much sickness and evil are so instantly accessible there!). But Schelomo HaMelech [King Solomon] was right when he said: "A tzadik [righteous man] will fall seven times and then rise up" (Proverbs, 24:16). Do not lose hope!
This is a very difficult struggle. Sometimes it can seem insurmountable. But it is possible! You can fight and be victorious over this accursed inclination. If you work hard, you will find a woman with whom you can fall in love, and build a "bayit ne\\\\\\'eman b\\\\\\'Yisrael!" [a home faithful to Jewish Tradition.] And even if this "problem" won\\\\\\'t entirely disappear (as in my case - this "false lust" for men is still there on occasion, but I have learned how to live with it or redirect it and to handle it one day at a time) - you can achieve a beautiful marriage with a woman.
Dror helped me to understand this. He pushed me; he guided me, like a blind man in the darkness. In his merit I have come to where I have always wanted to be, to where HaKodosh Baruch Hu (The Holy One, Blessed be He) wanted me to be.
Thank you, Ribono shel Olam for the "nisayon" [test] that you placed me in, and for my incredible wife. Thank you Dror for being a faithful emissary for the Creator, Yisborach [may He be blessed]. Thank you to my wife, for the love, the support, and the total acceptance [of me, with knowledge of the issues I\\\\\\'ve overcome].
Best of luck to you in your life! Believe in Hashem [G-d, literally "The Name."]!
"Blessed is the man who trusts in G-d" (Yermiahu, 17:7)