I have been in irregular contact with a Jewish man for a few years now. He calls me once in a while to chat, and we’ve met a few times in person. I have to say, of all the people I have ever counseled, it is probably his situation that disturbs me the most. He is what I would describe as a man in torment. He is involved in an inappropriate relationship, and feels torn from all sides.

I cannot give any more details without breaking confidentiality, but let’s just say the Torah explicitly forbids him to marry or have an intimate relationship with his current partner. He knows that what he is doing is wrong, yet cannot imagine life without her.

There are many people who have been in similar situations, and they all cope in different ways. Some brave souls overcome temptation and break off their relationships, while others cannot find it within themselves to abandon a current love for an ancient doctrine. I am not discounting the sacrifice that is demanded by someone in such an untenable situation, yet as a rabbi and a faithful Jew I truly believe that it is in their best interests to do what G‑d wants rather than to submit to their passions.

When G‑d gave us the Torah and detailed the forbidden and permitted relationships, He did so for our own good. If G‑d tells us that a certain relationship is inappropriate, then to enter or remain in such a union is ultimately damaging for both parties. I have heard it said in the name of the Rebbe that if one partner truly loved the other, then he’d break off the relationship for her sake. I know it’s easy for me to say, because I have been blessed in my marriage and have never been faced with a comparable test, yet I have to accept that this is truly a test, one that G‑d expects him to overcome.

He knows that what he is doing is wrong, yet cannot imagine life without her.

Though my friend is not currently strong enough to make a clean break, neither is he ready to cast off his religious principles completely. Like a moth circling around a flame, unable to escape from its allure yet singeing himself with guilt every time he flies too close to the source of his desire, he is in a constant state of torment.

Every time we talk, I find myself overcome with sympathy for his predicament. He is an honest person, and he refuses to make excuses. He doesn’t rail against Judaism, nor does he blame G‑d or the rabbis for his plight. He knows what the Torah says, he knows what he should do, yet cannot bring himself to do it.

My role is to listen to him and support him in his struggle. I’m there for him whenever he feels the need to talk, and I’d like to think that he has benefited from my guidance. But if there is any chance of him winning this battle, it has to be a decision arrived at through his own efforts. It would be counterproductive, and probably arrogant, for me to tell him directly what to do.

But unlike a psychologist or counselor, who might see their role as validating whatever decision a client makes and helping him work through the feelings of guilt, I have to be careful not to give the impression that I accept or agree with his current living arrangements.

It’s hard. Every bone in your body is urging you to demonstrate compassion and total acceptance. When you see a man so torn over his life choices, you just want to hug him and reassure him that whatever he ultimately decides will be okay. But I can’t do that. I can’t encourage him to break halachah, and I can’t even appear to be giving an official imprimatur to a decision that the Torah says is wrong. As a friend, I might wish that he find happiness and peace; yet it would be wrong to help him find contentment in a decision so antithetical to the needs of his soul.

He knows what the Torah says, he knows what he should do, yet cannot bring himself to do it.

When Moses was instructing the tribes of Reuben and Gad about their obligation to help the other tribes conquer the Land of Israel before settling on their lands east of the Jordan, he advised them, “You should be pure before G‑d and before Israel” (Numbers 32:22), with the primary focus on making sure that you are doing what G‑d wants first.

It is so tempting to do the reverse: first making sure that the people you deal with feel happy, and then worrying about what G‑d wants or expects from you. But that approach is based on faulty logic.

There is a temptation to believe that the laws of Torah are arbitrarily harsh and occasionally unfair. It is sometimes so difficult to submit ourselves to the demands of Judaism in the face of desire; but on reflection, we know that by obeying halachah we are really doing ourselves a favor.

We might not see it. We might honestly feel that our current and future happiness depends on doing what we want. But the same G‑d who created us, nurtures us and provides for all our needs, also tells us that following in His ways will be for our own ultimate benefit.

If you strive to be pure before G‑d, then you, as a Jew, will ultimately find happiness. It’s hard. It’s really hard. We may often wonder why G‑d places such difficulties in our paths, and we’ll probably find out for sure only after we’ve passed on from this world. But we believe with full faith and courage that when we sacrifice our desires for the sake of G‑d, then G‑d responds to us with nothing but acceptance, blessing and love.