Reprinted with permission from "Talking to God" (Alfred A. Knopf).

When my book To Begin Again was published, I wasn't prepared for the numbers of people who began phoning me at home. I soon realized that I needed a separate work line. I was leafing through a newspaper when I saw an ad for a voice mail company. For just a few dollars a month I could rent a phone number that people could leave messages on. This was perfect. I called the company, set up my voice mail message, and congratulated myself for the brilliant idea. I could relax in peace now and respond to the messages whenever it was convenient. But there was no peace in store for me.

Each time I checked my messages, there would be a few calls for speaking engagements and many more calls from men who seemed to be unusually interested in meeting me. I thought the picture on my book jacket came out quite nice, but now it seemed it had become a source of attraction. A typical mild message went something like this: "I saw your picture and I like the way you look. Call Steve." The more graphic messages I simply can't repeat. Something very strange was happening, and I decided that it couldn't possibly be due to my book jacket photo. These men did not sound like they had found me as they were browsing in the inspiration section at Barnes & Noble.

I returned the calls for the speaking engagements, but I didn't even begin to know what to do with the scores of male suitors. I could have requested a new voice mail number, but there were too many legitimate people who had been given that number, and I didn't want to lose touch with them. Then one day I got a clue. In a message a man said, "Hi, Island Girl. I saw your picture on Desert Island. Call Bill." Island Girl? And what in the world was Desert Island? I spent all day trying to figure it out. I called information and checked the Yellow Pages, but no luck. It was late at night when my husband had the brainstorm: Maybe it was an Internet address. We sat down at the computer and typed desertisland.com-and, behold, it was a pornography site. It was the United Nations of naked women. But still I couldn't figure out what this all had to do with me.

Then I found her. She was topless with large breasts and a grass skirt that could have used a lot more grass. And below her photo was my voice mail number.

My husband and I both fell on the floor in laughter. When I recovered, I sent off an e-mail to the home page address, explained the mishap, and asked them to update Island Girl's phone number immediately.

Days passed but my male callers weren't letting up. And I never received a reply to my e-mail. So I got back onto the website to look for a new solution. I found a second picture of Island Girl and this time there were two numbers listed. The first one was mine. I decided to call the second number. The phone rang a few times and then a woman picked up.

I said, "Is this Island Girl?" She said, "Yes, honey. I like girls too." "No, you don't understand," I quickly explained. "There's a mistake. You have my phone number listed under your picture. You need to change it. You're losing a lot of business because I'm getting your calls." She asked, "Are you getting a lot of work? I hardly get any." I said, "No, you don't understand, I'm not in your line of work. I'm a rabbi. I just want you to change the number under your picture." She didn't seem to know what a rabbi was, but she said she would correct the problem. And we hung up.

Within a matter of days the lust-filled messages disappeared, and I breathed a sigh of relief. Now I could concentrate on all the real messages and return them in order. One was a very polite message from a man named Jeff (I've changed the name) who worked at a movie studio. I called Jeff back, and he picked up the phone. I said, "Hi. This is Rabbi Naomi Levy returning your call." He said, "Who?" I repeated myself, but he still seemed confused. I said, "I have a message on my voice mail from you." And then it hit me. I asked him, "Did you get the number from the Desert Island website?" And Jeff said, "Can you hold on, please?"

He went to close his office door, then got back on the phone. "Is this some kind of joke? Are you really a rabbi?" "Yes," I replied, "But there was a mix-up and the pornography site accidentally listed my number." I felt bad for Jeff. The poor schlemiel called a prostitute, and he got a rabbi.

Suddenly Jeff started to spill his soul to me. He was married, he loved his wife. But after his son was born, their sex life had fallen apart. Jeff had been keeping Island Girl's number in his desk for weeks before he got up the nerve to call. He said he had never called a prostitute before, that he was just looking for some sexual release. I told Jeff that searching outside his marriage for fulfillment wasn't going to solve his problems. It would only add to them. He needed to start looking inside his marriage if he truly wanted things to improve. I explained that it is common for couples to experience a disruption in their sex life when a child is born, that it didn't mean his wife had stopped loving him. He seemed relieved. Then we talked about temptation and about ways to fight it. When we were finished speaking, Jeff thanked me and said he thought God had a good sense of humor.

God certainly did find an original way to keep Jeff from straying.

A Prayer to Fight Temptation

I never imagined this could happen to me, God. I love my wife. And yet here I am thoroughly overwhelmed by longing for another woman. My heart is pounding, my body aches for her, my thoughts keep returning to her even though I try with all my might to shut them out.

Help me, God. I don't want to do something I know I will regret. But something inside me doesn't seem to care about that right now. Something inside me wants to be with her at any cost. It's a dangerous side of me. A reckless, selfish side of me that doesn't care about consequences. I know there will be consequences, God.

Please give me strength, God. When temptation rises within me, help me to conquer it. When my yearning cries out, teach me to withstand it. When I feel helpless to fight my desire, remind me that I possess the power to master my urges.

When I am lost and in need of direction, show me the way, God, back to my marriage, back to my life, back to love. Amen.
--Rabbi Naomi Levy

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