UNEDITED INTERNET VERSION
Collection of Drashas
from the Author of Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh
Guide for Shovavim
The Time for Fixing | 1
1 | Fixing by Simplicity ______________________________________________________ 2
2 | What Shovavim is All About _______________________________________________ 5
3 | Teshuvah during Shovavim ________________________________________________ 8
Torah In Eretz Yisrael Vs. Torah in Egypt _____________________________________________ 8
External and Internal Layers To Learning Torah _______________________________________ 8
Shabbos – A Glimpse of Menuchah ________________________________________________ 10
The Barometer ________________________________________________________________ 10
4 | Purifying Our Thoughts __________________________________________________ 11
Exile of Our Thoughts ___________________________________________________________ 11
Exile of The Thoughts – Today ____________________________________________________ 11
The Avodah of The Days of “Shovavim” ____________________________________________ 12
Beginning The Day With A Pure Thought ____________________________________________ 12
In Conclusion __________________________________________________________________ 13
5 | Repairing Our Thoughts _________________________________________________ 15
Introduction To “Shovavim” ______________________________________________________ 15
Rectifying The Thoughts: Returning To The “Beginning” _______________________________ 15
The Root of Damaging The Bris: Feeling Completely Independent _______________________ 16
The Deeper Implication of Misusing The Thought Process ______________________________ 17
Repenting Over The Shame Caused By Sin __________________________________________ 18
Private (Intimate) Matters Should Be Kept Private ____________________________________ 19
6 | Repairing “Man” _______________________________________________________ 21
The Sin of Spilling Seed and Fixing it through Emunah _________________________________ 21
The Sin of Gay Behavior and How To Repair It _______________________________________ 22
The Gay Behavior of Cham: Selfishness _____________________________________________ 23
7 | Repairing Lust ________________The.Time.for.Fixing_________________________________________ 29
8 | Internalizing Shovavim __________________________________________________ 34
9 | Satisfying Yourself _____________________________________________________ 37
“Kol”: Revealing Your Ability To Have “Everything” In You _____________________________ 37
Hashem Coming Into Egypt: The Revelation of “Everything” Within The “Confines” _________ 37
The Ultimate Rectification For Damaging The ‘Yesod’ _________________________________ 37
The Time for Fixing | 2
1 | Fixing by Simplicity
These days of “Shovavim”1, are days to fix the damage done to one’s “Bris Kodesh” (the “Holy Covenant”). There are many facets to rectifying the Bris. With the help of Hashem we will focus on one point which applies to all of us.
The concept of a bris, a covenant, is when two people form a treaty with each other. They make a bris together to ensure that they will be loyal will remain connected to each other.
Bris Kodesh implies two things. There is an outer layer and an inner layer. The outer layer to Bris Kodesh is, that one is not allowed to chas v’shalom do the physical action of violating the Bris.2 The inner aspect of Bris Kodesh is to keep the treaty of the Bris – to remain loyal to the one whom we made the treaty with.
There is a bris between Hashem and the Jewish people. Hashem said to Avraham, “Walk before Me and be wholesome.” This defines the bris – that we must remain with our temimus, our wholesome loyalty to Hashem. When a baby is given a bris when he is just eight days old he has no daas. The bris represents how we must always have temimus with Hashem. Temimus is to simply go with Hashem’s will, even when we don’t understand things with our daas.
When a person loses his temimus, he essentially damages the Bris.
The Mesillas Yesharim says that we all have an “avodah temimah”. What is an avodah temimah? Temimah means “perfect”, since a korbon (sacrifice) has to be tamim. In addition, it can also mean regarding Yaakov Avinu, that he was an ish tam, a “wholesome man”. Yaakov epitomized the quality of temimus by constantly learning in the tents (yoishev ohalim) – he was always with Hashem.
When a person doesn’t have temimus, he will only be connected to Hashem at certain times. His relationship with Hashem changes, depending on his situation. When his daas is working properly, he’ll get along with Hashem – but when his daas weakens, his relationship with Hashem suffers.
Why was Yaakov called an ish tam? If it’s because he was learning Torah all day, why did that show temimus? After all, a person might be learning Torah all day, but only because he desires daas, not temimus. So how do we know that Yaakov is an ish tam, just because he “sat in the tents” of Torah all day? The answer is that he learned Torah in Yeshivas Shem V’Ever in order to prepare for
1 The weeks of Parshas Shemos through Parshas Mishpatim; the word “Shovavim” stands for Shemos, V’eira, Bo, Beshalach, Yisro and Mishpatim.
2 This is referring to the sin of spilling one’s seed; the severity of this prohibition is brought in Shulchan Aruch: Even HaEzer, siman 22.
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living with his father-in-law, Lavan. That kind of learning showed his temimus. Because he was in ish tam, that was why he was able to be a yoishev ohalim.
The quality of our Torah learning is thus affected according to how much temimus we have. By a bris, we say, “Just as you entered the bris, so will you enter Torah, chuppah, and good deeds.” The connection is that if a person makes sure to keep his bris, which is to maintain his temimus in his relationship with Hashem, he will come to merit Torah. The temimus that a person has will have a direct effect on his learning.
When a person loses his Temimus, he ruins the Bris – and if he ruins the Bris, it’s because he is missing Temimus. When a person damages the Bris Kodesh, the main part of the damage is that he has lost his loyal connection with Hashem.
When a person is learning Torah, where are his first thoughts? Are they coming from his daas… or from his temimus? Our thoughts should be coming from our temimus.
Klal Yisrael said Naaseh (We will do) before they said Nishmah (We will hear), because in order to learn the Torah, we first have to accept that we will fulfill the Torah. We had temimus, and through that, we were able to accept to the Torah. We do not first try to understand and then do. First, we decide that we will do, and then, we try to understand. Therefore, our temimus has to come before our daas.
But when a person would rather just “know” the Torah and he doesn’t first decide that he will accept it, he is forfeiting his relationship with Hashem through the Torah. This is called damaging the Bris. The person is neglecting his relationship with Hashem through the Torah; he’s only interested in daas, but he has lost his temimus.
The Ramban says that Avraham was punished that his descendants would have to endure the Egyptian exile, because he asked Hashem for a sign that they will inherit the land. We cannot understand Avraham Avinu, of course, but according to his level, there was some breach in his temimus with Hashem, and for this he was punished. When we lose temimus, that invites the Egyptian exile. We rectified this sin when we left Egypt and received the Torah, when we said Naaseh before Nishmah – we got our temimus back.
In the weeks of Shovavim, it is a time to fix the sin of damaging the Bris. There is a superficial layer and inner layer to everything, and the same is true with Shovavim. The superficial layer of Shovavim is to carry out the practical ways of improvement that we are advised to do so we can avoid damaging the Bris, and some of these practices are brought in Halacha as well. Each person has his own respective methods in how to repair the sin, and they are all holy methods.
But the inner point of Shovavim is so that we should get back our temimus with Hashem.
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The depth of the Egyptian exile was that they fell into the 49th Gate of Impurity, as the Ohr HaChaim writes; had they fallen into the 50th Gate, they wouldn’t have been able to get out of it. What exactly is the 50th Gate of Impurity? Why can’t a person be redeemed from it if he falls into it? The 50th Gate of Impurity is when a person totally loses his temimus. By contrast, the 50th Gate of Holiness is when a person has complete temimus; even Moshe Rabbeinu didn’t merit it. Moshe merited the 49th level of Understanding, but he wasn’t granted the 50th Gate of Understanding. Why not? Because the 50th Gate of Understanding has nothing to do with understanding. It has nothing to do with daas. It is all about emunah/temimus.
The Torah was only given to us when we said “Naaseh” before we said “Nishmah” – when we first have temimus before anything else.
There is no generation that has as many difficulties when it comes to keeping the Bris Kodesh as in today’s generation. But for every difficulty, Hashem creates an equally powerful force that is good which can counter all the evil. The Ramban says that we are already in the 50th Gate of Impurity, and that there is no way to get out of it – unless we have the power of Torah, which can take us out of the lowest levels.
The power of Torah can take us out our current exile, which is the 50th Gate of Impurity. We are in the 50th Gate of Impurity! This is what our early Rabbis have already written about. But to counter this, we have the 50th Gate of Holiness, which is temimus. We have to first be concerned about temimus before we are concerned with knowing the Torah, just as Klal Yisrael first said Naaseh before they said Nishmah.
We have to return to the way we were when we received the Torah, which was when we had temimus. Without returning to our temimus, our Bris with Hashem will be damaged.
Today’s generation has it the hardest when it comes to Bris Kodesh. We are in the 50th Gate of Impurity. The previous generations did not go through what we are going through when it comes to this. It is not only the amount of difficulties that have grown with this, but the very kinds of difficulties we go through with this have never been faced by the previous generations. The only way to uproot this impurity is through temimus. We can’t make any logical calculations to solve it. It is a problem that cannot be solved with our daas; the only way to solve it is if we have temimus.
The words here are matters that are rooted in the very roots of Creation.
May Hashem merit us to understand the depth of our difficult test, and to understand the depth of the solution to the difficulty – and that we should merit to come to our perfection on this world.
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2 | What Shovavim is All About
These days of “Shovavim” are just like every other section of Gemara that we should try to understand. When we learn a sugya of Gemara, we try to understand it, and we feel satisfied when we do understand it. But when we learn matters of our sefarim hakedoshim, we often don’t understand what’s going on, and we are left with a feeling of not being satisfied. We “know” about these matters, but they just don’t feel right.
Let us learn about the sugya of these days of “Shovavim” – what it’s about.
The root of the matters of “Shovavim” is found in the Gemara in Eruvin 18b. The Gemara there says that after the sin, Adam separated from Chavah for 130 years, and during that time, demons and evil spirits came onto the world. The Gemara says that the reason for this was because there was sperm that exited his body – by accident, of course – and because of this, demons and evil spirits were created.
There is much to discuss about this Gemara, but what applies to us is as follows. Why did sperm exit Adam’s body? Simply speaking, it wasn’t his fault. This is the simple understanding, and it is true. But the deeper understanding of this is that after the sin, his thoughts became negatively affected. Because his thoughts weren’t as pure as they used to be, some of his sperm was able to exit him.
The Gemara in Kesubos 44a says that one should not entertain lewd thoughts during the day, because then he will experience nocturnal emission at night by accident. What happens to a person in middle of his sleep is not in his control; that is not what the person is doing wrong. What the person did wrong was that he had the evil thoughts in the first place.
As soon as Adam ate from the Eitz HaDaas, he was now able to think about evil. The very fact that a person can think about evil greatly damages our mind. When a person has sinful thoughts during the day – for example, if he has lustful thoughts about someone else’s wife, which is called “thinking about a world that isn’t his” – it is a sign about what’s going on inside himself. Sinful thoughts reveal what’s going on in a person’s inside.
When a person’s thoughts aren’t thinking enough about Torah, they wander to all sorts of places – and eventually, the thoughts will begin to think about sinful topics.
In Kelm, during Shovavim, the Yeshivah accepted upon themselves that they would learn Torah for many hours on end, consecutively and without interruption, to atone for the sins of Shovavim. The depth of this matter wasn’t just so that they should endure some physical suffering by learning without interruption. It was because by learning for many consecutive hours, they would be able to gain total control over their thoughts – and this rectifies the sins of Shovavim.
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The more a person learns how to train his thoughts and concentrate on Torah learning, he will be in control of his mind, and he will then entertain less and less sinful thoughts.
Baruch Hashem, in our generation, people are starting to improve. Many people are involved in Shemiras HaLashon (guarding our speech) and this helps also to fix Shemiras HaBris (guarding our holiness). But we can also learn to learn how to build our thoughts, and to protect the holiness of our thoughts.
Besides for “talking in learning”, a person needs to “think” in learning as well. Thinking in learning is a higher level than talking in learning.
Reb Yeruchem Levovitz zt”l once said that “nothing comes from a masmid.” What does this mean? It means that it’s not enough to “sit and learn” all day; a person has to build his mind to think Torah. One’s mind has to always be thinking about Torah.
People think that they have to work on not having any bittul Torah during Shovavim. But it’s unrealistic for any person to never to have bittul Torah. Can anyone say he never wastes time from learning? Is anyone like the Vilna Gaon, who never wasted a moment in learning?!
Rather, the tikkun that we need is to think more in learning. When a person leaves the Beis Midrash – what is he thinking?
The inner essence of Shovavim is to become aware of what we are thinking. If we become aware of our thinking, we will see where our thoughts go to.
The sefer Nefesh HaChaim writes that when a person has sinful thoughts, his soul leaves him…
Ever since the sin of Adam, our thoughts are able to wander from place to place, to places where they shouldn’t think about. Our true power of thought is called chochmah – the kind of thought that gives us chiyus/vitality.
There are people who know a lot of Torah, but their actual thoughts are found outside of Torah.
The way to fix the Bris Kodesh, during the days of Shovavim, is to purify our thoughts – to always think about Torah-related thoughts.
Of course, we have many things that bog us down in life. We have a family to take care; we have jobs, and we have all sorts of things that don’t let us concentrate on Torah. But even if we aren’t actually sitting and learning the Torah, our thoughts can still remain focused on Torah [which we will soon explain how]. Hashem wants us to guard our thoughts, to keep them protected.
When we have to stop learning Torah to take care of something, the next time we go back to learning, it should be that we are returning to the very same thought we left off with.
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When our thoughts are always thinking about Torah-related topics, our thoughts will be protected from wandering to thinking about areas they shouldn’t enter.
Once a person asked Rav Shach zt”l about how he can rectify the sin of not guarding the Bris Kodesh. Rav Shach responded, “I never heard of such a thing (of damaging the Bris).”
What did this story mean? Since Rav Shach never stopped thinking in learning damaging the Bris was unthinkable! He never had a problem with Bris Kodesh because his mind was always protected from thinking any sinful thoughts – he was always thinking in learning.
Our avodah is to learn how to gain focus in our thoughts, to train ourselves to always think in learning. This is a deep avodah – and the entire structure of our soul depends on it!
Don’t try to “fight” the unwanted thoughts. People who are always trying to fight their unwanted thoughts end up suffering from a mental illness. Instead, calmly gain control of your thoughts. The way you can do this is by always returning to the previous thought in Torah you left off with.
Our main task during Shovavim is not to involve ourselves in “segulos” (charms), although “segulos” certainly have a source in Chazal. Segulos are not the point of Shovavim. What we need to develop is the holiness of each Jew, and this depends on guarding the holiness of our thoughts. We can do this by training ourselves to always think in learning – on a constant, continuous basis.
Even “shemiras einayim” – guarding our eyes – is not the goal; guarding our eyes is only the external part of our avodah. Although it is certainly true that we must guard our eyes – as the Gemara says, that one should avoid a path in which he will see improper sights – that is just the external part. The inner part of the job is to guard our thoughts. Guarding our thoughts – kedushas hamachshavah – is the essence of kedushas Yisrael (the holiness of the Jewish people).
May we merit from Hashem to build our mind properly – to learn Torah both verbally and mentally, and then our thoughts will be guarded, which will protect our Bris Kodesh. And through that, we will merit the coming of Moshiach, Amen.
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3 | Teshuvah during Shovavim
Torah In Eretz Yisrael Vs. Torah in Egypt
The first of Yaakov’s sons to descend to Egypt was Yosef HaTzaddik. Yosef epitomized the middah of “Shemiras HaBris” – guarding the Bris Kodesh (the Holy Covenant). The entire descent to Egypt was meant to fix the damage of Adam’s sin, which was a damage to the Bris Kodesh; thus Yosef was the first to descend, so that the correction for Adam’s sin could begin.
In Egypt, the labor was with choimer and levainim – “mortar and bricks.” Besides for the simple meaning of this, there was an inner kind of “mortar and bricks” going on [which we will explain].
“Hashem, Yisrael and the Torah are one.” We are one with the Torah; thus, the Torah was exiled with us in Egypt. The Torah which Yaakov learned in Eretz Yisrael was one kind of Torah, and it was not the same kind of Torah which the Jews were learning in Egypt. The Torah was in exile – but it wasn’t the same Torah. What was the difference between the Torah learned in Eretz Yisrael and the Torah learned in Egypt?
It has to do with the choimer and levainim that the people had to do difficult labor (avoda koshoh) with. The cruel labor going on in Egypt wasn’t just in the physical sense – it was that they had a hard time perceiving the Torah. It was a Torah that required great ameilus (exertion) to understand. At Sinai, the spirit of impurity was removed from us, and we received a new kind of understanding in Torah. But in Egypt, we had “bricks and mortar” – in other words, it was very difficult to learn Torah there.
External and Internal Layers To Learning Torah
There is an external and internal layer to learning Torah. The external layer to our learning is the kind of Torah we have during this exile; it is the Torah which requires great difficulty to understand. But the Torah which we will receive in the future will be a Torah of total menuchah (serenity). It won’t be so hard to understand.
“Everyone agrees that on Shabbos, the Torah was given.” This hints that the Torah we received at Har Sinai, was a Torah of total menuchah – a Torah that represents Shabbos.
Egypt was the root of all our exiles. Egypt is still going on today – we still have avodah koshoh, difficult labor, in learning Torah. We see this hinted to from the fact that many mitzvos we do are zecher l’yetzias mitzrayim (to remember the exodus from Egypt), and this is not simply to remember Egypt – it is because it is still our avodah today to leave Egypt! We have to continuously leave Egypt. It is not about remembering the past – it is about the present. The redemption from Egypt wasn’t complete, and we have to complete it, by doing the mitzvos that are zecher l’yetzias mitrayim.
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Since we didn’t totally leave Egypt yet, we still have avodah koshoh. However, on the other hand, we aren’t totally in Egypt either, because we did receive the Torah at Sinai. So we have within us two forces at once. On one hand, we have both kinds of Torah – the Torah of exile, and the Torah of the future (which we received at Sinai). The Torah of exile needs avodah koshoh to acquire it, while the Torah of the future is a Torah acquired through menuchah.
If a person doesn’t exert himself in Torah, he will not understand Torah. That is clear. But on the other hand, we need menuchah as well in learning Torah; “And he saw that menuchah (rest) was good.” Therefore, we cannot look at Torah learning as just exertion. We need to also gain menuchah in our Torah learning.
The menuchah in Torah is the inner point of the Torah which our soul needs to yearn for. We are now in exile, and we cannot have total menuchah yet. But Shabbos is a resemblance of the World To Come; Shabbos can give us a glimpse of menuchah.
The concept of exile is to have Torah learning that only involves exertion, with no menuchah. The concept of redemption is that Torah learning will be through menuchah. As it is written of Yissocher [the tribe who is blessed with Torah scholars]: “And he saw that menuchah was good.”
We do not mean, chas v’shalom, that one should slacken off from his learning; the intention here is that we need menuchah in the Torah – we need to connect to our Torah learning.
If we truly connect to Torah, the Torah will to us reveal her secrets; the Torah is called the aishes chayil of the Jewish people, because just as a wife reveals her secrets to her husband, so does the Torah reveal to us its secrets – when we connect to it.
The exertion in Torah learning we have should not just be about exertion for the sake of exertion. True exertion in learning is to learn Torah with dedication, to learn it will all our energy – to become one with the Torah – and then we can become like a maayan hamisgaber (a “mighty wellspring”) in Torah. We can only become a maayan hamisgaber when we exert ourselves in learning with all our strength, with mesirus nefesh (sacrificing) for the Torah.
Yes, we must “kill ourselves over the Torah” as the Rambam writes but eventually, we must come to the point in which we have menuchah in the Torah.
The days of Shovavim are days that are meant to fix the damage done to the Bris Kodesh. These are days which we can essentially complete our redemption from Egypt – to totally leave it. But first, we must realize what our exile is, and then we can know how to get out of it.
Had Adam never damaged the Bris Kodesh, our thoughts would always be pure, and we would never have sinful thoughts. We wouldn’t need to exert ourselves in Torah learning, because our soul would be so connected to Torah that we wouldn’t need to try so hard to get involved in it.
“Hashem, Yisrael and the Torah are one.” We need to feel as if we are one with the Torah, and when we feel one with the Torah, our thoughts will be purified. We will then be able to become a maayan hamisgaber in our Torah learning.
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When our comprehension in learning is concealed from us, it is because our thoughts aren’t being guarded. All of us experience hardship in learning for this reason – Adam damaged the Bris Kodesh, and ever since then, our thoughts have become affected, and we can’t understand the Torah fully. But we can return to the kind of Torah that we received at Har Sinai, in which we were able to fully understand the Torah.
(If we don’t exert ourselves in Torah, we won’t understand it).
What does it mean to do teshuvah [during Shovavim]? It means that we must return to the inner point of Torah, to reach menuchah in learning Torah.
The Maharal says that Torah is spread all over the place, since we are in exile. A person has to learn a sugya in one masechta (tractate) and then he has to learn a different sugya in another masechta, in order to complete his understanding. That is the Torah of this exile – the Torah is spread out everywhere, and it isn’t concentrated into any one place.
We should exert ourselves in learning, but at the same time, we need to aspire for menuchah in our Torah learning. (This does not mean laziness, as we said.)
Shabbos – A Glimpse of Menuchah
Besides for physical exertion in learning, we need to realize the depth of our exile – that the Torah is in exile. Because the Torah is in exile, that is why we need to exert ourselves so much to understand it. We need to taste the menuchah of Torah – and we can taste it through Shabbos. If we properly experience Shabbos, which is a resemblance of the World to Come, then we will have some understanding of menuchah.
We need to connect to the menuchah of Shabbos. If we connect to the menuchah of Shabbos, we will gain the “Torah that was given on Shabbos” – a Torah of total menuchah. And when we gain that menuchah, we will become a maayan hamisgaber.
If a person wants to see if he’s leaving the Egyptian exile, he should see how connected he feels toward the Torah.
If a person truly dedicates his mind towards learning Torah, as much as his energy allows him to – then he essentially leaves this exile, and he enters into the inner point of Torah – the menuchah of Torah.
May we merit from Hashem to exert ourselves fully in our Torah learning – with all our energy – and from that, we should reach the menuchah found in Torah.
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4 | Purifying Our Thoughts
Exile of Our Thoughts
As we are nearing the end of the days of Shovavim we can reflect a little on our avodah during these days.
We went through exile, and we await redemption. What exactly is it that happened to us in galus/exile? And what is the geulah/redemption really about?
A person is comprised of a body and soul. Our eyes see, and our soul can also see. We need to learn how we can see through our soul. An animal only sees through its body. But we as people can see through our soul, if we learn how.
Our eyes saw that when we went into exile there was a physical enslavement, which could be seen with our physical eyes. But what did our soul see then?
The Sages state the Egyptians had devious thoughts to bring harm upon the Jewish people. In this statement lies the spiritual description of the exile which we will try to understand.
The physical exile was the “bricks and mortar”, but the spiritual aspect of the exile was that the Egyptians had evil thoughts of doing evil. The deeper meaning of this is that it was an exile upon our power of thought. Their evil thoughts placed an exile on our holy power of thought.
What happened as a result of this exile to our thoughts? We know that after the exodus, the Jewish people came to Har Sinai to receive the Torah, and their souls flew out of their bodies. When this happened, they essentially left all the influences of ‘Egypt’ in their souls. They left their enslaved power of thought – so that they could go receive the holy chochmah (wisdom) of the Torah. That was essentially the redemption.
They had difficult labor, and that was the physical exile. They didn’t feel confident in Moshe – that was their spiritual exile. The impurity of Pharoah had been upon them when they were in Egypt, and that was really why they didn’t believe in being redeemed. When they left Egypt, they left behind this impurity as well, becoming instead the “servants of Hashem”. They were released from the evil thoughts that dampened their faith in Egypt.
Exile of The Thoughts – Today
We will now try to understand how this practically applies to our soul.
The great level we reached when we stood at Har Sinai didn’t last. After the sin with the Golden Calf, the people fell from their great spiritual plateau. Thus, in a sense, we didn’t have a complete redemption from Egypt.
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Do we have the ‘bricks and mortar’ today that we were enslaved with in Egypt? From an inner perspective, yes, because in the time we live in, we are exiled to our thoughts. When a person thinks about This World and he has desires for it – this is exile of the thoughts.
Rav Chaim Volozhiner explained the statement of Chazal that “Torah and derech eretz3 together are good for protecting a person from sin.” This sounds simply like it keeps a person from being bored, but the deeper meaning is that even during the time of one’s involvement with matters of derech eretz, there should be Torah. So even one who is involved with ‘bricks and mortar’ (labor/work) can still think about Torah, matters of holiness, and Hashem.
The question to ask ourselves is: When one is taking care of his various physical matters, where are his thoughts focused on? What is he thinking about?
The Avodah of The Days of “Shovavim”
The days of “Shovavim” are a period of gaining holiness of thought. One has to protect his eyes and his heart from straying after lewd thoughts, as we know but it is more than that. That’s only the superficial part. The point of all this is really about preventing your thoughts from thinking about things you don’t need to think about.
We are all in the “bricks and mortar” of This World; we have no choice, because we are inevitably involved with This World, so we have physical labor. But where are our thoughts? What are our thoughts focusing on…?
If our thoughts are only about This World, then we lose our connection to the spiritual. But if we make sure that our thoughts and feelings are connected to the spiritual even as we have to do our physical matters, then we are still connected with the spiritual dimension of our ruchniyus. And this will be true even as we are taking care of our down-to-earth physical needs.
The more a person is connected all the time to the holiness of his power of thought, his thoughts can connect him to his place Above – even as his body is doing something purely physical.
Beginning The Day With A Pure Thought
Now let’s make this concept practical.
A person gets up in the morning – what does he do? He says, “Modeh Ani”. However, one needs to think into the words before he says it.
How can person think? His hands are still unclean, because he hasn’t yet washed his hands. What should he think about? Should it be about the fact that he is about to say the words…?
3 In this context, “derech eretz” translates as “work”. In other contexts, derech Eretz refers to proper behavior, or it can refer to marital relations.
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Thought must precede speech, as the Ramban says. When a person slept, he didn’t think, because imagination takes over when we sleep, as the Vilna Gaon taught. When a person gets up in the morning, he has a hard time thinking – why? Because his mind has been dulled the entire night by imagination. What should he do about this? He should think of something true and pure.
If the beginning of the day begins with true thought, then a person leaves the “exile” he is in, even though he’s involved with a world of action. And the more true that the thought is, the more a person can penetrate into his heart.
One who is not aware of this concept lives with either action alone or speech alone. He only thinks before doing an action or before he speaks. But such a life does not really use the power of thought that much. When our power of thought is only used to think before we do something about what we will do or what we will speak, our mind isn’t used enough, and what will happen? Imagination will take over.
But when a person wakes up in the morning and he awakens a true thought within himself (a thought about something truthful), he essentially leaves the “exile” to his thoughts.
What should a person think about when he gets up in the morning? It can be a thought about the purpose of life, or it can be a thought about Hashem, or it can be about fear of Hashem or love of Hashem. The day should then continue with thinking about this thought that you woke up with.
For this half a minute of a day that you think, it can carry over into the rest of the day. With a little bit of thinking a truthful thought, you can connect the whole day with that thought.
This does not mean to keep thinking the same thought over and over again throughout the day. It is rather to keep reminding yourself of the first thought you began the day with: the thought that preceded all the actions of the day.
Although there are many forms of avodah during Shovavim, we have stressed that the depth behind utilizing these days of Shovavim is, at its core, about sanctifying our power of thought
What does a person remain with from this world? What does he take with him? He only takes with him his holy feelings and his holy thoughts. When a person connects himself to holy thought, this is the meaning of the term of our Sages, “One who is a Ben Olam HaBa” (one who will merit the World To Come). We are found in the “world of action’ which is only from our body’s view. From the view of our soul, however, we are found in our thoughts.
Thought is an inner matter. One who connects to thought is connected to an inner world even as he is on this physical World.
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When a person damages the Bris Kodesh, the inner problem is that he has damaged his faculty of thought. The way to rectify it is to return to the holiness of thought.
Yaakov Avinu called Reuven “reishis oni,” (first of my offspring), for it was his very first seed; the Sages state that Yaakov did not see keri (emissions) in his entire life; the depth of this is that we have a power of reishis, to return to our beginning source, that the reishis (beginning) of our thoughts can be holy.
In this way, we can connect the entire day with the first thought we began the day with. Understandably, it needs to be done slowly and in steps, and patiently. This will connect a person to the power of holy thought and in turn purify the thoughts.
This is the root method and the depth behind the days of Shovavim.
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5 | Repairing Our Thoughts
Introduction To “Shovavim”
The holy sefarim4 describe the days of “Shovavim” (Parshas Shemos through Parshas Mishpatim) as days of teshuvah (repentance), based on the possuk, “Return, wayward sons”, and that the main sin which we need to focus our teshuvah on during these days is to rectify the sin of keri (spilling human seed).
We need to know what the root of the spiritual light is that exists during this time, what exactly it means to damage the Bris, and how it is rectified.
In many places, the custom during these days is to recite Selichos (prayer supplications) and to perform various tikkunim (soul rectifications) for the public.
The ancient scholars who taught the inner parts of the Torah5 established five ways to rectify the sin of spilling seed, and each of them are based on the five different causes that can lead a person to the sin. The five causes that bring about this sin are: 1) Thoughts, 2) Desire to gaze at another woman6, 3) Desire for gay behavior7, 4) Wasted spittle8, 5) One who deliberately delays circumcision9.
In these coming chapters (Shovavim #02, #03, #04, #05 and #06) we will not delve that in-depth into the esoteric concepts here; rather, we will see the homiletic statements of our Sages about these matters.
We will begin, with the help of Hashem, with the first path of rectification of the sin, which is to rectify the thoughts.
Rectifying The Thoughts: Returning To The “Beginning”
The power of thought is described as the “beginning point” of man. To illustrate the concept, the first thing Hashem did to create the world was that He thought about it. The beginning of a matter is always with thought, thus, thought is seen as the beginning point. Thought is the first kernel of wisdom that allows for the wisdom to become expanded further and further.
4 Arizal: shaar ruach hakodesh: tikkun 27; further discussed in Levush, Magen Avraham, Beer Heitiv, and Pri Megadim to Orach Chaim: 685
5 Rav Chaim Vital in Shaar Ruach HaKodesh (Arizal), ibid.
6 This will be discussed b’ezras Hashem in Shovavaim #005 – Repairing Lust
7 See Shovavim #04, Shovavim Today
8 Shovavim #003
9 Shovavim #006
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Since the purpose of Creation is to reveal the sovereignty of Hashem, “the end of action is first with thought”, therefore, the end of Creation, which will be the purpose, is somewhat reflected in the beginning point of Creation. So the concept of thought, which is the beginning point of Creation, is actually a reflection of the purpose of Creation.
Before the conception of the Jewish people, the Torah describes the 70 nations who descended from Esav. Although the Jewish people are called raishis, “the beginning,” they were still preceded by the 70 nations. What is the meaning of this? It is because the 70 nations of the world are a different kind of beginning. They are another kind of tool which brings about the revelation of Hashem. We see this from the fact that in the future, Hashem will first reveal Himself to all the nations, “And His Kingdom will reign over all jurisdictions”, and after that, the Jewish people will then become the tool that will reveal the purpose of Creation. The purpose of Creation is the revelation of Hashem’s Presence upon the world, and when His sovereignty will be revealed, that will be the tool that brings it about.
Thus, there are different tools which Hashem has set into motion that will reveal the purpose of Creation. Even the gentile nations of the world will be a key factor in the process; this is actually the deeper meaning behind why Esav’s head is buried with the Avos. It is a hint to the fact that the beginning of the nations is really good at its root. The nations of the world have a good beginning, because they will be the first stage in the revelation of Hashem upon the world; it is just that their end will not be lofty as their beginning was. Their dominion will come to an end, and that is why only Esav’s head is buried with the Avos, because only the “head” of Esav is worthy. The Jewish people, by contrast, have both a beginning and an end which will reveal Hashem upon the world.
When one’s thoughts are damaged through sinful thinking, that essentially means that the “beginning” point in a person is damaged. This has several aspects to it. One aspect of our thoughts is that our thoughts are meant to remain inside us; our thoughts are private, and they are supposed to be kept private. To illustrate, we don’t know what others are thinking; the reason for this is to show us that thoughts are supposed to be kept private. When thoughts do need to become revealed, they must be revealed in a proper way, because in essence, they are really meant to be kept private.
Thus, we have a two-fold avodah in protecting our power of thought: We need to keep them private, and in addition, when we do reveal them, they need to be revealed properly.
The Root of Damaging The Bris: Feeling Completely Independent
The root of a person’s downfall is when he thinks he is perfect. “Esav” is called so because he was asuy, already “made”, meaning, he was born “complete”; the inner meaning of this is that he thought he was complete, and that is the depth of his ruination. When a person thinks he is complete, he denies the fact that he needs others in order to be completed. Because he thinks he is perfect, he doesn’t feel a need to connect with others. This is really the depth behind damaging the Bris: when a person thinks that he does not need to receive from others. When a person is unmarried, he can understand well what it means to feel lacking; he knows that he needs to be completed by another.
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Although we find that the Sage Ben Azai did not marry, because he desired learning Torah alone and didn’t feel the need to be completed by a woman, still, although he reasoned well, we know that his path is not meant for us to take, for the Sages recount that when he was shown Heavenly revelations as a result of his spiritual level, he could not survive the revelations, and he died out of shock.
After Adam sinned, before Kayin and Hevel were even conceived, it is brought in the holy sefarim10 that droplets of keri left his body; and for the 130 years that he was separated from Chavah after the sin, demons were formed from those droplets. Why was he punished? It was because he blamed Chavah for the sin; “This woman you gave me, it is she who gave me from the tree that I ate.” When he said this, the deeper implication of this was that he was basically saying that he doesn’t need her, chas v’shalom, for he was declaring that woman is detrimental to man. So he thought he doesn’t need her to complete him, and that he is better off without her.
This leads us the way to how we can fix the sin of spilling seed. When one feels incomplete, and he is aware that he needs to receive from others in order to become complete, he has fixed the sin at its root. Perfection is not achieved by feeling perfect about yourself and not needing others; rather, it is achieved precisely when one realizes he is incomplete without another to help him reach perfection.
The Deeper Implication of Misusing The Thought Process
In the power of thought, there are three kinds of thoughts: Chochmah, Binah, and Daas. Chochmah is the knowledge that one learns from his teachers. Binah is to reflect on the words of the Chochmah and thereby expand upon them. Daas is to connect the information that the Chochmah imparts and the information that the Binah imparts, bringing them to their potential. Daas reflects the concept that Chochmah needs Binah in order to become complete.
Thus, when a person has sinful thoughts, he has misused his daas, because he thinks he doesn’t need others in order to be complete.
The external part of the rectification for the sin is to feel lacking without another, but the inner layer of the solution is for a person to realize that he needs to become a tool that reveals beginnings. Soon, we will explain what this means.
The truth is that the concept of damaging the Bris was already existent as soon as Chavah’s body was separated from Adam’s; this already reflected a kind of separation between man and woman, in which man thinks that he doesn’t need woman for completion. Once Adam became separated from her, the idea of damaging the Bris became possible. It was the idea that it is possible for husband to be complete without his wife.
10 Shaar HaPesukim, Yechezkel
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When one damages his thoughts, it is not only that he has misused his mental powers of Chochmah, Binah and Daas. The thoughts are damaged even when one has extraneous thoughts – when he lets his thoughts turn outward to think about things that he doesn’t need to think about. Just like the eyes are supposed to be controlled and they should not be turned outward that much, so is there a concept that the thoughts of a person not turn outward.
Repenting Over The Shame Caused By Sin
According to the Kamarna Rebbe, the 50th Gate of Impurity, which is the lowest level, is the sin of heresy, and it is created through the sin of damaging the Bris. This shows us how the Bris is damaged – but it also shows us at the same time how it can be repaired.
We can ask: Why is spilling seed considered to be the lowest level of impurity? Why can’t it just be viewed like any other desire that a person has?
The deep reason is as follows. Before the sin, Adam and Chavah were unclothed, yet they were not ashamed in their nakedness. As soon as they sinned, they realized they were naked and they grew ashamed; this shows us that the entire concept of shame began after the sin. Before the sin, there was no concept of shame. Why? It is because shame is when a person is concerned of what others think about himself; what is a person is ashamed of? He is ashamed of how he appears outwardly to others. But he is not concerned of how he appears inwardly to others. Before the sin, Adam and Chavah were so pure that they were only concerned of how they looked internally, not outwardly. After the sin, they became concerned with externalities, therefore, they were ashamed of how they appear outwardly to others.
So the pure state of mankind is to be concerned with who really is deep down, and not to be concerned of how he appears outwardly to others. Thus, the way to repair the sin is by returning to the original state of Adam, in there was no shame yet; meaning, for a person to concerned about his internal state, to keep his thoughts private as they are meant to be, and not to reveal them outwardly, not to think into things that he shouldn’t think about.
Thus, it’s not enough for a person to simply be ashamed about damaging the Bris. Although shame over a sin normally atones for all sins, the sin of damaging the Bris requires a higher kind of teshuvah, and shame alone is not enough to rectify it, for it was the sin that brought about shame to the world; the sin requires more than just shame and repentance, then, to rectify. What really needs to be rectified is the very fact that we are ashamed! Because if not for the sin in the first place, we would never know what shame is.
Of course, this does not mean chas v’shalom that one should harden himself and not feel bad after he sins. It means that a person has to reach an inner place in himself in which he returns to the state of before the sin, in which there was no shame yet, because then, when man was entirely pure, he was not concerned of anything external or outward!
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When a person’s thoughts think about things that he shouldn’t think about, he is turning his thoughts outward, and this can lead chas v’shalom to eventually damaging the Bris. Our avodah during Shovavim is to return to our source, that even our power of teshuvah should be returned to its source.
During the Ten Days of Repentance, we say in Selichos that “If one’s heart understands and he repents, he will be healed”, meaning, if one is ashamed because of his sins and he repents, his teshuvah is valid. However, the teshuvah we do during Shovavim is a different concept of teshuvah than the usual kind of teshuvah. Shovavim comes after the Ten Days of Repentance, because the sin of damaging the Bris needs its own rectification and thus it cannot be covered by repenting during the Ten Days of Repentance. It is because teshuvah alone does not rectify damaging the Bris [as the Zohar states].
But that doesn’t mean that a person shouldn’t feel ashamed about damaging the Bris. Of course a person should feel ashamed and do teshuvah about it! But it is just that after he does that, he should then do a deeper kind of teshuvah – he should do teshuvah over the very fact that he has shame as a result of the sin; he should do teshuvah over the fact that he allowed his thoughts to be turned outward, that he allowed himself to be involved with the external and left the inner world of his thoughts.
Of course, now that we live after the sin, our initial nature is to seek what’s outside of us. But our avodah is to return ourselves to the original state of mankind before the sin, and to describe this in deeper terms, it’s referring to the power of emunah. Emunah helps a person stay in his proper place, where he will never feel a desire to go outward from himself.
Thus, the first way to rectify the sin of damaging the Bris (spilling human seed) is through rectifying our thoughts, and this means to return our thoughts to their source – that we should keep our thoughts inward, and not let them roam outward.
Private (Intimate) Matters Should Be Kept Private
The Chida11 and others write that if someone reveals secrets to others when he wasn’t supposed to, he will end up sinning with damaging the Bris. This is because he turned outwardly when he should have remained inward. A secret should only be revealed to one who is modest, because he will know how to protect the secret.
When a person lets his thoughts roam around to explore thoughts that are forbidden or extraneous, that is the first root of what leads to damaging the Bris. But it also includes not to speak about private matters with others.
11 Avodas HaKodesh: Tziporen HaShamir: 7: 113
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“Matters of the heart are not revealed to the mouth”12, meaning, inner and private matters should not be revealed outwardly by the mouth to others. When a Bris [the covenant of marriage between man and woman] remains private between them and it is not spoken about to others, it remains as a protected covenant, as long as it is not spoken about through the mouth [to others].
This is what it means to have Kedushas HaBris, to keep the holiness of the Bris Kodesh: to protect the private nature of the Bris [the covenant of marriage between husband and wife]. Holiness means to conduct one’s private affairs in a hidden manner, in a dark room, privately, and it should be kept hidden and protected – never spoken about with others.
This is the first rectification of repairing the Bris Kodesh. May Hashem help us be able to act upon it practically.13
12 Koheles Rabbah 12:1
13 Editor’s Summary: In the beginning of the chapter, it was stated that we have a two-fold avodah in repairing our damaged thoughts. The first part is to protect our private thoughts; this includes two aspects, 1)Not to think about forbidden things, which is obvious; 2)Not to reveal our private matters to others. The second part of the rectification was that when we do need to reveal our thoughts to others, they must be revealed properly; now it has been explained at the end of the chapter to mean that matters of privacy should only be revealed to someone who is modest who won’t tell it to others.
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6 | Repairing “Man”
The Sin of Spilling Seed and Fixing it through Emunah
The root of all mitzvos is Emunah (to have faith in Hashem). Emunah alone contains the key to everything, as it is written, “A righteous person shall live by his faith.”14
Emunah fixes all problems – and all sins.
The sin of spilling seed (wasting one’s seed) can be compared to the following parable.
Let’s say a person gives money to a pauper, and before it gets to the pauper’s hand, the money falls to the ground. The donor gave, but there was no one to receive it. When a man spills his seed, it is like giving something away, with nothing to receive it. The man’s seed is being given away, and there is no wife there to receive it from him.
But if a person gains the power of Emunah, a person can become a container to receive all that has been lost, retroactively, and in this way, he rectifies the sin of spilling his seed.
In all of Creation, there exist Heavenly illuminations (oros) as well as containers to receive them (keilim). The illuminations need to go into the containers in order for a person to receive any Heavenly sustenance, so they need to be connected together. The point that connects them together is daas (higher, spiritual understanding that a human being can reach), and this is the usual case in how a person receives any Heavenly illuminations, for daas is always known as the ‘connecting’ force in Creation. That is the first level of how one receives Heavenly sustenance: with the more he gains daas.
When a person grows spiritually, he can reach a level in which he doesn’t even need daas to receive the illuminations, because he can go even above his daas. Going above one’s daas is that one attains the quality of bittul, to be totally nullified to Hashem. When a person feels completely nullifies to Hashem, he in unified and integrated with Him. This is the second, higher level of one receives Heavenly illuminations, and it is called lo yeda, “no daas” [because it is the level which is beyond one’s daas.]
There is an even higher level than this well that a person can reach, an even higher plane that exists that is even beyond the sublime level of lo yeda. It is called “lo yoda elyon”, the “higher level of above daas”. On such a level, a person doesn’t even need a container to receive Heavenly illuminations, because here the person has reached a level in which the illuminations are able to reach the person
14 Chavakuk 2:4; see Talmud Bavli, Makkos 24a
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directly. When a person reaches such a level, he is able to fix all his sins – even the sin of spilling seed, which is known in the sefarim hakedoshim as the root of all sins. If a person commits the sin of spilling his seed, chas v’shalom (G-d forbid), what is going on as this happens? There is something being given away from the person, but there is no one to receive it from him; there is no container that it can enter. His sperm goes to waste.
But if a person truly gains the ability of Emunah, a person can acquire a container that receives all the lost sperm – retroactively.
This is a way to do Teshuvah for all of one’s sins: through acquiring Emunah. And in particular, Emunah rectifies the sin of spilling seed, for Emunah makes one into a spiritual container that can receive all Heavenly illumination, whereupon he can receive everything that was lost until now.
However, the Sages say that one is not allowed to purposely sin chas v’shalom and say, “I will sin and repent later.”
The Sin of Gay Behavior and How To Repair It15
All sins are rooted in Adam’s sin
This chapter deals with the sin of one who engaged in gay behavior and he wants to fix his sin. First we will look into the roots of this sin in order to understand how to fix it, together with Heavenly assistance.
As is well-known, the root of all sins lies in Adam’s sin, when he ate from the Tree of Knowledge. The sin of gay behavior is no different than other sins; it also is rooted in Adam’s sin. However, it is clear that we cannot totally learn how to fix this sin from the case of Adam, in which there was only one man in the world (and hence no one for him to engage in gay behavior with). We are only speaking of the depth behind the sin, which we can still learn from the story of Adam, in spite of the fact that he has no man whom he felt a lust for. But there is still one very practical point to be learned from this discussion which we will discuss soon, with the help of Hashem.
Four instances in the Torah of Gay Behavior
[To give a brief summary of what is to come: In the Torah, there are four instances of gay behavior: Cham, Potifar, the city of Sodom, and Amalek.]
15 The translation here is an adaptation from a shiur given during the days of Shovavim, and it is printed in Sefer Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh on Chanukah (p.158-172). This is a chapter that deals with sensitive material and thus, it should be used very sensitively. Much of the material of the original Hebrew chapter has been omitted due to the heavy and esoteric nature of this material. Here the basic points have been translated and condensed for the sake of clarity. Nothing has been added in this English translation, but it has been rewritten in a way that offers repetition of matters that were not in the original Hebrew version, so that the practical outcomes of these matters can be clear. Any editor’s notes, not from the author, have been added in brackets within the text.
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The first man recorded in the Torah who had a sexual lust for another man was Cham, the son of Noach. It is written16“And Cham, father of Canaan, saw his father’s nakedness.” The Sages have two opinions of what this means17: According to one opinion, Cham castrated his father so that his father wouldn’t be able to have children, and according to the second opinion, Cham engaged in conjugal relations with his father Noach, who was drunk and asleep.
The second instance in the Torah of gay behavior was by the city of Sodom, who demanded that Lot give away his guests.18 The Sages19 explain that they wanted to rape his guests; Lot instead tried to appease them by agreeing to give away his daughters to be raped, but they refused, because they wanted men to rape.
The third instance of gay behavior in the Torah was by Potifar, who had a desire for Yosef.20
Finally, there is a fourth instance of gay behavior recorded in the Torah. It is written regarding the cursed nation of Amalek, “They attacked you on the way.” Rashi21 explains this to mean that Amalek acted gay with the Jewish nation.
These four instances of gay behavior are four different lessons about gay behavior. As we will see, there are four different causes why a man would wish to act gay with another man, and each of these causes can show us a different solution to the problem.
The Gay Behavior of Cham: Selfishness
First we will examine the first kind of gay behavior: Cham, who committed a gay act with his father, Noach, according to one opinion in the Sages.
Before Hashem brought the Flood, there was a big problem in the world: adultery. The generation was so lustful that even the animals were mating with opposite species; this corruption angered Hashem to bring the Flood and destroy the world.
After the Flood, Cham started a new trend: to mate with one’s own gender. Cham brought about an entirely new kind of corruption: to lust after your own gender. He introduced to the world that a man can have a desire for another man.
16 Beraishis 9:20
17 see Talmud Bavli, Sanhedrin 70a
18 Beraishis 19:5
19 see Midrash Rabbah 50:5
20 see Talmud Bavli, Sotah 13b
21 Devorim 25:18
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The natural way of the world is that a man needs a woman to mate with, and a woman needs to receive from a man. The man is the giver, and the woman is the receiver. This is the way Hashem designed the world. But when a man mates with another man, there is no one to receive what he has to offer.
Slavery represents this idea. A slave cannot own anything; anything he acquires goes to his master. He cannot receive anything, and he cannot own a legal wife. He is man without a woman.
When a man has no one to give to and no one to receive what he has to offer, he is all alone. Hashem created the world for man and woman to get married and merge into one being; when a man has no wife, he is all by himself. (This is also the depth behind why Amalek acted gay with the Jewish people, because Amalek’s aim was to create a separateness and lack of unity in Creation; Amalek was therefore gay in order to wreak havoc on Creation.)
Slaves are suspected of gay behavior.22 Children as well are a target for being molested see.23 There is a similarity between slaves and children, and this will help us understand the root of this kind of gay behavior.
Slaves do as they please, so it is understandable that they are suspected of being gay.24 But why are children a common target of gay behavior? The answer is because both slaves and children share one thing in common: they lack a connection to another person, and this is the root of their gay behavior. How do we see this?
We know that a child’s conjugal act under the age of nine years is not regarded as anything binding25 (see). Simply speaking, a child isn’t mature enough physically and therefore his attempt at conjugal actions are not regarded as being a conjugal act. But it is more than that; he is not a bar daas (mature). To be a bar daas essentially means that one has the power to form connections; daas always refers to connection, as it is written, “And Adam knew Chavah.” A child’s conjugal act cannot form any connection; he is alone and he cannot have a wife, because he isn’t emotionally capable of such a connection. That is why children can be associated with gay behavior, because they are all by themselves and cannot have a wife.
So children can have gay behavior because they are by themselves, and slaves act gay because they have no one to receive from them. They are both associated with gay behavior because they are alone.
This is the root of Cham’s gay behavior towards his father Noach. His act of intimacy with his father is not about causing a connection, but rather from his own selfish desire to take pleasure. He was all
22 Talmud Bavli, Berachos 45a
23 Talmud Bavli, Gittin 57b
24 see Talmud Bavli, Kesubos 11a
25 Talmud Bavli, Sanhedrin 69b
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about disparity, and in this way he resembles Amalek, the root of disparity in Creation [within their very “desires for intimacy”].
The Gay Behavior of Potifar: Perverting Creation
The second kind of gay behavior we find is by Potifar, who had a desire to have physical relations with Yosef. Yosef was the overseer of Egypt and was sustaining it. He was being like a man, being a giver, by taking care of Egypt. The deep reason why Potifar desired him was because he wanted to turn Yosef into a taker. Potifar essentially was trying to go against the design of Creation. Because he desired to only take pleasure, and not give pleasure – as we can see from the fact that he desired Yosef – he was punished by Hashem with castration; since he didn’t want to give, he was punished that he cannot have children and that he cannot sustain others.
How do we see that Potifar was trying to turn Yosef into a taker?
In a marriage between a man and a woman, there is a giver and a receiver. In their marital union, the man gives the enjoyment, and the woman receives the enjoyment. The real pleasure is enjoyed by the woman, who receives the pleasure from her husband.) However, most of the time, the husband isn’t motivated entirely by giving, and he also wants to take a little of the pleasure, so he ends up enjoying it also. He also has some degree of taking. But even if this is his level, at least he has some motivation to give pleasure also.( If the man does not desire to give pleasure to his wife and he instead only wants to take, he becomes a taker; both the man and the woman are then takers.
This is unlike the person who lusts after a man. A man lusting after another man only wants to take pleasure, and he doesn’t wish to give it. There is no pleasure to the man whom he has relations with.26 Only the person who commits the gay act receives pleasure, but he cannot give it to his partner.
This shows us that another cause for gay behavior can be because the man wishes to defy his nature of being a man, which is to be a giver and not a taker, and thus he is attempting to switch around the way things are supposed to be. He perverts Creation in trying to go against the way Hashem designed it. A man is supposed to be a giver, not be a taker. The man who does the gay act is not being manly. He is acting feminine, by trying to just receive pleasure, which is a woman’s role.
The Gay Behavior of Sodom: Haughtiness
The third kind of gay behavior we find is by the city of Sodom. (Sodom wanted Lot’s guests to be gay with them; Sodom’s gay behavior has to do with their other evil ways. Sodom was against being kind, because they didn’t want to have to need others. That was essentially their root of why they also had gay behaviors.)
26 see Talmud Bavli, Kereisos 3a
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This kind of gay behavior contains the key reason to all gay behavior.
Before Adam was created, he was alone. This put into all of us the ability to be “alone”; it is an ability that can be used for good or bad. When a man uses the power of being alone for evil, he is gay. When a person is haughty, he also misuses the power of being “alone” for his own evil, egotistical purposes.
Gay Behavior In The Era Preceding Moshiach
Rav Nachman of Breslov writes that the most impure evil that exists – the “50th Gate of Impurity” – is the sin of gay behavior, and the root of gay behavior is caused by the trait of gaavah – haughtiness, or arrogance, or conceit.27 In the beginning state of Creation, Adam was alone; there was only man with no woman. This was the power of “alone” that was holy and good.28 Since the rule is that Hashem created equally opposing forces of evil for all holiness that there is, there is also an evil kind of “alone” that exists, in which man feels that he doesn’t need woman.
At the beginning of Creation, this power of being “alone” was in its holy form. Now, when we are in the period of ikvesa d’meshicha (the footsteps of Moshiach), the light of the beginning of Creation returns, but it has returned in an evil form. Our avodah during the Final Days is to use that original light of Creation, the power to be “alone”, and return it back to its holy root. When a man’s nature to be alone without a woman is misunderstood, it can become translated into a desire for gay behavior.
A gay person’s problem is thus that because he wants to remain alone, and this is rooted in his deep haughtiness that has become so dominant in his life. He wants to be completely “independent” and not have to need anyone else in his life. That is the root of the whole problem.
The solution to the problem, then, is that he to learn how to return the power of being “alone” to its root, which is good. There is nothing wrong, in essence, with the wish that a man has to be alone. The need to be alone is actually the root state of mankind, for Adam was first created alone. But when the wish to be alone is used for evil, it can be the root of why a man lusts after another man; he wishes to be alone from the true union of man and woman, by seeking out men whom he can indulge with in and get pleasure from, yet not have to be responsible for them to give to them. He is using the power of “alone” for evil. The way to rectify this is by returning to the good kind of “alone.”
27 Sefer HaMiddos: Gaavah
28 In Da Es Atzmecha\“Getting To Know Your Self” in which the Rav explains the well-known power of being “alone”, the power to have hisbodeus (solitude) and feel totally alone with Hashem, which can solve so many problems and stress. The Rov warns, however, that although the power of being “alone” is the strongest ability that we possess, and that it is really man’s nature to be alone, it can still be used for evil, such as when a person becomes self-absorbed and haughty towards others, since he feels like he doesn’t need others anyway. In this chapter, the Rov is saying that an even more evil abuse of the power to be “alone” is when it is misunderstood by a man to be alone from real relationships, which will lead to his gay behavior.
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When a man chooses to be alone and thus he does not get married – or if he is married, but he lacks a true connection with his own wife – if he looks very deep into himself, he can discover that the root of his problem is that he is really being haughty. He is full of gaavah/haughtiness, and in fixing his gaavah, the problem of wishing to be independent on others, will be treated at its root.
When a man and woman achieve a connection in their marital union and he gives pleasure to her, by knowing that he needs her because he need someone to give to, not only does he give to her and fulfill his role as a man, but he realizes that deep down he is dependent on her, because if not for her, he would have no one whom he could really give to. And if he can’t give to anyone, he is abandoning his role as a man, for it is his role to be a giver. When this is his understanding towards marital relations with his wife, the man essentially fulfills what he lacks: that he needs another person in his life, and he cannot be alone.
But when a man chooses to be gay, it’s all because deep down he haughty, because he doesn’t feel that he is lacking. Thus, he wishes to be independent of others, because he feels like he doesn’t need anybody else, and that is the root of his mistake. He needs to correct this erroneous belief at its root and realize that he needs a wife in order to be complete, and that will solve his gay tendencies.
Thus, the solution for a gay person then to feel that he is missing something in his life. If a man wants to be gay, it must be that he is missing what it means to be together with another person whom he can give pleasure to. (Thus, to be together with another man defeats this purpose, because the other person doesn’t receive any real pleasure from the union, as we brought before from the words of Chazal.29
Altogether, we have found three reasons for gay behavior. One cause is because a person doesn’t want to give pleasure and he only wants to take pleasure; therefore, he engages in a relationship in which only he enjoys and takes pleasure, and there is no one to receive his pleasure. (The solution for such gay behavior is to become a giver of pleasure, and not to be a taker of pleasure).
Another cause for gay behavior is that a person wants to switch around the way the world is supposed to be; he wants to defy the laws of nature that Hashem created the world with. In other words, he doesn’t want his role as a man – he doesn’t act manly, because he’d rather be more feminine (by being a taker).
[Although this sounds similar to the first cause, it is not the same thing. In the first cause of gay behavior, the root of the problem is because the person would rather be a taker of pleasure than a giver of pleasure. The second cause, though, also involves this factor of wanting to be a taker, but it is rooted in the fact that the man would be rather be more feminine than masculine.]
29 Rashi in Kerisos 3a
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A third cause for gay behavior is that a person wants to remain alone, because he feels like he doesn’t need anybody. He is too independent. It can get to the point that a person is so conceited with himself that he thinks of himself as sort of like a G-d, which was the problem that Pharoah developed, as well as many other people throughout history.
[The solution for this, as was mentioned, is that if he is single, he needs to get married, so that he can realize that he is an incomplete being by himself. And if one is already married, he needs to feel like he needs his wife, because if not for her than he has no one whom he can give to; this will help him become more connected to his wife and thus lose his gay tendencies as a result].
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7 | Repairing Lust
In this chapter we will deal with the fourth cause for the sin of damaging the Bris: having lustful thoughts towards women. We will mainly discuss one who has thoughts about another married woman – beginning from why a person has lustful thoughts in the first place, and ending up at what leads a person to actually sin with another woman, chas v’shalom.
The first person in history who told us how to act upon our thoughts was the Snake. Our Sages30 ask: Why was the Snake so cunning towards Adam and Chavah? Why did it seek to pounce upon them? It was because it saw them during marital relations, and then it desired Chavah. It wanted to marry Chavah and therefore it wanted to kill Adam. Here is the first time in Creation in which thought and planning was involved.
The Sages state the Snake came upon her and violated her. This created a certain connection between woman and snake. The Zohar draws a correlation between the name of the Snake and the name of Chavah, because snake is called “chavya” in Lashon HaKodesh, similar to the name Chavah.
Ever since the Snake desired Chavah and came upon her, an evil desire entered all of mankind, to lust after another woman. The Snake represents evil, and the desire to have relations with a married woman is the epitome of evil – and it was the Snake who placed this evil desire in mankind.
What caused the Snake to desire Chavah? The Midrash states that the Snake saw them openly having marital relations, and then its desire for Chavah was formed. So the root of the Snake’s evil began with straying after its eyes. Then it spoke with Chavah, which brought the evil to a whole new level; it was now able to convince her and sway her. Finally, it was able to come upon her and commit an intimate act with her. So there were three stages – sight, speech, and action.
There was actually a level that came before the sight: it had devious thoughts. In this chapter, we will not address how the power of thought is rectified, because it was already discussed. Here we will discuss the three stages that came after the Snake’s thoughts: its sight of Chavah, its speech with Chavah, and its action with Chavah.
The Snake was punished measure for measure with each of these aspects. It used to be the leader of all the animals; after it sinned, it was no longer the leader of the animals, and this was a level of taking away its power of sight, for now it could not be other overseer of the all the animals. Before the sin, it was able to stand erect and see all it wanted, and now it has to slither on the ground where it cannot see well.
It spoke with Chavah, and therefore its power of speech was taken away. It committed an act with Chavah by contaminating her, which contributed to the birth of Kayin from her, and it was punished with an unusual kind of birth which others animals do not have to go through; a snake
30 Beraishis Rabbah 18:6
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takes seven years to survive from conception until birth, whereas other animals give birth soon after conception.
A woman as well bears three distinctions which are parallel to the Snake’s three aspects of sin. There is a statement of our Sages, “A woman is only for beauty”, as well as “A woman is only for having children.” There is also a statement, “A woman is only for a home.” So a woman has three distinct aspects to her – beauty, childbearing, and being a “home”.31
The beauty of a woman reflects the sin of the Snake when it saw Chavah and thus desired her. The home that is a woman reflects the speech of the Snake with her, because the power of speech is called the “home” of the thoughts. [Later we will hopefully explain what this is]. The action that the Snake did with Chavah, which was to procreate with her, is reflected in the fact that women bear children.
We already mentioned that there are some connections that still remain between the Snake and woman. Chavah’s name is similar to the Aramaic word for snake – “chavya”. We also find that both the snake and a woman are called “enemies” of a man.32
Now we will explain the aspect of speech/home in a woman. A woman can either be seen as a person connected to her husband, or she is seen as the one who bears children. This is the deeper meaning of the statement of one of the Sages, “it is enough that our wives raise our children and save us from sin.”33 The two abilities of a woman are the fact that she raises children and the fact that she is connected to her husband and thus protects him from sinning. In between these two roles of a wife, we find a third role, a middle point between her two roles: the fact that she is called the home. This is parallel to the aspect of speech in the Snake’s sin with Chavah, for speech is called the home to the thoughts.
Before we explain the middle role of woman, which is the fact she is called the home, we first should be aware that there is an even higher level of connection between man and woman than being connected through speech: through their power of sight.
It is forbidden for a man to betroth a woman unless he has first seen her34; during marital relations, man and woman must be facing each other, and this implies that they must unite through being able to see each other. When they see each other, it is not just that they are seeing each other – they are connecting with each other, through seeing each other. When they make eye contact with each other, it is a form of intimacy with each other, and it is even more intimate than when they speak with each other. To illustrate the concept, there is a kind of bird which conceives as soon it is merely viewed by its mate.35
31 Kesubos 59b
32 Beraishis Rabbah 54a
33 Yevamos 63a
34 Kiddushin 41a
35 Footnote from the Hebrew sefer: Sefer Yitav Panim of the Satmar Rebbe (Rav Yekusiel Teitelbaum zt”l) brings such a thing, but I have not found an earlier source for this; perhaps it is referring to the ostritch (bas yaanah), who can hatch an egg just by looking at it.
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Thus, when a man thinks about a forbidden woman to him, he is already connecting with her in a forbidden way, and this is besides for the fact that such thoughts can lead to lustful thoughts and damaging the Bris. When the Snake saw Chavah, it already connected with her. Its sight of her led to speaking with her and to acting with her, but its connection to her began with the sense of sight.
Now we will speak about the connection of speech between man and woman. Chazal warn a man not to speak with another married woman. So connection can be caused by speech, and speech can be intimate. There are also two kinds of intimacy: through speech, and through kissing. The Snake saw Adam and Chavah during intimacy and therefore it connected with Chavah though just seeing her, and it also spoke with her, which was another aspect of the evil connection it had with her.
The sin caused a need for man and woman to become united through a home. The root of the Snake’s sin began when it saw them during intimacy, when they had no home of their own. So the entire concept of modesty resulted from the sin.
Before the sin, connection could be achieved just through speech alone; there was no need for a home then. Now that we are after a sin, we need a home, and intimacy must be done privately, in the home, with modesty. For this reason, the Sages forbid intimacy outdoors36.
Now we will reflect into the aspect of sight in the Snake’s sin – it caught sight of her and that is why it wanted to sin. This is reflected in the fact that women are for beauty.
Woman is called nekaivah, which is from the word nekev, “hole”, implying deficiency. If you think about it deeply, all beauty is a result of something that was missing. When two opposite colors unite, you get a beautiful result. When chessed and gevurah come together, the result is tiferes, beauty. Beauty is always something that sticks out and is noticed, because it bears a contrast with something else, and that is why it looks beautiful; it’s about noticing difference. For example, a wall that’s pained with just one color doesn’t look beautiful; but when you see a wall painted with a few colors, you see the contrast of the colors, and it looks beautiful. With colors especially, you can see this concept: each color is missing pigment of the other colors, and that is what makes each color distinct. Beauty is the result of seeing differences; or from seeing deficiencies.
Beauty that results from deficiencies contains it both an external aspect and an internal aspect. The inner aspect of it is as follows. All of Creation is lacking, whereas Hashem is the only One who is not lacking. Thus, the beauty of Creation is the fact that although we are deficient, perfection can still be revealed in it – when Hashem will be revealed in this imperfect Creation.
The external aspect of it is because a woman is created from a hole, she therefore reminds man how he is lacking without her. Since a man feels lacking without her, he has a desire to look at her.
When a person feels lacking and therefore he looks to fill what he lacks – through watching women – it appears to him as if he’s feeding what he lacks, but in reality, it’s like drinking salty water. The mere desire in a person to turn outward of himself is already a deficiency.
36 Sanhedrin 46a, Rambam Hilchos Issuri Biah 21:14
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What a person really needs to do is to restrain his desire to see outward, and in its place, to instead yearn for the revelation of the Creator, so that his sense of incompletion will be filled. The whole reason why man was created deficient in the first place is to show him that he needs to reveal Hashem in his life.
Thus, the desire in a man to stare at another woman really comes from a desire in the soul to be completed by the Shechinah (Hashem’s Presence), just it is being channeled in the wrong direction. The way to rectify this yearning is, that besides for shutting one’s eyes from seeing improper sights, he needs to channel his yearning for completion and use it to yearn for the revelation of Hashem, and that will fix what he’s missing in his life.
The act of adultery might seem like a form of connection with another, but it never lasts. It always become shaky and then it is gone. It is like the buildings of Pisom and Ramses, which were all uprooted.
The home, which unites man and woman, is how a true and lasting connection is achieved. When there is connection, pleasure and enjoyment always follow with it. The Snake, which tried to connect with Chavah by speaking to her, didn’t receive any enjoyment in the connection, because it was not a real and lasting connection. This is the depth of why one who speaks gossip has no tangible enjoyment from his act37; although he a gossiper is using the power of speech, his speech is not forming any connection with others.
When one has lustful thoughts about another woman, the deeper problem is because he has a misunderstanding about what real connection is. A real connection between man and woman is a lasting connection, which is only through the home. When there it is another person’s wife, he is not connected to her through any home, thus, if he happens to have a connection with her, it’s only temporary; it won’t survive.
Chazal say that when one divorces his first wife, the Altar cries38. Although the Sages permit giving a divorce for even trivial matters such as when she purposely burns the food or when he finds another to be better than her, these are situations in which they have already become so far apart from each other that they are already having such petty disputes.
A husband must realize that the connection with his wife is a permanent kind of connection, which should not ever become erased. Just as the Shechinah came to settle permanently upon the Beis HaMikdash, so do a man and woman, when they merit to have Shechinah between them, merit a home which is permanent with each other.
Before the sin, Adam and Chavah were connected to each other just through the Shechinah alone; they didn’t need a home. After the sin, they lost the Shechinah, and now the way that husband and wife connect is only in the home. Therefore, one must view his wife as being a permanent connection, his home, and not as a connection that he ‘happens’ to have. If a husband does not view
37 Taanis 8a
38 Gittin 90a
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his connection with his wife as being a permanent one, this is a degree of thinking about another woman.
Right now, when we live after the sin, we need the home in order to have connection between husband and wife. Therefore, Shechinah can only come to the home when there is love between them. In the future, when we will return to the level of before the sin, the Shechinah alone will be enough to connect man and women together, and then the Shechinah will be forever.
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8 | Internalizing Shovavim
We have been explaining the different ways how to rectify the sins of Shovavim, with the help of Hashem.39 However, we have only learned about it on a purely intellectual level, and now we have to
act upon these matters as well. We must “learn in order to act.”39F
There are many well-known methods of how a person achieves a tikkun (soul rectification) on damaging the Bris Kodesh.41 There are various intentions one can have and recite (“kavanos”); there are methods of fasting, of giving tzedakah, of increasing one’s Torah learning, of abstaining from various desires, etc. Each method of tikkun has its proper time and place when it should be used, as is written in Koheles42, “Everything in its time.”
However, upon a deep understanding, we should know that there are two paths [in how we improve in our service to Hashem.] One path is to work with time, and the other path is to work with our soul.
The first method is that a person serves Hashem based on certain times of the year; he utilizes the Yomim Tovim as his plan to serve Hashem. But this is an incorrect approach, and of him, it cannot really be said “He who sanctifies Yisrael and the times.” We sanctify time through Yom Tov, but it is not because we are dependent on the times of Yomim Tovim to be able to serve Hashem; rather, it is because we are above time, and therefore, we are able to sanctify time. Our souls are above time.
When a person plans out his Avodas Hashem (serving the Creator, through self-improvement) according to certain “times” of the year [Yomim Tovim], he is actually lowering his soul in the process, because time is at a lower plane than our soul. [On an even more subtle note, he becomes lowered than time as well, because when he is dependent on certain times in order to serve Hashem better, he becomes a receiver of time, and then his growth will only be limited to those times].
The inner way to serve Hashem is to work with our soul. If a person doesn’t work with his soul, then what will happen is that when it comes Rosh HaShanah, he will work to better himself on a certain point, and then he will work on something else after Rosh HaShanah. Then he will work on a different point when it comes Sukkos, and then when it comes Chanukah, he will work on another point. Then comes Shovavim and he will try to now work on another point, and then when it comes
39 This short segment is the conclusion of five classes given by the author on the topic of “Shovavim”, based on Aneinu L’Reshash: they consist of the audio classes Shovavim 002, 003, 004, 005 and 006. The author gave different methods of tikkun (soul rectification) for each of the five sins that need to be repaired during Shovavim (the weeks from parshas Shemos through Mishpatim). The five sins (listed by the Reshash) are: sinful thoughts, adultery, homos-uality (this particular audio class has been adapted into English for the Bilvavi website, under the title “Shovavim Today”), wasted spittle, and prolonging one’s bris.
40 Kiddushin 40b
41 “Damaging the bris”, p’gam bris, is the sin of spilling one’s sperm, chas v’shalom.
42 Koheles 3:1
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Purim, he will try working on a different point, etc. To make things even more detrimental, the 30 days before each Yom Tov are already a time to begin working on the points of the upcoming Yom Tov, and often this coincides with other points he’s trying to work on. It then will get very confusing, as a person will be working to improve on different points at once.
We must realize that we cannot serve Hashem based on certain times of the year. That is a downfall to our souls. (On a deep note, before the sin, Adam was above time, and after he sinned, he fell to the level of time). The various special times of the year [Yomim Tovim, and other auspicious times] are to be viewed as a bridge between our soul and our body – in other words, the special times of the year might be higher than our physical body, but they are still lower than our soul.
If a person doesn’t work with his soul and only is focused on his body, then his Avodas Hashem will be dependent on certain auspicious times of the year. But if he uses the inner approach, which is to work with his soul, then he goes above time, and he won’t be dependent on time in order to better his service to Hashem.
Therefore, it is not possible to give a plan for what to work on for each week of the month: “This week we will work on this point of our Avodas Hashem, and next week we will work to improve on another point in our Avodas Hashem…” [It doesn’t work]. You can’t try to reach a certain tikkun for your soul one week and then try working on a different tikkun the next week; and surely this is true with regards to how we serve Hashem on a daily basis, that we cannot work on tikkun today and on a different tikkun the next day. [Avodas Hashem doesn’t work like that.]
Avodas Hashem really means to have a general plan. That plan is: Torah brings us to become more careful in keeping the mitzvos, and being careful will bring us to be more enthusiastic about mitzvos, etc.43 When we learn about how to improve in this way, we must incorporate what we are learning into how we serve Hashem. But as we said, we cannot serve Hashem based on the auspicious times of the year, as we cannot jump around working on one point to the next.
Therefore, since the main way of serving Hashem is when we work with our soul, all souls are different, and there is thus no one method of tikkun which applies to all people. The purpose of these classes on Shovavim was so that each of us can take out lessons from it that apply to us on our own personal level; that from the knowledge contained here, each person should figure out which of the information should be carried out practically in his life. As the Sages say, “A wise person understands from his own.”44
If a person just reads these tikkunim on Shovavim we have presented, without trying to figure out which of this can apply to him on a practical level, then maybe he’ll get reward for learning this as Torah…but that’s it.
43 The author is referring to learning sefer Mesillas Yesharim, which gives us a step-by-step plan for growth: Torah, zehirus, zerizus, nekiyus, etc.
44 Chagigah 11b
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May Hashem grant us that we should each merit to perfect ourselves on this world, that we should remove all the impurity from upon us and reveal our neshamah, which will in turn reveal Hashem within ourselves.
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9 | Satisfying Yourself 45
“Kol”: Revealing Your Ability To Have “Everything” In You
It is written, “And Moshe said, so said Hashem, at about midnight, I will go out, in the midst of Egypt.” Why did Hashem have to come precisely at midnight? The word for midnight is “chatzos”, from the word “chatzi”, halfway, which implies something partial and thus incomplete. The opposite of something partial is when it is complete: when it is kol, “everything”. Yaakov Avinu possessed the quality called kol, of feeling that he had everything, for he said, “I have everything.” [He felt complete from within himself].
[To further illustrate this concept], the six days of the week were each “partial”, for on each day, more of the Creation was created. It represents the concept of chatzos, for it was partial, half. But Shabbos represents the concept of kol, when “everything” is here. Hashem “finished” the Creation on Shabbos, for Creation was complete then; everything was now complete. Shabbos is the revelation of the concept of kol/everything.
Hashem Coming Into Egypt: The Revelation of “Everything” Within The “Confines”
The redemption from Egypt thus came about through the final plague, which was the death to the firstborns. It came in the midnight; the reason for this is because was that the “partial” was being nullified, and in its place, “everything” was revealed. “At about midnight, I will go out in the midst of Egypt” – The “I” of Hashem was revealed then – and that is kol, everything.
It is precisely within the Egypt that the “I” of Hashem went out, to show that even within the worst confines, “everything” can be revealed and banish away all the incompleteness. The confines of Egypt represent the limitations placed on us; when we are limited, we cannot be complete. With the plague of the death of the firstborn, however, it was revealed that even within the limitations, perfection and completeness can be revealed: the perfection of HaKadosh Baruch Hu. It was revealed then that all of the limitations and confines on us are only external; in the inner dimension, there is only HaKadosh Baruch Hu, Who is kol – everything.
The Ultimate Rectification For Damaging The ‘Yesod’
The sefarim hakedoshim revealed that the reason why we had to endure the Egyptian exile was to rectify the 130 years after Adam’s sin, in which he separated from Chavah; during that time, [sperm
בלבבי משכן אבנה ח”ה – עמ’ רלה-רלו (מאמר נא) 45
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left his body]
46, and thus his trait of Yesod (“foundation”: guarding your personal holiness) was damaged; and Yesod is also known as kol – everything, so we needed to get back our aspect of “kol.”
The rectification began with Yosef HaTzaddik when he first went down to Egypt, and he was tested in the area of Yesod (guarding his personal holiness.) At the end of the exile of Egypt, the aspect of Yesod/Kol/everything was once again revealed in its pure and complete form.
Thus, the death of the firstborn was an end to the “chatzos”, to the “partial” level of man in which man is limited and confined; and in its place came the revelation of the level of kol, “everything”, the perfected level of man [when man realizes that he contains in himself ‘everything’ he needs]. The end to the exile of Egypt was now completely realized, and the Jewish people could now be redeemed.
The trait of Yesod (guarding one’s personal holiness) is referred to in the statement of Chazal about the desires of one’s evil inclination, that “There is a small organ in a man’s body. If you satisfy it, you starve it; if you starve it, you satisfy it.”47 The deeper understanding of Chazal’s words is as follows: “Starving” the male organ is really a revelation of one’s Yesod, for man’s Yesod is parallel to the concept of “Kol”, “everything.” Because when a person realizes he has everything inside of him, he knows that he lacks for anything [and thus he will not be seeking anything outside of himself, so he will not seek to satisfy his male drives].
In other words, “starving” your physical lusts doesn’t mean that you force yourself to simply “starve” it. Rather, it means to reveal your aspect of completion within yourself; to realize that you lack for nothing. Because your Yesod implies that you really contain everything you need inside of yourself – for Yesod, by its very essence, is your all-inclusive aspect.
Understand this well…
46 Eruvin 18b
47 Sukkah 52a
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