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Even the Most Religious

By Tzvi Fishman
1/12/2009, 12:00 AM

The six week period of “Shovavim” is the time most suited for repentance over sexual transgressions. The period begins this week with the commencement of “Shemot,” the second book of the Torah, and ends the week of the Torah portion “Mishpatim.”

Posters on billboards all over Israel are announcing the times and places of special “Shovavim” gatherings, where special prayers are recited designed to cleanse a person of sexual misdeeds. One of Israel’s leading Kabbalists, Rabbi David Batrzi, writes on his “Shovavim” poster:

"As is known, the verse,  ‘There is no righteous person who does good and does not sin' (Kohelet, 7:20) is referring to the area of sexual transgressions, which give birth to destructive spiritual forces which pursue a person to his great harm, both in this world and the next. Nearly all of the tribulations, sufferings, wars, illnesses, plagues, and poverty that come upon a person – all derive from sexual transgression (Pagam HaBrit)”.

Many religious couples think that they don’t have to repent for sexual transgressions because they lead perfectly kosher lives. However, the fact is, in this matter, even the most Orthodox of couples can succumb to the wiles of the evil inclination. As our Sages have taught, “No one is immune from sexual sin.” For this reason, Kabbalists stress that special care must be taken in this area of our lives.

In his writings on “Shovavim” the saintly Tzanz-Klausberg Rebbe, leader of the Tzanz Hasidic community, and founder of the Lanyado Medical Center in Netanya, stressed that even married men and Torah scholars must make a concerted effort to repent during the "Shovavim" period ("Halichot Chaim," Holidays and Seasons, Chapter on "Shovavim").

Every week, people with all kinds of problems come to speak with the elder Kabbalist, Rabbi Leon Levi, seeking salvation and advice. You would be surprised to discover – just as they are – that in a great many cases, the source of their troubles, whether it be illness, livelihood problems, marriage difficulties, or unruly children, stem from sexual transgression. At first, many deny that they are guilty of sexual wrongdoing, but confronted with the Rabbi’s spiritual radar, they break down and admit their errant ways. By turning away from transgression and setting out on a healthier spiritual life, their salvation is often just around the corner.

Rabbi Eliahu Leon Levi

To cite a few examples, recently a religious couple came for advice about a dangerous medical problem. Rabbi Leon told them that he “saw” that they were lax in their guarding the laws of family purity. Both the husband and wife adamantly denied it. Nevertheless, the Rabbi maintained his assertion. Finally, he asked if they separated their beds when the wife was in her niddah-menstrual period. The wife said, no, but that they didn’t touch one another at all. The Rabbi reminded them of a story in the Talmud where an angry wife comes before the Sages to protest the sudden death of her husband, a righteous, Torah scholar. It turns out that they slept in the same bed when the wife had not yet completed the seven clean, safety days after her menstrual bleeding had stopped, and the Sages strongly condemned their behavior, even though they didn’t engage in relations during that time (Shabbat 13A).

On another occasion, a man who was steadily losing his vision, came to the Rabbi, hoping for a miracle cure. Rabbi Leon explained that looking at forbidden pictures causes damage to the brain and the eyes, may Hashem have mercy. At first the man denied it, but when the Rabbi offered to go outside with him to check the trunk of his car and the stash of dirty magazines hidden there, the man broke down and admitted his evil habit.

Another time, a couple appeared before the Rabbi with their three young children, all of whom were born mute. They wanted a miracle so that their children could speak. When the Rabbi explained the source of the problem, suddenly the husband and wife became silent themselves. The husband was wont to kiss his wife’s private place, and that was why their children couldn’t speak.

The point is that even nice religious people have to do t’shuva. The six week period of “Shovavim” is the perfect time. If not now, when?

[An all-night “Shovavim” tikun with Rabbi Leon Levi will take place this Thursday night at the Challalay Tzahal Synagogue in Holon, 7 Savingon Street, starting at 11pm.]