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The Source of Life

By Tzvi Fishman
4/3/2009, 12:00 AM

Before beginning the search for chametz on the night before Pesach, we scatter 10 pieces of bread, or cookies, or crackers, around the house. The practice was instituted by the master Kabbalist, the Arizal, so those of you who are frightened or ignorant of the secrets of Torah - beware!

Rabbi Leon Levi

The saintly Kabbalist, Rabbi Leon Levi, explains that the ten pieces of chamatz represent the 10 levels of spiritual impurity (kelipot) in the world, corresponding to the 10 sons of the wicked Haman. Chametz symbolizes the evil inclination in man (the yetzer hara) which we are to uproot from our lives before the start of the holiday. We should have this goal in mind when we burn the chametz in our pre-Pesach bonfires. To help people attain this lofty aspiration, most prayer books contain a Kabbalistic prayer which is beneficial to say after the burning.

Pre-Pesach class

“Nevertheless,” Rabbi Levi said this morning to a group of 300 married Torah scholars, “many people deceive themselves into thinking that by burning their chametz they have finished the job, when in fact their homes are still filled with destructive spiritual forces and kelipot which they themselves have created in their bedrooms by succumbing to the wiles of the yetzer hara.   

In simple terms, our good deeds create good angels, or positive spiritual forces, and our transgressions create bad angels, or negative spiritual forces.

Therefore, Rabbi Levi stressed, before burning one’s chametz, a person should recite special prayers, called “tikunim,” which are designed to deepen a person’s repentance and combat evil spiritual forces – the impure kelipot that he has created by his transgressions.

Tikunim do not come to replace the standard requirements of repentance, which include confessing ones sins before G-d, heartfelt regret over them, and a commitment not to repeat them in the future. Rather, Tikunim are additional ammunition in the battle against the yetzer hara which can help a person wipe out spiritual stains and blemishes that are difficult to rectify. This is especially true in the case of spilling semen in vain (zera l’batelah) which results from an assortment of sexual transgressions. Wasting and misusing sexual energy is like desecrating a Torah Scroll, Rabbi Levi explained, because contained in the zera are the 22 letters of the Torah that G-d used to create the world.  

22 Chromosomes

Without going into details, note the same number of 22 chromosomes in the photo, and the resemblance between the DNA double-helix and the “Tree of Kabbalah.”

DNA Double Helix
Hebrew letters and Kabbalistic Diagram

Tikunim like Rebbe Nachman’s “Tikun HaKlali,” Rabbi Aharon Rota’s “Tikun HaYesod,” the “Tikun HaYesod” of the Ben Eish Chai, and Rabbi Leon Levi’s “Tikun HaYesod Yeshuat Eliahu,” are structured to help a person understand the extent and gravity of his transgression, and to rectify the souls that were lost through the spilling of seed in vain. This is because G-d infuses every drop of semen with a soul.

Myriads of souls are lost with every transgression

This holy soul is a living vitality of its own, the source of life, cherished by G-d, who has commanded us not to waste it in pursuit of selfish personal pleasure. In addition, each soul possesses the potential to develop into a complete human being. For this reason, the Shulchan Aruch, the code of Jewish Law, states that masturbation is the gravest transgression (Shulchan Aruch, Even HaEzer, 23:2). Each microscopic drop of semen is more than a “potential” life – it is already a living soul (Niddah 13A).

The gravest transgression

In addition to helping a person undertake a sincere and heartfelt course of repentance, Tikunim contain Kabbalistic codes that are designed to rescue the lost souls from the realm of the kelipot and return them to their Heavenly source, making a person’s t’shuva complete, and erasing the spiritual blemishes he caused to himself, his family, and G-d’s creation.

The seed of life

All of these matters can be found in the writings of the Arizal. We follow his advice when it comes to the 10 pieces of chametz that we scatter around the house. Why not follow his teachings and the teachings of our holy Sages during the burning of chametz too?