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Today and Not Tomorrow!

By Tzvi Fishman
1/5/2010, 12:00 AM

Every week, Israel’s former Chief Rabbi, HaRav Rav Mordechair Eliahu, shlita, puts out a Torah bulletin for Shabbat, called “Kol Tzofiyech,” which is distributed to synagogues throughout the country. Rabbi Eliahu has long been one of the outstanding halachic authorities in Israel. During his prolong illness, his son, Rabbi Shmuel Eliahu, the Chief Rabbi of Safed, has been delivering the weekly satellite-broadcast lecture upon which the Torah bulletin is based.  The recent lecture is on the six-week period of “Shovavim” which begins this week. We can see from the importance that Rabbi Eliahu places on “Shovavim” that it is not something limited to a few fringe Hasidic communities, but an important and worthwhile practice for Jews everywhere.

May the learning of the laws and customs of “Shovavim,” that we are translating (in a condensed version) from the bulletin, bring a blessing of health and complete and speedy recovery to HaRav Eliahu (HaRav Mordechai Tzemach ben Mazal), along with all of the other ailing people in Israel. Amen.

(Excerpted from the bulletin)


During the next six Torah readings, we will be re-experiencing the liberation of the Jewish People from the exile Egypt and from the 49th level of impurity to which we had sunk, to the great elevation of reaching the 49th level of purity and the 50th gate with the giving of the Torah. The revered Sage, the Shlah HaKadosh, states that this period is a time of intensified tshuva for the Jewish People, as our earlier and later Sages have written. The hardships which we suffered in Egypt came to cleanse us in the purifying furnace of the exile. So too today, during the “Shovavim” period, we strive for a greater purity from the transgressions which have blemished our souls. The famous Kabbalist, the Arizal, states that the Shovavim period comes to purify us particularly from sexual transgressions, known as blemishes to the Brit. It is thus a period in rectification, known as “Tikun HaBrit” and "Tikun HaYesod."

Just as every year on Pesach we are called to look upon ourselves as if we too had escaped from Egypt, we are also called upon to cleanse ourselves of the terrible impurity that characterized Egypt’s immoral culture. In the time of Moshe, there were people who protested against the holy lifestyle that the newly-formed Nation of Israel was called upon to lead. They longed to return to the immorality of Egypt, and in fact, were not permitted to travel on to the Holy Land. These people cried in the doorways of their tents over the Torah laws which restricted sexual conduct to married couples only. They didn’t want to give up the immoral practices of Egypt’s perverted culture.

This same immoral culture spread out from Egypt over the world and its influences are very prevalent until this day. The dominion of the nations of the world over Israel stems from this sordid source, and only when we expel this polluted culture from our midst, will Israel gain its rightful prominence. Sexual immorality was the mainstay of Egyptian culture - men married men, and women married women, and one woman took two husbands (Rambam, Laws of Illicit Sexual Relations, 21:8). This licentious behavior is what the Torah means when it tell us: “Do not conduct yourselves after the doings of the land of Egypt” (Vayikra, 18:3). And this is the moral, physical, and spiritual pollution that we are to purify ourselves from during the weeks of Shovavim, both men and women alike.         

Twice each day, in the paragraph of the Shema dealing with tzitzit, we say that Hashem took us out of Egypt to sanctify us, with special emphasis on our hearts and eyes: “Thou shall not follow after your heart and your eyes which lead you astray.” After your heart is referring to thoughts of sexual licentiousness. After your eyes refers to seeing forbidden images. For these things impair a person’s holiness and go against the goal of our leaving Egypt – to become a holy nation dedicated to serving Hashem.


The great Sage, the Orach HaChaim HaKadosh, explains why this cleansing is dependent on guarding one’s eyes and one’s thoughts. “It is known that all of the commandments which Hashem has given to His holy nation are matters that we can do and which follow after the will to do them. One exception is separating oneself from illicit sexual conduct which a man’s nature pulls him toward with an overpowering lust if he doesn’t guard himself from two matters: seeing sexually inciting images and thinking sexual thoughts. If a man doesn’t guard himself from these two things, he cannot overcome and escape the ruling passions that stem from them. And if he tastes even a little of this poison, he will be a slave to his lusts” (on Vayikra, 18:2).

One of the greatest dangers today of falling prey to these base passions is via the Internet. Thus, the first rectification during the days of Shovavim is to rectify this damaging agent. If someone has Internet in his home and does not have a filter that prevents entering forbidden sites, and seeing erotic images, he or she must correct this immediately before any other tikun. This includes cancelling access to Internet via cell phones. Everyone must make sure that these steps are taken. Everyone! Today and not tomorrow!

[The remainder of Rabbi Eliahu’s discussion on Shovavim, including rules for not-eating fasts, and for not-speaking fasts, and other important rectifications, is posted on our website.]

So you see – it’s not just a former Hollywood screenwriter who’s encouraging you to grab the opportunity, but also the respected Chief Rabbi of Safed.