Shovvavim Period

The Kabbalists reveal that the six week period that begins with the Parasha of Shemot and ends with the Parasha of Mishpatim is a period of potential Teshuvah for any errors created by us in the Sefirah of Yesod.

Shovvavim is an acronym for six Parashiot. The six Parashiot of the period of shovvavim are:

Shemot שמות ;

Va'Era ו ארא ;

Bo בא ;

Beshallach בשלח ;

Yitro יתרו ;

Mishpatim משפטים .

The bold Hebrew letters spell Shovvavim שובבים .

Shovvavim is a Hebrew word that translates as a mischievous child. i ask you to contemplate why would the Kabbalists use this acronym for this particular period of time. It usually starts in the middle of Capricorn and ends before the month of Adar. The more you learn about these months and these Parashiot will help you achieve the Tikune connected to this period. We will speak more of this below.

In the Tanach, Shovvavim is written twice. Both times it is in Jeremiah Chapter 3. (Once in Verse 14 and once in verse 22.) Both times it is being translated as faithless yet has the connotation of a mischievous child. This is a child that is making mistakes, a child who is pushing the limits of his parents' patience and a child who is acting in a faithless manner not listening to the teachings of his parents.

During leap years there are two additional weeks added to the period. These two Parashiot are Terumah תרומה and Tetzaveh תצוה . The acronym is Tat תת. Tat occurs 14 times in the Tanach and has 8 different meanings which are allow, allowing, gave, give, giving, shall give, will give, and when was to be given. Thus, this year the period is known as Shovvavim Tat. i have never heard of an explanation for why these additional two weeks are added in the Leap years. If someone knows why this is i would appreciate an email with the explanation.

Shovvavim has a gematria of 360 and Tat has a gematria of 800 for a total of 1160. 360 is the gematria of the letter Shin when fully spelled out - Shin Yood Nun. This indicates the idea of the passion being acted out by the mischievous child. Other words that have this gematria are: HaShanah which translates as "The Year;" The name of the city of Shechem; The phrase Covi Boker meaning "morning stars." The Name of God dealing with healing מהשיה also has this gematria. This is teaching us that when we do Teshuvah for creative and sexual improprieties we are creating healing.

800 is a number dealing with the perfection of the Sefirah of Binah meaning Understanding and also Motherhood. Another word with this gematria is Shoresh meaning root or source. This may be the reason that these two weeks are added in a leap year. The astrological sign of Keshet also has a gematria of 800 indicating that the rainbow (alternative meaning to Keshet) is a sign of healing and the phrase Orlot Levavchem which is spoken in Jeremiah 4:4 and has the translation of "foreskins of the hearts."

1160 is a gematria of the word Tanin תנין snake or dragon when using the final letter value. This indicates the perfection of the Satan in the end days.

The Zohar in the Parasha of Kedoshim says:

וְתָּא חֲזֵי, בְּזִמְנָא דְּאִשְׁתְּכַח בַּר נָשׁ בְּזִוּוּגָא חַד דְּכַר וְנוּקְבָּא, וְאִתְכַּוִון לְאִתְקַדְּשָׁא כְּדְקָא יֵאוֹת. כְּדֵין .הוּא שְׁלִים, וְאִקְרֵי אֶחָד בְּלָא פְּגִימוּ בְּגִינֵי כַּךְ, בָּעֵי בַּר נָשׁ לְמֶחְדֵּי לְאִתְּתֵיהּ בְּהַהִיא שַׁעֲתָא, לְזַמְּנָא לָהּ בִּרְעוּתָא חֲדָא עִמֵּיהּ. וְיִתְכַּוְּונוּן תַּרְוַויְיהוּ כְּחַד לְהַהִיא מִלָּה. וְכַד מִשְׁתַּכְּחֵי תַּרְוַויְיהוּ כְּחַד, כְּדֵין כֹּלָּא חַד בְּנַפְשָׁא וּבְגוּפָא. בְּנַפְשָׁא: לְאַדְבְּקָא דָּא בְּדָא בִּרְעוּתָא חֲדָא. וּבְגוּפָא: כְּמָה דְּאוֹלִיפְנָא דְּבַר נָשׁ דְּלָא נָסִיב, הוּא כְּמַאן דְּאִתְפְּלִיג, וְכַד מִתְחַבְּרָן דְּכַר וְנוּקְבָּא, כְּדֵין אִתְעָבִידוּ חַד גּוּפָא. אִשְׁתְּכַח דְּאִינְהוּ חַד נַפְשָׁא, וְחַד גּוּפָא, וְאִקְרֵי בַּר נָשׁ אֶחָד. כְּדֵין קוּדְשָׁא בְּרִיךְ הוּא שָׁארֵי בְּאֶחָד, וְאַפְקִיד רוּחָא דִּקְדוּשָּׁה בְּהַהוּא אֶחָד. וְאִלֵּין אִקְרוּן בְּנִין דְּקוּדְשָׁא בְּרִיךְ הוּא, כְּמָה דְּאִתְּמַר. וּבְגִּינֵי כַּךְ קְדוֹשִׁים תִּהְיוּ כִּי קָדוֹשׁ אֲנִי יְיָ'. זַכָּאִין אִינּוּן יִשְׂרָאֵל דְּלָא אוֹקִים מִלָּה דָּא בַּאֲתַר אָחֳרָא, אֶלָּא בֵּיהּ מַמָּשׁ, דִּכְתִּיב כִּי קָדוֹשׁ אֲנִי יְיָ'. בְּגִין לְאִתְדַּבְּקָא בֵּיהּ, וְלָא בְּאָחֳרָא. וְעַל דָּא קְדוֹשִׁים תִּהְיוּ כִּי קָדוֹשׁ אֲנִי יְיָ' אֱלֹהֵיכֶם

This is translated as:

Come and behold: when a person is in one union, male and female, and aims to sanctify himself properly, then he is perfect and is considered one without defect. For this reason, man needs to bring joy to his wife at that time, [of marital relations] to prepare her with him with one desire. [so she does not feel forced] Both should ready themselves to that matter.

And when both are together, then everything is one in body and soul. In soul: to cling to each other in one wish. In one body: as we learned that a man who does not marry is like a half. When they join male and female, they become one body. Thus, they are one soul, one body, and man is then one. Then the Holy One, blessed be He, dwells in the one and deposits a Holy Spirit in that one. [meaning there flows a Holy Spirit in the fetus which is conceived from them] These are called 'children of the Holy One, blessed be He', as we learned above, and for this reason, "You shall be holy: for I HaShem your God am Holy."

Fortunate are Yisrael for not placing this thing elsewhere, but only to Him, as is written, "for I HaShem your God am Holy," (for only the Holy One, blessed be He is truly called Holy) that His children are to cling to Him only, and to no other. Hence, "You shall be holy: for I HaShem your God am Holy."

This Zohar helps to set the tone for this period of Shovvavim Tat.

Here is an essay from Rabbi Ariel Bar Tzadok on the subject of Shovvavim

Tikkun Shovvavim

Shovavim is the Hebrew term for mischief-makers. Fittingly, the word is also an acronym for the six weekly Torah portions Shemot, Vaera, Bo, Beshelah, Yitro and Mishpatim. The reading of these portions fall within the two Hebrew months of Tevet and Shevat. This period is considered auspicious for fasting and the rectification of the sins of character weakness (most notably sexual sins).

There are many different types of traditions associated with these weeks, yet they are all for similar purpose- this being teshuvah and tikune. The general sin which almost everyone is guilty of is one form or another of sexual impropriety. This can mean forbidden relations or behaviors on one’s own part, or even the mere thoughts that we allow ourselves to think.

Our Sages and especially the Masters of the Kabbalah emphasize that sexual blemishes are the greatest stains upon the soul and serve to create great distance between our Creator and ourselves. (chanoch adds: This period of Shovavim is a good period to do Teshuvah for sexual mistakes; it also needs to be done during the period of Elul as well.) Yet it is never enough just to proclaim our remorse or desire to repent. A change of attitude must accompany our statements of remorse. Repentance must be taken to heart and acted upon with true sincerity not just filed away as a mere academic performance.

Honest change in one’s internal character only comes about when one first changes one’s external behavior. Change seldom arises independently from within; we must often help it along. We are admonished by Rabbi Meir in Pirkei Avot to do the right thing even for the wrong reasons, for in the end doing the right thing even for the wrong reasons will transform us internally to do the right thing for the right reasons. The actions change the attitude, not the other way around.

As important as it is for one to change one’s behavior, changing attitudes is most important. Even when we are doing the right things we must still look deep within ourselves to address our improper thoughts, attitudes, and desires. Comprehensively changing what one does can only come about through a cultivation and expression of inner strength, discipline, and moral character. Remorse and apologies mean nothing so long as one continues to repeat offensive behavior. Shovavim is a time for us to not only change undesirable behavior but also to reflect within one’s heart upon the reasons why one has chosen wanton ways and what one can do to better oneself to no longer weakly choose to embrace foolish choices.

chanoch's Commentary

Note the hint to Binding by Striking. When we have the internal conversation as part of stopping our reactions we learn what aspect of our internal nature we want to change. Also the more one attempts to make change, the more one is likely to achieve that change.

Teshuvah means to turn away from one’s wanton behavior and to choose what is good. Tikune takes this one step further. Tikune means to repair and correct which leads towards completion and perfection. It is not enough that one no longer creates further damage, one must also make repair of the damage that one has already caused. This is the meaning of taking responsibility for one’s actions. Only when one does what needs be done to make repairs for what one has broken can it be said that one indeed has turned from their former ways and has made teshuvah.

Rectification of sexual blemishes must be accomplished in two different ways. First, one must repair the spiritual damage caused by one’s deeds. This is done by reciting certain prayers, meditations, and by fasting. The second, yet primary method of rectification is that one must address one’s personal weaknesses and character flaws that led one to stumble into the forbidden behavior in the first place. Unless one learns strength of character and addresses the heart of the problem within oneself, no amount of spiritual work will make tikune and allow one to avoid reincarnation.

To state it simply, unless one can first rectify the source of blemish within one’s character, the results of those blemishes in both the physical and spiritual world cannot be rectified and wiped clean. Let no one misunderstand this; our entire Torah is based upon this principle.

Concerning traditional observances of this period one of the most popular is the observance of fasting. Torah tradition defines a fast as total abstinence from any and all food and drink (including water) from the moment of dawn (when the rays of the sun are first seen on the horizon) until dusk (when the last rays of the sun fall below the horizon). During these winter months when the days are short such a fast day may only last for ten or so hours. As such, a fast of such brevity is relatively easy for most and therefore can be observed by many.

While abstaining from food and drink is one way of showing one’s remorse for wanton behavior, the fast also serves another more spiritual purpose. The burning of body fat is considered an offering of oneself to G-d. Thus, the concept of fasting as being an offering to G-d has more than just symbolic meaning. What was offered as sacrifice on the ancient Temple altar was the fat and blood of the animal. When we fast our bodies are still naturally burning calories. There is no intake of food to replenish what is burned up. And as is medically known, what is burned up first is usually the fat. Therefore, by fasting the natural fire of one’s body burns one’s fat (and thus blood along with it). One’s fasting therefore is not just a symbolical action, but an actual offering of fat and blood just as it was on the ancient altar.

During the six-week period, the tradition has developed to fast on the Mondays and Thursdays (the days when the Torah is read in the Synagogue). Fasting is not acceptable on the Shabbat). Therefore for the six weeks, for two days each week for a total of twelve days, one will fast from dawn until dusk (as described above). Yet the mere abstinence from food and drink is not enough. The fast must be focused and performed as a means of mini-atonement for one’s blemishes. This focus is brought about through the special prayers and meditations performed on these days.

There are a number of special Shovavim prayer books available that have a full array of prayers. This is neither the time nor place to enumerate these practices. Please contact your local Jewish bookseller if you are interested in acquiring a copy. The traditional Sephardic Shovavim prayer book is entitled Marpeh L’Nefesh (To Heal the Soul). This book will outline for you the various prayers and other traditions of this period.

During this period there is also observed a special type of fast called a Ta'anit Dibbur (see below). This is not a fast from food and drink; it is a fast from speaking. The tradition has evolved that for one day from dawn till dusk, one does not speak any superfluous speech. Rather one speaks only the words of one’s daily prayers and that is all. The day is passed doing something that is considered to be a very powerful spiritual tool for rectifying one’s sins. Usually observed on a Shabbat after morning prayers and breakfast, the entire congregation gathers in the Synagogue to perform the special tikune.

The special Tikune of the Ta’anit Dibbur is the recitation of the entire book of Psalms (all 150 of them), three times (for a total reading of 450 Psalms). The entire congregation reads all the Psalms; they are not divided up. This reading, at an average pace will take almost ten hours. This takes up the entire day. The readings begin after breakfast and should end in time for afternoon Mincha prayers. In the traditional Shovavim prayer books there are also additional prayers recited both before and after the readings centered on the matters of the day.

The months of Tevet and Shevat when Shovavim occur are said to be astrological times of difficulty for the Jewish people in general. These months are a type of astrological “Murphy’s Law” period, meaning that if there is a given opportunity for something to go wrong it will and at the worst possible time. This does not mean in any way that things are destined to go wrong during this time and that we have no control over matters. Those with knowledge of true astrology as defined by Torah know that astrological influences only reveal potentials but can never predict anything actual. Anyone using astrology to generate predictions violates the Torah commands of idolatry. Nothing is set and definite in life other than the Will of HaShem.

Tevet and Shevat exert a negative astrological influence, but this force of negativity (dinim) can only become manifest if and when one’s reckless behavior creates a doorway for it to materialize. If we act in ways that violate Holy Torah, we create the opportunity for negative things to manifest in the worst of ways and in this most negative of times. Therefore if something bad happens now, it is not because Heaven ordained it so, but rather because we were not careful enough to have avoided its coming.

In conclusion, how one chooses to observe the days of Shovavim is entirely up to the individual. There are absolutely no Halakhic requirements herein other than the perennial mitzvah of teshuvah. Although one is not necessarily obligated to observe the traditions of this time, it is still a wise, meritorious and spiritually helpful thing to do. One should consult with one’s local Rav for specific information and details what you as an individual can do and what your community as a whole can do.

If your Rav is not Sephardi or is not educated in the traditional Sephardi ways, he may not be familiar with all the Shovavim traditions. Do not let him off the hook or tell you not to pay attention to Shovavim traditions. Shovavim traditions are not observed exclusively by Sephardim. A number of Chasidim also are aware of the importance of these days and guard them wisely. Make your local Rav do his homework, and direct you and your congregation is the ways of public communal Shovavim teshuvah. In this way we all draw together as a body and we assist one another in change. Most important we bring tikune to ourselves and to the community at large and help bring the coming of Mashiach ever closer.

Whether or not your community will adopt Shovavim traditions, you as an individual should. Whether or not one can fast depends on many factors. Just remember the fast is a means to an end and not an end unto itself. A fast is supposed to assist us in focusing on the important factors within ourselves that need to be addressed and changed. One can do this without fasting.

From a Kabbalistic point of view fasting certainly helps refine the soul and atone for one’s sins. One who is able to conduct one’s daily affairs regularly while fasting should do so. Yet, while fasting brings teshuvah, tikune is only achieved by change- real change of behavior and real internal change of attitude. During these days of Shovavim focus on change.

Shovvavim 5777

In the year 5777 Shovvavim begins the evening of Motzei Shabbat 23 Tevet, January 21, 2017. The opportunity for Tikune ends 6 weeks later at sundown 29 Shevat February 25, 2017. Notice that the period has 6 Shabbats and the last week ends at the beginning of that Shabbat Mishpatim which is Parasha Mishpatim.

We at Yeshshem will be performing a Ta'Anit Debur each day during our Zohar class. We will be speaking the words of the Psalms along with the Zohar portion during that time. If you want to join us in that process we will send a text announcing the time of our study on the day of the study.

Fasting and Charity

The Ba'al Shem Tov teaches that our generation is considered a weak generation. A weak generation is unable to fast extensively. It is ok for an individual to perform the 5 proscribed fasts which are:

  1. The fast of Gedalia;
  2. Yom Kippur;
  3. Fast of the 10th of Tevet;
  4. Fast of Esther;
  5. Fast on the 17th of Tammuz; and
  6. Fast of Tisha B'Av.

Other fasts are voluntary and it is best in a weak generation to give Tzedakah/Tithing - Charity for each day of fast. Please see below.

Fasting

If you decide to fast during this period it is important to realize that your fast must be announced the afternoon prior to the fast. This is done by making a statement out loud to the universe, "Tomorrow i will fast from Sunrise to Sunset. This fast will include having no drink or food during this period."

AS YOUR TEACHER I RECOMMEND THAT YOU DO NOT FAST BUT EMPLOY OTHER METHODS OF TESHUVAH DURING THIS PERIOD.

How much should one give per day?

Various Sages teach different amounts for different categories of people. If it is not difficult to give the amount you are choosing to donate (meaning it is within your comfort zone) then it is considered tithing. If it is difficult and it is given to a Truly Poor Person (See Tzedakah Handout), then it is considered Tzedakah and is eliminating any negative degrees facing the individual.

How many coins/dollars should be given for each error?

Various Sages have expressed different amounts for different errors. When a consensus is reached for a specific error the amount is listed below. If i do not know the amount it is not listed. If you want to correct one of these errors please call me to discuss it and i will give you a tool to determine the amount that is appropriate for you.

The errors relate to the Mitzvoth so below is a list of Mitzvot that seem to create blemishes in the Sefirah of Yesod:

  1. Wasting Seed:

    For Men: The most well-known error. What is not well known is that in earlier generations there was training for teenage males to avoid this problem. In our generation this training is not done. Therefore, this can be considered that the man is being coerced- although at a low level of coercion. The general consensus is 84 coins/dollars. Some commentaries say this amount is for every incident. Yet my understanding of Teshuvah is that when HaShem agrees to testify that this man will not do that action again the 84 coins/dollars is the final action.

    For Women: Wasting seed happens when a woman ovulates and does not get pregnant. There is judgment associated with this from the Curse of HaShem to Eve. Fasting days will minimize the pain associated with the loss of a potential child that this represents. We do not have a consensus from the Sages. (Some women have severe pain during their period while others have significantly less. Some women have difficult childbirths and other times it is less difficult. There are reasons for this and fast days especially a Ta'Anit Debur will sweeten this type of judgment in my opinion.)

  2. Sexual intercourse during menstruation.

    For Men: Sleeping with a menstruating woman or a woman in the Nidah period. We do not have a consensus for the number of fasts.

    For Women: Allowing a man to sleep with her while being a Nidah. There is no consensus for the number of fasts.

  3. Failure to circumcise.

    For Men only: Failure to circumcise a male child. 612 coins/dollars. No obligation for a woman.

  4. Failure to put on Tzitzit on 4 corner garments.

    For Men only: This is not about failure to wear a Tzitzit. There is no obligation for a woman. 613 coins/dollars.

  5. Forbidden Sexual Relations for both Men and Women. No consensus from the Sages.
  6. Not to indulge in evil thoughts or sights - both Men or Women: No consensus from the Sages.

These categories have several Mitzvot as well as there are other Mitzvot that will be added to the list as our study becomes more complete.

Yechudim, Meditations, and Other Corrections to Perform

Some Sages and Kabbalists teach that performing Yichudim and Hebrew Letter Meditations will enhance our connection to this Shovvavim Period and help to provide the tikune that we need.

Yichudim means unification. One example is what we do during the saying of the word Amen. We do the Yichud of bringing the spiritual level down to the physical and creating a unity or bringing the physical level up to the spiritual and creating a unity. We do this with the gematria and our consciousness. The gematria is 91= 65 (the Name Adonai) + 26 (the Name of HaShem). As we know Adonai is the Name of God for the physical world while HaShem is the Name of God for the spiritual levels. 91 Creates the unity or the Yichudim.

Hebrew Letter Meditations strengthen our tool of Meditation. If you are interested in this subject write to me with a question and i will advise you about this issue.

Conclusion

The period of Shovvavim is correcting the creative and sexual mistakes which occur only because we act as a mischievous child. Running after what we want - immediate gratification like a small child. A mischievous child!