Menachem Sprei - What is Shovavim
You might have heard about the concept called “Shovavim” and sometimes “Shovavim-Tat” I would like to explain it to you.
Firstly, the name comes from the first letters of the Parshiot [weekly Torah portion] which are read during this time Sh’emot V’aera B’o B’eshlach Y’isro M’ishpatim T’eruma T’etzave. These 8 weeks referred to as Shovavim-Tat
According to the Arizal, Shovavim always includes the two last Parshiot.
These Parshiot have in them the story of Yetziat Metzrayim [Exodus], Kabbalat Hatorah [receiving of the Torah], and the building of the Mishkan.
According to Kabbalah, this story represents the coming out of the sparks of holiness from within the Klipa, the side of evil. The Jewish nation represents the sparks of holiness. They were swallowed up inside Mitzrayim and came out. So too the sparks of holiness come out of the Klipa. The receiving of the Torah and the building of the Mishkan represent those sparks going higher and closer to Hashem
There are sparks of holiness that are spread out throughout the world. One of our main jobs here in this world is to bring them back to the side of Holiness. This process is called Birur or in plural Birurim. Why are there sparks of holiness in the Klipa?
Allow me to elaborate a little bit to get to the answer.
Every person has a Yetzer HaTov [good inclination] and a Yetzer HaRa [evil inclination]. These two opposing forces pull a person in opposite directions. One towards doing good and self-improvement and the other towards doing evil and acting in a self-serving way.
It might seem that you are a bit schizophrenic [DID] and have two parts of yourself, but the truth of the matter is that you have one soul. The soul can be in one of the two sides. The side of Kedusha [good] or the side of Klipa [bad]. Most of us are not completely on either side, but part of your soul is in the side of Kedusha and part of your soul is in the side of Klipa.
The desire to do good comes from the part of your soul which is in Kedusha. The desire to do bad comes from the part of your soul which is in Klipa.
Every time we do a mitzvah [good deed] we bring our soul more towards the side of Kedusha. Every time we do a sin we bring our soul more towards the side of Klipa.
The sparks of holiness which are in the Klipa the parts of our soul that are in the Klipa.
The Arizal prescribes a certain amount of fasts as a rectification for your soul. For each sin, there is a specific amount of fast days. For instance, for the sin of spilling seed is 84 fast days. For the sin of anger is 151 fast days.
Why do fast days help? How do they bring the parts of your soul out of the Klipa?
We can use a parable of an ocean to help us explain this.
Every person has two states of being, two mindsets. One is called Mochun D’gadlut. This is the expanded consciousness. This is higher and better. The other is called Mochin D’katnut. This is the contracted consciousness. It is lower than Mochin D’gadlut. Each person has both of these and is operating through both.
Imagine that you are floating on top of the ocean.
What is keeping you afloat is Mochin D’Gadlut. This keeps you above the water in the world of the light. Without the Mochin D’gadlut, you would only have the Mochin D’katnut and would sink into the dark ocean, the world of Klipa.
When you fast, you remove the Mochin D’gadlut and are left with only the Mochin D’katnut. When this happens you begin to sink into the ocean…
But, there are two ways to go into the ocean. One way is to fall in and possibly drown [G-d forbid]. Another way is to go in with scuba gear, prepared and ready to meet the challenges of the ocean and to bring treasure out.
During fasting, because you are prepared to enter the ocean, you are going into the ocean with scuba gear. A diver diving for treasure.
The parts of your soul that are trapped in the Klipa are the treasure that you are diving for. The deeper you dive and the more you dive, the more treasure you can pull out. Also the better gear you have the more treasure you can pull out.
That is why there is a specific amount of fasts for each sin. This is because for each sin there is a certain amount of sparks of your soul that were sent into the Klipa with the sin. When you fast, you dive in and bring out the sparks.