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|The Great Tikun of the Bedtime Shema|
|Written by Rabbi Haim Vital|
|Thursday, 16 February 2012|
In the book, “Shaar HaKavanot,” based on the teachings of the Arizal, Rabbi Haim Vital explains, in great detail and depth, one of the most powerful Kabbalistic rectifications of the transgression of spilling semen in vain – the recital of the Bedtime Shema
(See the book, “Shaar HaKavanot,” Teachings Regarding the Night, Drush 7).
To give readers an idea of the depth of the tikun, we are presenting an abridged translation, without the detailed discussions of Kabbalistic formulas and Divine Names that are an integral part of the kavanot (mental intentions) required. Here and there, we will present some of the Kabbalistic terminology, without explaining in depth, to give readers a feel for the ocean of esoteric learning that surrounds the tikun. Nevertheless, we are certain there is great power and benefit in even partially comprehending some of the basic ideas behind the tikun, and that this learning will give readers a highly effective tool in their path of rectification and atonement over the sin of spilling semen in vain. As Rabbi Vital writes:
“It is known that if a man transgresses occasionally, G-d forbid, by willfully spilling his seed in vain (masturbation), or if unwillingly (a nocturnal emission or premature ejaculation), out of this are created destructive spiritual agents, “mazekim,” and “shaadim,” and “ruchin,” and the recital of “Kriat Shema” at bedtime is like a sword which kills them, as the Sages have taught (Berachot 5a) regarding the verse, “The high praises of G-d are in their mouth, and a double-edged sword in the hand” (Tehillim 149:5) that this refers to the recital of the Bedtime Shema, which destroys a great amount of them” (Shaar HaKavanot, Teachings Regarding the Night, Drush 9).
“Shaar HaKavanot,” Teachings Regarding the Night, Drush 7
We have already discussed the matter of Kriat Shema (the recital of the Shema) in the discussion of Kriat Shema of the morning. Also, in the discussion of Kiriat Shema of the evening, we mentioned that the intentions that one should have upon its recital are similar for the day and evening, except for a few differences mentioned there. Concerning the recital of Kriat Shema before bedtime (Kriat Shema Al HaMetah), there should be the added principal intention to rectify and atone for one very grave transgression which prevents a person’s soul from ascending on high to its Creator at night. With this intention (kavanah), a person rectifies a very great deal of his sin, and even though we have already discussed his tikun (rectification) in the 7th Gate, known as “Shaar Ruach HaKodesh,” in the tikun of spilling semen in vain, this tikun of the Bedtime Shema is beneficial in cleansing his sins, so that he won’t enter Gehinom, and so that he will be forgiven for those transgressions. Nonetheless, there is still the need for another great tikun, even more powerful than this, as we will explain now regarding this Kriat Shema – and this is to rectify and restore to life the drops of semen themselves, which were spilled in vain and subsequently engulfed by kelipot (impure husks or shells), and return them to the realm of holiness.
You should know that with every transgression of the Torah, even the most serious, there are none that create actual destructive spiritual agents like with the spilling of semen in vain, as we will explain. For even if a person were to violate all of the prohibited sexual relationships in the Torah, the children (mamzerim) born from such relations have actual bodies in this world. And, in truth, someone who violates other types of sins, destructive spiritual agents (mazekin) attach themselves to him like a garment and act as his accusers. But with someone who spills his seed in vain, the extent of his punishment has no boundaries. Behold, see how the Zohar emphasized this in many places, especially in Parshat V’yichee, saying that all sins could be repented for, but not spilling semen in vain, maintaining that for this there was no atonement, other than with a great and constant repentance, and that this sin prevented the transgressor from seeing the Divine Presence, etc.
The explanation is this - know – the spilling of semen in vain damages the “Daat” (the spiritual center of thinking in the brain and its Heavenly counterparts), since the transgressor transgresses without a receiving vessel (partner) to receive his seed, without even a woman partner who is forbidden to him under the prohibitions of forbidden sexual relations. His punishment is great over this, because he blemishes the “Daat Elyone,” the upper faculty of Knowledge of Abba and Emma (two transcendental spiritual centers in the highest worlds). And, just like his actions are restricted to the male channel without a female (since no woman receives the seed), in a similar way, he brings it about that in the upper worlds, the soul of that drop of emitted semen, that emanates from that transcendental male root (of the Daat Elyone), without being influenced by the female counterpart of Malchut, goes forth into the realm of the “kelipot” (impure husks) that is known as “Kelipat Noga”… and here a destructive force becomes attached to it from the evil female side of this kelipah, and they become like one spiritual body. Thus it turns out that someone who spills semen in vain causes that the drops of semen which contain these souls, that were supposed to come to the world as children, now are taken captive by the Sitra Achra (the Other Side) where they are trapped by spiritual bodies that originate in the realm of the primordial serpent of the adulterous woman. Thus he caused a spiritual reversal, giving holiness to the realm of impurity, and turning good into evil.
Behold, in order to rectify this transgression, it is necessary that those impure spiritual bodies which house the (captured) souls be destroyed, enabling the souls to escape and return to their holy source. Thus, two kavanot (mental intentions) are needed – one to destroy the body of the husks; and the second to return the souls to the exalted holy place of the female (the upper Malchut) where they can be rectified and recreated like all other souls, and afterwards descend to this world like all normal souls.
There is another transgression which resembles this – someone who has marital relations and doesn’t wait (inside his wife) until all of the drops of semen are completely expended, for all of those remaining drops that come out in vain, even though they are not suitable for reproduction, nonetheless destructive spiritual agents (mazekim) and evil destroyers (mishchetim) are also created from them, as we have explained. [Based on this understanding, Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi Ashlag, author of the commentary “HaSulam” on the Zohar, notes here that, in his humble opinion, also drops that appear before the main ejaculation of semen are also included in this stringency.]
Understanding all this, we can understand a great secret which is mentioned in Parshat Balak, on the verse, “He won’t lie down until he eat of the prey” (BaMidbar, 23:24), and which the Sages explained as referring to myriads of destroying agents which a person kills each night by reciting the Bedtime Shema. Thus, a man must have this kavanah with every recital of the Bedtime Shema, to intend to rectify this sin, to destroy all of those bodies of destroying agents.
There are men whose kavanot possess great power, and they are capable of wiping out a thousand and more, as written in the Zohar, Parshat Balak 211B. There are others whose recitals have less power, according to their doings each evening, and they must say the Bedtime Shema with this intention the same number of times which they sinned.
The main thing about this tikun is to think that by reciting the Bedtime Shema, you are destroying the bodies of the mazekim. In this way, a man will be able to raise up with his soul (during the night) those same outcast souls upward to holiness, to rectify them each night.
And just as destructive spiritual agents are created by a man who spills semen in vain, being without a woman, so too regarding a woman – she creates destructive agents if she does the same without a man.
The kavanah of destroying the bodies of the kelipot is a kavanah based on Divine Names whose gematria (the numerical equivalent of the letters) equals the numerical value of the verse “and a two-faced sword in their hands.” [Now continues a Kabbalistic explanation of how the proper kavanah brings down a powerful influx of Divine light from “Arik Anpin,” called “Daat Elyon” to the partzufim (spiritual centers) of Abba and Emma which shatters and destroys the kelipot.]
This is also the secret of the words of the verse, “and the spirit of G-d hovers” ורוח אלוהים מרחפת – and the word מרחפת is combined of two words: מת meaning dead, and רפ"ח (a gematria associated with the Divine influx in the exalted spiritual drop of semen containing the soul which emanates from Daat Elyon) so that רפ"ח is enclosed between the letters ת and מ, indicating that רפ"ח falls to a place of death through the spilling of semen in vain.
And this is the secret of the verse, “He has given prey (טרף) to those who fear Him; He will forever remember His Brit” (Tehillim, 111:5). For רפ"ח has the gematria of טרף (with the addition of 1 which includes the word itself), which is the same drop which was made prey to the external evil agents (“hitzenim”), and turned into prey, these are returned to Hashem, may He be praised, by those who fear him. They are made prey inside the kelipah, so that there are 3 understandings to the word טרף: 1) it is referring to רפ"ח which is called טרף; 2) the meaning of being like a prey which is taken captive by the hitzenim; 3) in the context of “those who fear Him,” they return to capture and rescue them (לטרוף) from the hitzenim via the kavanot of the Bedtime Shema, as will be further clarified by the verse, “He won’t lie down until he eats of the prey.”
How is the prey given over to those who fear Him? The answer is found in the continuation of the verse, by His forever remembering His Brit, as it says, “He has given prey (טרף) to those who fear Him; He will forever remember (זכור) His Brit.” This comes about when the person (reciting the Bedtime Shema) brings down the influx (“sheaf”) of “Daat Elyon,” known as “zachor” זכור down to the “Yesod HaTachon,” the lower sefirah of “Yesod,” which is his Brit (associated with organ of the brit milah.) Therefore, this bringing down of the shefa must be a kavanah of the Bedtime Shema.
And this is the secret of “He won’t lie down until he eats of the prey” (BaMidbar, 23:24), that through the recital of the Bedtime Shema (before he lies down), he will snatch away (לטרוף) those drops that originate with the upper רפ"ח from the external mezekim (damaging agents), and return them to their original holy source. This is also the secret of the verse (recited along with the Bedtime Shema) “There will fall at your side a thousand, and ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you” (Tehillim, 91:7). This is referring to those same impure bodies that wrap themselves around those souls, that they die and fall, and thus the kelipah can no longer come near the souls which have been released, nor encase them again, since they have already died, which is the meaning of “but it will not come near you.” They die and don’t return to prey upon those souls.
Also, this is the secret of “Let the pious be joyful in honor…” (Tehillim, 149:5). As we said, there are two types of prohibitions in this matter: first, the spilling semen in vain. A person who does this is called evil, as the Zohar states regarding several verses, for instance: “And Er, the firstborn of Yehuda, was evil in the sight of the L-rd” (Bereshit, 38:7). The reason is because all of his intention is to perform an act which is a complete transgression. Another reason according to the secrets of Torah, because the wasted drop becomes engulfed by an impure kelipah, which is completely evil, without any good at all, since all of his intention was in only doing evil. And the second person considered an evil doer regarding this matter is someone who doesn’t remain on his wife’s stomach (leaving his member inside) until all of the seeds of semen have been absorbed. A man like this, even if he doesn’t have any other sin but this, and even if this isn’t considered a total sin, but something combining good and evil, since his intention in conducting marital relations was good in being with his wife, but this evil became attached to it causing the remaining drops to be gathered up by kelipot Noga, which is termed good and evil. Since this is the case, those who do this second sin, and now return in tshuva (repentance) and want to rectify the damages they did, to remove these drops from out of the kelipot, they will be called pious, as in the verse cited above, “Let the pious be joyful in honor….” This refers to the second category.
I, Haim Vital, realize that in the beginning of this article, it seems the opposite, that both of these categories enter the kelipah Noga, but in my humble opinion, what was stated above was general, and this later clarification is the truth of the matter. For the souls which result from spilling semen in vain become attached with the spirit of the primordial evil female and are encased in bodies, being completely evil. However, the residue drops that are lost by those men who don’t remain inside after marital relations, they are only handed over to kelipat Noga, which contains both good and evil, in my humble opinion.
Furthermore, the continuation of the above verse, “Let them sing aloud upon their beds” refers to the recital of the Bedtime Shema in order to rectify the transgression that they did upon their beds when laying down on their wives and not remaining until all of the drops of seed were completed.
[Abridged for jewishsexuality.com]
Therefore, in reciting the Bedtime Shema, in addition to the regular intentions in reciting the Shema, a man should have the kavanah to kill the kelipot and the destructive spiritual forces which he created by spilling semen in vain, and to return the released souls to their original holy source.
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