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Kabbalists and their followers in dozens of Kabbalah yeshivot across the country this week began a six-week regimen of special prayers and fasting, known as Tikkun Shovavim or Tikkun Habrit, to rectify the spiritual damage caused by sex-related transgressions and, more specifically, nocturnal emissions.
"These six weeks are particularly propitious for the expiation of these sins and for raising up sparks of holiness trapped as a result of these transgressions," said Rabbi Yitzhak Batzri of Yeshivat Shalom in Jerusalem.
Batzri explained that the six weeks of prayers and fasting coincide with the six weekly public Torah readings in synagogues of the first half of Exodus. These readings tell the story of the Jewish nation's bondage in Egypt and conclude with the revelation on Sinai and the giving of the Torah. Shovavim is an acronym for the names of these six weekly portions.
"Just as the children of Israel went down into Egypt, a place of impurity and defilement, to raise up holy sparks, so too can we rectify what we have damaged in the spiritual world and raise up holy sparks," Batzri said.
Every day during these six weeks select kabbalists, such as Rabbi David Batzri and Rabbi Benayahu Shmueli, fast and pray. However, mass prayers are normally said on Mondays and Thursdays. These prayers, which include special kabbalistic intentions or "kavanot," last for several hours.
Batzri said that evil demons from "the other side" use nocturnal emissions to create more demons.
"Most of our troubles are caused by these demons," said Batzri. "They hurt us, they hurt our children, they cause poverty." Batzri said that the special prayer, which includes the reading of portions of the Zohar, fasting and repentance can destroy these demons.
At Yeshivat Nahar Shalom, headed by Rabbi Benayahu Shmueli, in addition to the prayers said for rectifying the damage from nocturnal emissions, prayers are also recited for other sexual transgressions such as having relations with a married women, homosexual intercourse, and having relations with a gentile woman.
"Even if someone never did one of these sins, he might have done it in a past life," said Dror, one of Shmueli's aides, expressing the kabbalistic belief in reincarnation.
Sephardi Jews are more likely to take part in Tikkun Shovavim prayers, although there are a few Ashkenazi yeshivot for the learning of Kabbalah, including Sha'ar Hashamayim and Anshei Ma'amad, both in Jerusalem. Many hassidic sects also take part in the special prayers.