When I got married, our local Synagogue had a kiddish to celebrate the great event. We were having the ufruf at my wife’s shul, so none of the regulars knew me. Right before we ended tefilla with Adon Olam, the Shul president “introduced” me to the community.
True to his position as Schmoozer in Chief, he sang my praises as the newest addition to their 6:30 minyan.”
There was a slight gasp in the Shul.
Over chollent, I found out that the gasp was from my own family, who had come from Long Island to celebrate with the community. My dad, still in a state of shock, explained his reaction:
“Dave, I never knew about this. How long has it been going on for?”
“What? You never knew I daven in Shul?”
“No. I never knew you woke up at 6:30.”
It had been five months since I started studying the laws of shmirat habrit – literally “guarding of the covenant,” which indicates personal holiness, or refraining from any forbidden sexual activity in thought, speech, and deed.
I think if the individual I was five years ago met the man who took on this mitzvah, he would ask, “Are we the same person?”
Once upon a time, I slept 8-9 hours a day. My day would start and end in the office, with a nightcap of at least 3 hours of TV. Outside of pgam habrit-related errors in judgment, I had little interest for anything else. If I asked the man who sleeps 6 hours a night, making time for Torah learning, family, and parnasah (income), my only question would be, “You must be completely exhausted!”
We assume that the more we do, the more we deplete our energy. The more active we are with our lives, the more we desire sleep, vacations, and blocks of time each day to veg-out.
In a world of mitzvot, the opposite holds true.
Pirkei Avot upturns the laws of health and science with the simple pasuk: The consequence of a mitzvah is another mitzvah. It’s that simple. With each mitzvah, we bring to our neshamot a little more of Hashem’s Divine energy. The more energy we receive, the more alive we become. The more energized we feel.
Our neshamot are likened to fire. A flame never loses its vigor. You can take a candle, and with it light another 100 candles – the fire never burns out. Physical energy is like a piece of pie. If you dole out a few slices, you are left with half a pie.
According to the Zohar, the mitzvah of Shmirat HaBrit clears the channels of Divine Energy from Hashem which powers our neshama.
Think of a plug. The wire is connected to your neshama. At the other end of the wire is the plug itself, it connects to the outlet, which transfers masses of energy from its Source. If, Hashem forbid, the wire were to be cut in fifteen places, far less energy would successfully move from its Source to your neshama.
When we commit a sin of pgam habrit, such as thinking, seeing, or touching in an unholy manner, we cut a piece of the wire. Less energy gets through to us. Over a lifetime of averot (sins) in this manner, very little energy gets through to us.
The mitzvah of Shmirat HaBrit fixes all the cuts. It is a process that takes time, and completes itself gradually. As you learn more about the mitzvah, and follow it more thoroughly, the wire becomes stronger and more energy travels through it. Not only do you receive greater Divine energy in this mitzvah, you become re-vitalized with greater strength in every other mitzvah that you do.
This one mitzvah not only empowers your soul, it ignites all the other mitzvot you perform with added energy.
The Gematria for the word “brit” (ברית) is 612. It is as if Hashem is telling us that keeping this mitzvah impacts all the other mitzvot we perform in a day.
Before drinking the Red Bull , or popping that Stacker pill, try this mitzvah. It has an equally powerful affect. Long term, its impact is even greater – and significantly more healthier!
The first step to Shmirat HaBrit is simple: learn. When seriously considering this mitzvah, there is absolutely no need to go to any extremes. You don’t have to take an oath of celibacy – we Jews don’t do that. Shmirat HaBrit is all about the wonderful enhancements to your life. It is about all of the abilities and gifts you are about to receive, and not about all of the illusions of the thrills you might think you have to give up.
As you read more about this mitzvah, a great spiritual and emotional transformation taking place inside you. You may begin to wake up earlier, or go to bed later. Your focus may increase and your productivity at work and in your Torah learning will dramatically increase. This, Baruch Hashem, is natural. As you learn more about this mitzvah, you will gradually decide which of your personal habits you will want to modify.
My favorite book on this topic is Secret of the Brit by Rabbi Tzvi Fishman. The Light of Ephriam is a great book. I have a blog called Kosher Love which has several websites that discuss this topic at length. It is good to consult with your Rabbi in setting up shiurim, personal learning, or for direction on this subject in our classical texts.