From my column in Ynet: “Simchat Torah To Illuminate The New Year”
Some of us are averse to it, others are curious about it, and at times it arouses controversy. One thing is certain, it is impossible to remain completely indifferent to it. Rav Laitman’s thought provoking article about the joy and the internal force of the Torah.
“Rejoice in Simchat Torah” is the unofficial anthem of the Simchat Torah celebrations, an ancient custom of celebrating the day on which we complete the reading of the weekly section of the Torah (Parashat Hashavua) and begin to read them anew. But what is it about the most popular book in human history that makes us so happy and joyful? Is it wealth? Health? The well being of the family? If it isn’t in order to bring us joy, what is it for, what is the Torah meant for?
The Torah isn’t just a decorated parchment rolled in the Holy Ark, or a synonym for the five Chumashim. According to the wisdom of Kabbalah, there is an internal spiritual force, an upper force, concealed in the Torah, or as Kabbalists call it—Light, which is the source of all the goodness in the world.
The ARI opens his book The Tree of Life with the words: “Behold that before the emanations were emanated and the creatures were created, the upper simple Light had filled the whole existence.” The Light is the force that preceded the creation, which created the matter of the universe in the Big Bang 14 billion years ago and spread in every direction.
Kabbalists describe the Light as a kind of force, a law of nature, or an attribute that can bestow infinite abundance. The Light is the force that is opposite from our egoistic nature, which aspires only to receive more and more pleasure. As a result of the Light’s attribute to give, to bestow, and to generate life, the galaxies, the stars, and all of the inanimate nature, the plants, and the animals, and finally us humans were created in order to give us absolute eternal goodness. Even if we are not aware of it, our whole life revolves around the Light. We explore it with the tools that we have, but even when we reach the peak of global research by modern physics and it seems that we are just about to reveal the essence of the Light, to decode the secret of life, and to ascend to new dimension, the opposite is revealed: the Light has attributes that our limited psychology cannot perceive.
Giving vs. Receiving
Unlike scientists, Kabbalists explore the laws of creation and the spiritual reality. Having attained absolute eternal goodness, they describe the reality they felt for us: every moment the Light provides us with infinite abundance, but because our attributes are opposite form the attribute of the Light, we cannot receive the pleasure from it. They tell us that a person naturally operates only in order to enjoy and so that he will feel good, even if attaining this pleasure involves hurting others, abusing them, or harming them. “All the afflictions a person feels are only due to his innate attribute of receiving.” (Baal HaSulam). That’s the way we were born; this is our nature, and there is nothing wrong with that. The problem begins when the force of giving and the force of receiving clash and then we feel bad…
Today we are at a point of transition to a new era in human development, as Kabbalists tell us. To be exact, we are already living in a reality that ties all of humanity into one global system. It is a closed system in which we are affected by each other and are connected not only by infinite relay stations and communication channels but also in our hearts. The laws of giving make the system go round according to the attribute of giving of the Upper Light. We live in a world that is managed by a certain regularity, which we don’t understand. If we wish to know these laws, to act according to them, and to be able to enjoy a better life, we have to discover new senses by ourselves and to develop attributes that are similar to the Light. As long as we continue to hold on to our egoistic attributes, there will be a continuous clash between the opposite forces, or in other words, we are in a crisis.
The crisis symbolizes the end of the current phase of our development, the last point after which we will not be able to develop any further. This doesn’t mean that from now on we will not continue to improve our lives, but it is a delicate phase in the process of human evolution that signifies the deep and qualitative point of crisis. It is enough to look at all the abundance we have developed in the last decades in order to ask where all this is leading us? Are we happier or more joyful? Does the great amount of property we have accumulated fill our lives with satisfactions and interest? Even when it comes to answering these questions, humanities, social sciences, and economics have reached a dead end.
With the Help of the Light
The word “crisis” has a negative connotation of hardship and a breaking, but according to the sages, it can also have a positive meaning in Hebrew—the seat of a woman to give birth—a place where new life is created. In ancient Greek the word “crisis” means a decision or a turning point, meaning rebirth. In Chinese the word “crisis” means danger combined with an opportunity. Similarly, the crisis we undergo today in every aspect of life: in science, politics, education, society, and even the life of individuals and community life is in a kind of labor pains, an intermediate phase that is meant to speed up our development and help us be reborn to a new life.
For generations, Kabbalists have paved the way to the next phase for us by using a serious reliable method, the method of connection, the wisdom of Kabbalah. In all their writings, they say, whether openly or in a concealed manner, that the precondition for our advancement is tightening the unity between us. If we only change our egoistic nature from self-love to love of others and love instead of hate, if we get closer and connect instead of drawing away, we will be able to experience infinite pleasure, just like the Light. We can only change our nature by the force of the Light that is concealed in the writings of Kabbalists.
By trying to feel as one, like the one force, a tiny point of contact with the upper Light, with the force of the Torah, awakens. Thus we gradually become filled with the feeling of life. Just like the flames of a bonfire heat all those sitting around it, so does the connection between us illuminate and warm the hearts. But in order to kindle the flame, we have to give up more and more egoistic parts and add them to the fire. Only when we gradually eradicate all the hidden parts in us that demand for themselves, will we reach the general love between us, the Light of the Torah, or as it says: “love thy friend as thyself is the great rule of the Torah.”
So what can we do now? At this point it is enough if we try to unite our small desires into one common desire. The influence of the Light unto us will grow according to the intensity of the connection between us, and instead of forcing us to connect due to troubles and crises, the Light will simply illuminate and draw us toward it like a
shiny object. It is in our hands. The better and more considerate the relations between us are, the more the Light will affect us and we will become human beings, Adam, (Man) stemming from the Hebrew word “Domeh” to “resemble the upper” (Isaiah 14; 14). Then we will begin to live an eternal life and to feel dimensions that are above the limitations of time, motion, and place, just like the attributes of the Light.
For Your Own Sake
Toward the end of the holiday season, it is important that we sum up our self-examination during this time. We should clarify one major point: does our desire operate for our own sake or for the sake of others? Do we care about those around us just as we care about our own children, or are we perhaps motivated by caring about our own benefit? This is exactly what separates us from the feeling of happiness, from the Light we yearn for.
Even if after self-scrutiny we discover that we care only about ourselves, by one thousandth or even one hundredth percent, there is room for joy. Why? Because we discover an opportunity to summon the Upper Light to operate on us, to correct the corrupt relations between us from self-love to love of others. Every small change that brings us closer to each other also brings us closer to the feeling of the Upper Light. The more we operate in mutual guarantee, as the nation of Israel should, the more we will fulfill our role in the world and are a Light unto the nations of the world, and the Upper Light will spread through us to all of humanity. “The children of Israel have become responsible for each other in order to correct the whole world by the force of the Torah, since everything depends on the children of Israel. All of the created beings will follow them just as they correct themselves.” (“Sefat HaEmet“).
The connection between us is a source of life, and the good relations between us generate the rejoicing of the Torah. It is actually today, unlike the time when we lived in exile, that we can reach great joy. It isn’t only as a result of the encircling the synagogue while singing and dancing with the Torah scrolls on Simchat Torah, but the real joy that will stem from the connection with the source of the Light, with the Torah.
According to The Book of Zohar, the Torah is Light and a person who engages in the Torah receives the upper Light. The Light of the Torah is the force that reforms us from division to connection; it is the force that builds us as a nation, that fills us with love and warmth, that raises us to complete eternal life ,and that guarantees joy.
“Since the part that every member of Israel has in the Torah is his own Torah, and each and every one with his part and his book are included into one, and then the Torah is whole and the Dinim (judgments) in the world are mitigated, and when everyone comes together as one, it is great joy, the rejoicing of the Torah, Simchat Torah (“Likutei Halachot“).
From Ynet article 10/20/16