It’s difficult to speak about the Holocaust because this topic is closely tied to people’s feelings. It’s easier to discuss wars that went on thousands of years ago, even though they were often waged between our people, for example, between the Hellenistic Jews and those who adhered to the fundamental principles. And on the whole, the people of Israel have certainly led many wars with external enemies: the Romans and others.
We know that all the past wars were an outcome of Israel not fulfilling its purpose. We know from the Tanakh and Gemara that if the people of Israel acted correctly, then no nation would rule over us. Baal HaSulam writes about this in the article “The Arvut (Mutual Guarantee).” Even earlier the Ari had said that had we remained as guarantors for one another, like it was at the period of the First Temple, and had we not fallen from it, the impure forces wouldn’t have gained power over us.
However, our fall was laid down in the program of creation so that in this world, as an analogy with the spiritual one, we would go through the breaking of the kings of DaHGaT (the destruction of the First Temple) and the breaking of the kings of TaNHYM (the destruction of the Second Temple). In our material world we also had to go through these two breakings, and this is why we fell from the spiritual degree to the very bottom.
At the time, Rabbi Akiva laughed when he saw the wasteland in place of the Temple. “I never believed that this would come to pass,” he said, “and since the Second Temple was destroyed, now there is no doubt that the Third one will rise up and that complete redemption will come.” So, these two destructions and the long exile were necessary. It can be said that then there was no free choice yet, all the states were determined by the interaction of the Light and the vessel on the way down.
And today, when we came to the lowest degree and achieved the greatest egoism, a new world is starting to rise. It’s already “rounding off,” already manifesting the breakage, and as Baal HaSulam says, we stand on the threshold of redemption.
As a consequence, new laws are now acting on us, not the “mechanical” principles that previously propelled us forward along with all humanity. In parallel with its development, we went through various states of ascents and descents all the way until the present time, but from this point on, a new epoch is starting, the era of free choice.
After the breaking, after the fall and mutual inclusion with the world, today everything is ready for correction. And we are the ones who realize this correction through good deeds and the request that comes from broken souls. However, these broken souls aren’t capable of the request and good deeds. What can we do?
We are trying to unite into one whole as it was before the breaking, before the destruction of the Temple. And even if we can’t realize it ourselves, it’s our efforts that are the “good deeds.” I keep on trying until the point when I beg for help, until I cry: “Save me!” Thereby I raise MAN, the request for correction, and in response help comes from Above, called MAD.
And in this we have free will: We can accelerate our history, the process which we need to go through. If we don’t carry out in every second everything that we’re capable of through our free choice, then the missed and unrealized state doesn’t arrive as a long-awaited dawn in the property of mercy (Hassadim), but turns to properties of overcoming (Gevurot). As a consequence, in place of “still waters” come “turbulent waters,” instead of waters of Bina come the waters of the flood, and so on. And instead of going forward on the path of Torah and the Light, in loving your friend as yourself, we wander, spurred by troubles that don’t advance us but simply force us to actualize the actions that we missed. After all, one way or another, we are obliged to complete them.
This brings up a question. At first I was able to produce a certain action aided by unification within the group, by understanding and feeling, by the mutual inclusion with friends, mutual support, and so on. I could reach for what didn’t seem to be a pressing need, even if it meant artificially raising the importance of this action in my eyes. But now, when I’m being spurred on by catastrophes and necessity, am I actually realizing my free will? No. Does it mean that I am heading toward the end of correction like an animal fleeing the blows of a whip? And this is spiritual development? Where is the free will in that?
The thing is that misfortunes will lead us to think and reflect, and through their help, we’ll begin to grope around and recognize evil. However, for this we will have to pay and in such case, our free choice will be a lot more complex and multi-layered. After all, there are no concessions here; a person still needs to go of their own free will through every step on the 125 degrees of ascent, from the lowest point back to the end of correction. Otherwise he will not be a human being.
Thus, we raise a request for correction (MAN) and receive an answer (MAD) from Bina. If this doesn’t happen, we transition to the properties of overcoming, Gevurot. And this means misery and disasters, both personal and collective, including the Holocaust. On the whole, this process ripples through all of mankind, but the people of Israel are affected several times stronger since they are not fulfilling their function.
At the end of “Introduction to The Book of Zohar,” Baal HaSulam writes about the fact that the world is divided into two parts: internal and external, “Israel” and “nations of the world.” “Israel” is also divided into two parts: the inner one includes those who study the wisdom of Kabbalah in order to correct themselves, and the external one includes those who don’t care about correction. And in turn, the internal part of the “nations of the world” is their “righteous,” and the external part is their “wicked,” “those who cause harm.”
A connecting mechanism operates within this system: The way that the two parts relate within “Israel” is the same way that they relate within “nations of the world.” And therefore, when those who study the wisdom of Kabbalah rise above, then correspondingly, within the “nations” the people who yearn for unity and good coexistence also gain force. And conversely, if “Israel” disregards the inner Torah, the wisdom of Kabbalah, in other words, if they disregard their purpose, then within the “nations” the pyramid inverts also: The external ones rise above and take power over the entire world. Of course, these events are far-reaching and they negatively impact “Israel,” whose message and purpose descend, giving way at the top for the wicked and casting to the very bottom those who study Kabbalah and who are close to spirituality. This is how the “hierarchy of power” is laid.
This is what happened with us in Hitler’s times. Israel acted contrary to its role, preferring corporeality to spirituality, and in accordance with this, within the nations of the world the destructive part rose above the good one, until the pyramid flipped over. And at that point, “the one who brings harm” came along and did his job.
From the 4th part of the Daily Kabbalah Lesson 4/19/2012 on Holocaust Memorial Day