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Chapter 7: Mingle Bells
To Be Jewish, or Not to Be Jewish—That Is the Question
One of the most important prayers on Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) is known as Maftir[i] Yonah (Jonah), during which the entire book of Jonah is read. The story of Prophet Jonah symbolizes more than anything the ambivalence that our people feels toward its role in the world.
Admittedly, it is not a pleasant task to be the eternal wet blanket. Even within our own nation, prophets rarely had it easy or were treated with gratitude for saving us from calamity and affliction. Yet, prophets always carried out their tasks. They were compelled to do so by the dread of the torment that would otherwise befall their unsuspecting brethren, so they could not keep quiet.
Jonah tried his hardest to avoid his mission. He hid his identity as a Hebrew and boarded a ship that sailed to Tarshish, away from Nineveh, where the Creator had told him to prophesy. But as we know, the Creator found him in the ship and the sailors discovered his identity and threw him overboard, where he was tormented in the bowels of a fish. Finally, after he repented (praying from the bowels of the fish), he went to Nineveh and prophesied. Thanks to Jonah’s repentance, the residents of Nineveh learned about the correction required of them, executed it, the city was spared, and its people were pardoned.
Interestingly, Nineveh was not a Hebrew city. It was the most populous city in the Assyrian Empire and a prosperous trade hub. Yet, the Lord commanded Jonah to prophesy to them so they might better their ways and avoid affliction. This, again, indicates that the path of correction and attainment of the Creator was not meant for Jews alone, but for all of humanity. How symbolic it is that we read this story on the most Jewish day of the year—Yom Kippur, The Day of Atonement.
Thus, Jonah’s story epitomizes the dilemma of Jewish people throughout the generations. On the one hand, we are the chosen people, intended to show the way to the light to all the nations. On the other hand, we insistently and futilely try to avoid our fate because the message of mutual guarantee and unity that we bring is unpleasant to the listener’s ego, as we are all born self-centered and want to remain that way.
When the Jews returned from the exile in Babel to build the Second Temple, those who remained behind assimilated so thoroughly among their host nations that they gradually disappeared. The Jewish Encyclopedia[ii] writes that once freed from captivity in Babylon, Jews gradually spread to Syria, Egypt, and Greece—mainly as slaves, but rather inadequate ones, so they had no trouble being ransomed and freed.
“Besides,” informs The Jewish Encyclopedia, “owing to the close solidarity, which is one of the lasting traits of the Jewish race, they had no difficulty finding coreligionists willing to pay the amount of their ransom.”[iii] However, continues the encyclopedia, “The Jews thus freed, instead of returning to Palestine, usually remained in the land of their former slavery, and there, in conjunction with their brethren in faith, established communities. According to the formal testimony of Philo (Legatio ad Caium, §23), the Jewish community in Rome owed its origin to released prisoners of war.”[iv] From Rome, the Jews went on to spread through the rest of Europe.
Once liberated from Babylon, however, a minority of the Hebrews returned to the Land of Israel, and their descendents are what we now know as “the Jewish people.” After the ruin of the Second Temple, they wished to assimilate. Yet, unlike their former brethren, whose traces cannot be found today, the Jews who were exiled from Jerusalem and Judea did not mingle to the point of disappearance. Had that happened, the purpose for which the Jews exist, namely the revelation of the Creator to the rest of the nations, would have been defeated.
Indeed, when we attempted to mingle and assimilate, we were often reminded of our heritage. In some of these cases we were harshly driven back into Judaism, or remained as outcasts in our new religions. Today, many Jews are still trying to assimilate into their host cultures, but for all the apparent success in some countries, history shows that it usually fails, and the Jewish task mandates that it should.
Particularly notable examples of Jewish assimilation and rejection took place in 14th and 15th century Spain, and in Germany, before and during World War II and the Holocaust, resulting in the extermination of virtually the entire European Jewry. Although much has been said and written about those two epochs in Jewish history, it is worthwhile to note some similarities that could point to a repetitive trend we might use as an augury. We will address those periods one at a time, and conclude with reflections on today’s most prominent Jewry outside of Israel—that of the United States.
[i] The haftarah (parting) reading follows the Torah reading on each Sabbath and on Jewish festivals and fast days. The reader of the haftarah is called maftir.
[ii] “Diaspora,” The Jewish Encyclopedia, url: http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/5169-diaspora.
Question: In the past men used to court women for a long time, but today this custom has practically disappeared. Does that mean anything with regard to establishing a solid relationship with a woman?
Answer: Today there is hardly any courtship. There is a certain attitude that I would call flirting, reaching out to connect, but not courting.
Therefore, we have to take into account all the mutual psychological elements here. In order to establish a deep relationship, we have to start from a distance, from internal intersections, understanding, and mutuality. There is no need to rush. The need for connection should be given time to develop and to acquire more nuances.
We shouldn’t rush into physical contact. If it occurs it should be the eruption of a fully ripe desire. If not, it is a great miss of all the flitting connections that are so typical of our time.
This is the reason that people start a relationship and immediately breakup and then start another one and break up again. This goes on continuously as if they are looking for something new each day, but in fact there is nothing new here since a person doesn’t even see who he starts a relationship with.
A physical connection should first be internal so that one should feel how one’s partner enjoys and also that he/she wants me to enjoy. Then we feel how love erupts in this mutual connection in which we delight one other. Then everything connects: our feelings, sex, and even the mind.
The mind allows one to feel one’s partner to the depth of his/her personality and allows him/her to feel me. When we physically touch one another we connect through this intimate connection in the same feeling. Sex is the lowest level of sensing. There are five levels of sensing: sight, hearing, smell, taste, and feeling.
Feeling is the lowest level of sensing through the skin and this actually sums up the essence of sexual relations. After all, what is sex? We simply rub against each other, but thanks to additional feelings such as our desire to delight one another, we raise sex from the most primitive level to the top, to the level of Keter, to the most exalted pleasure. Therefore, sexual relations are considered the greatest pleasure in this world.
When can sexual relations be considered the greatest pleasure? Only when we can raise them to the level of the internal connection, otherwise, it remains a simple feeling on the lowest level.
There are many instruments today by which both men and women can reach sexual satisfaction even without a partner. If they don’t need anything from the other, when there is no need for the inner connection, it isn’t a problem to find a mechanical substitute for a partner.
From KabTV’s “A New Life” 6/9/13
Answer: It is indeed very strange that a person creates the Creator, but it is actually so both externally and internally.
There are 3,800 religions and beliefs in this world, and they all were invented by human beings out of their imaginations and their fantasies. They have created their own “godliness” and they depend on it.
Even today we see different fortune-tellers and astrologers in the newspapers, on the radio, and on TV. These people certainly create their own creator, their own god, and it is true for every nation according to its characteristics and what is typical of it.
But according to the wisdom of Kabbalah, it is possible to imagine the upper force only according to the vessel, since it actually has no form or image. If the form of my vessel resembles the abstract upper force in any way, I feel that I have fulfilled the law of equivalence of form inside me and feel the attributes and the essence of the Creator.
Consequently, I create the Creator by myself since I build a vessel in which I can feel the attributes of the upper. It is possible to feel ZA inside Malchut according to their equivalence of form, according to their adhesion and adaptation.
This means that I create the Creator by myself but not in anyway I feel like, like in the external religions, where every nation has created its own image of god or has made a certain human being a god.
We create this image opposite our own nature, which means that it can never be simply created in our imagination or in our desire. What is more, we yearn for the equivalence of form and only when we adapt our attributes to some extent, will we be able to feel that we have created the Creator inside us. This is the reason that we are called man (Adam), stemming from the Hebrew word “Domeh” to resemble the Creator.
The Creator, Bore (Bo-Re) means come and see, but we have to come from inside our desires and our feelings. The Creator doesn’t exist outside my desire. I feel and discover Him to the extent that I understand and perceive and can imagine inside the desire that He has created.
I cannot speak about Him as such, but only about what I perceive and attribute to Him. This is a huge difference. I correct my vessel until it resonates with the upper force. Then I perceive something in my attributes that I believe to be the Creator. This image actually exists only with regard to me.
This is the reason that the Creator is called come and see: come and change yourself until you can see. But what do you see? Your corrected attributes that resemble Him.
From the 1st part of the Daily Kabbalah Lesson 5/21/14, Writings of Rabash
Answer: It is also necessary to develop each friend. But if you have a large group, this could be complicated because you know some and with some you do not. It is not important. Their participation in the general common work already testifies that you accept them as the people closest to you.
Imagine that every person sitting here, both men and women, are the closest particles in the huge collective soul; so we have gathered like this. I am from the previous level, you are from the next level, but all of us are connected. Imagine all the generations and incarnations, an immense soul, billions of billions of particles.
After all, each one of us is changing rapidly every second. And each time he is a new person with a new soul. The body remains the same, whereas inside of us we pass through states much faster than an electron orbits an atom. Every state is new.
From all of the states, from all of the souls, the billions of particles that there are in all the generations, we have each other—the closest. That is what we need to think about the group and that is how to relate to the friends.
From the Daily Kabbalah Lesson 4/17/14, Questions and Answers with Dr. Laitman
Answer: That is completely pointless. The soul has no weight in the corporeal world. Imagine that a moment ago you didn’t want to drink and now you suddenly want water. That is, a new desire appeared to you. It is possible to weight it? Where is this desire located in you? You can’t say. The soul is also a desire; a desire to attain the upper force, that same external sphere that manages our world, the system that surrounds us.
The soul is called the desire to attain the meaning in our life, the goal of our life. If such a desire appears in a person, then he begins to feel that his soul needs to develop; it obliges him to learn how to attain it.
Question: If I succeed in developing the soul while I am alive in this world, is that a sign that my life was successful? And if I don’t succeed, then will I be returned to this world once again?
Answer: Yes, you will return and pass through new lives until the soul is developed within you. But in our time, we have the opportunity to accelerate our development, and then we will not need further incarnations. We already lived enough in this world, each of us.
From Israeli Radio Program 103 FM, 2/1/15
But because your body develops from this semen, you feel this world through it. The same thing happens with the soul; it also has a father and mother.
Question: What kind of connection exists between my soul and my relatives: father, mother, and siblings?
Answer: In the entire general system of one single soul there are parts that are closer to me and further from me. Closeness or distance in the spiritual world is derived from this. It is not by chance that specifically these people become my parents, and not others. It is not by chance that I marry specifically this woman and have specifically these children.
All of this is derived from the general system that has already been created and stabilized. It is known from the start what will be with me; I only discover this for myself. But all of these events already exist in potential, as potential forces.
From Israeli Radio Program 103 FM, 2/1/15