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The Torah, “Leviticus,” 25:1 – 25:5: And the Lord spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying, Speak to the children of Israel and you shall say to them: You may sow your field for six years, and for six years you may prune your vineyard, and gather in its produce, But in the seventh year, the land shall have a complete rest a Sabbath to the Lord; you shall not sow your field, nor shall you prune your vineyard. You shall not reap the aftergrowth of your harvest, and you shall not pick the grapes you had set aside [for yourself], [for] it shall be a year of rest for the land.
We first meet the concept of “the land shall have a complete rest a Sabbath to the Lord” in the weekly section of the Torah, Ba’har, since there is no Sabbath of the land. But when a nation that obeys the spiritual laws lives on that land, everything below that nation, the world of the still (the land), vegetative, and animate begin to acquire the attributes of that nation and its effect.
Therefore, there is no land of Israel without the nation of Israel. When they gather in that place, there is a corresponding phenomenon with the nation of Israel in the land of Israel. The laws that operate on the land are a replica of the spiritual laws of the people that live on it.
This means that that the customs of the people who live there apply to their environment, and in particular, their day of rest, the Sabbath. This isn’t a vacation, a day of rest, but a day full of efforts, a special spiritual state since there are very special corrections done on the Sabbath that people cannot do on any other day.
When a person’s spiritual states are replicated unto the lower levels of the still, vegetative, and animate (or parts of our world), everything changes and is defined differently. For example, a week, becomes a year. For the land it is a year of prosperity, a special year when we are absolutely forbidden to work the land. It is a year of Shmita.
In ancient times, this commandment was observed in Israel more than 2,000 years ago before the destruction of the Temple. The crops of the sixth year were enough for the three years that followed, which seemed to calm everyone, “Don’t worry, you will have enough crops for several years to come until you have a new crop.”
Comment: But the human mind objects to this saying: “You have to collect the crops every year, how can I take a break?!”
Answer: We are speaking about the spiritual state of a whole nation in which the laws of our world do not apply.
From KabTV’s “Secrets of the Eternal Book” 8/13/14
In the News (from Psychologies): “Happiness for us is habitually measured by capital. We accumulate in the form of things, earn it and receive as a gift. This measurable happiness can be shown to others and evaluated.
“But the more we focus on the things that bring us pleasure, the faster the feeling fades and loses its value. One of the major paradoxes of the science of happiness is a condition where a person gives and at the same time feels maximum satisfaction.
“Studies show that by regularly exercising kindness towards people, our view of the source of happiness changes. We find it within ourselves. This sense of power, the ability to influence the world around us and thus bring it to good pushes us to do good again and again.”
My Comment: This is true and simple: give, then find the source of happiness in yourself!
Question: Will the fact that I correct my perception of reality help me succeed in life and be healthy?
Answer: First, it will help us understand the reason we don’t have success. This is a great achievement. However, the main thing is that by correcting our perception of reality to the right perception, we change our entire life. This is what the wisdom of Kabbalah is about. It teaches us how to discover the true reality and a new world. We don’t need anything beyond that because we discover a world of perfect bestowal, full of Light, in which we don’t lack anything.
This correction isn’t meant to change our corporeal life and help us make more money, for example, or to improve our health and our family relationships, but actually to change all of reality from one end to the other. Thanks to the change of our internal attributes, we also change the external world because the world we see is the imprint of our internal attributes.
Question: I come home and my wife begins to yell at me. What should I change inside me so that she won’t yell at me, but rather will welcome me warmly?
Answer: We must change our internal attributes. There is nothing else we should change. Then, we will feel that the same people who treated us badly before suddenly begin to treat us nicely. This is the only correction. We must let the Light work.
Question: How will my wife know that I have corrected my internal attributes?
Answer: It is only up to you. Only you determine how she will treat you. Every person determines how he feels the world. We can feel that we are in the world of Ein Sof (Infinity), the good white Light, by ascending above time and space, like Einstein dreamed. We can do that. It only depends on changing our internal attributes, which can be corrected by a special method, by the wisdom of Kabbalah. The wisdom of Kabbalah allows a person to change his attributes, and then he feels that he is in a world of absolute goodness.
Does that mean that we learn how to pay attention only to the full half of the glass that is half empty?
Answer: It isn’t a simple psychological exercise that enables us to pay attention to positive things and disregard the negative ones. By changing our attributes, we actually change the world around us. The half empty glass is actually filled!
From Israeli Radio Program 103FM, 2/8/15
Baal HaSulam, “The Last Generation,” Part 2: …in fact, there is nothing more natural than coming into contact with one’s maker, for He has made nature. In fact, every creature has contact with his maker, as it is written, “The whole earth is full of His glory,” except we do not know or feel it.
Actually, one who is awarded contact with Him attains only the awareness. It is as though one has a treasure in his pocket, and he does not know it. Along comes another and lets him know what is in his pocket. Now he really has become rich.
Now when he discovers this treasure, he knows that he has ownership of this and he knows how to use it. Before, he put his hand into his pocket and he didn’t know what kind of treasure was in his possession, whereas now he discovers it in his pocket and he knows how to use it.
Question: So what is this treasure that we have in our possession without our knowing about it?
Answer: We are in a world that is concealed from us. We don’t see more than one percent of all of the reality that surrounds us. Essentially, we see only a small, compressed, and completely distorted world. We don’t pay attention to the treasure we possess.
Question: Does the wisdom of Kabbalah make it possible for me to discover this treasure?
Answer: The wisdom of Kabbalah gradually reveals the entire map to us to the degree that we can use this treasure correctly. In the meantime, only this world is revealed to us, and we are destroying it. So how is it possible to reveal more to us? The wisdom of Kabbalah explains to us where we can develop and what kind of goal we can attain.
Question: And a treasure is waiting for us at the end of the road?
Answer: We discover it gradually. Gradually we are allowed to put our hand in our pocket and use part of the treasure if we know how to use it correctly. If we learn to use it correctly with the powers and knowledge that are given to us, then they become revealed before us.
From Israeli Radio Program 103FM, 2/15/15
Question: I grew up in a village, and since then I have been very connected to nature. When you look at a flower or at a cloud in the sky you see that there are no questions; they dwell in tranquility and goodness in their place.
You ask yourself, “So, where am I? Why isn’t there harmony and beauty like this in my life?” Why are human beings, the most developed creatures in nature, at the same time the most miserable?
Answer: The more developed the creature, the more he suffers. Do stones suffer? Their inner force acts to hold them in that form, and that’s all. The plants already suffer, for they are developed. They require rain, sun, and warmth, they suffer from cold, and are subject to all kinds of external pressures.
However, for animals, it is even worse. They need to flee from things all the time to protect themselves and to search after food constantly. Nature doesn’t supply them with everything in abundance. They must be concerned about themselves.
For the human, as it is written, “…his hand shall be against every man, and every man’s hand against him…” (Genesis 16:12). He truly depends upon everything, although he is the most developed of all.
Question: But why is life so difficult for people? My wife works in a kindergarten and says that with every passing year, the children are more miserable. Their lives are so difficult as if already from a young age they suffer, live under constant pressure, relate to each other violently, and nowhere is there a good atmosphere, not at home and not in kindergarten. Why do we live under constant pressure?
Answer: It is to bring us to the goal of creation. We need to ask ourselves difficult questions, live difficult lives, otherwise we don’t attain it. This is especially true in our times, for at the end of the 20th century we reached such a point in human development about which the Kabbalists spoke: Beginning from the year 1995 and on, humanity has entered the period of the coming of the Messiah. The Messiah (Mashiach) is not a person on a white donkey as many suppose. Rather, it is a force that attracts and brings us out to the next level of development.
Question: Is this the goal of creation about which you have spoken?
Answer: Yes, we need to reach the state of Adam, the level of “Man.”
Today, we live according to the beastly level and not according to the human level as we are concerned only about our bodies and how to build our nest, our home. Do we attain the meaning of life with this? All of the meaning of our existence for us is how to organize our lives, which is also what animals are engaged with.
In comparison to them, in sum, we are more complex organisms, but no more than that. We don’t become happier though this because we haven’t attained the meaning of life. We don’t know why we are born, how to live, who manages us, and what happens after our death.
Question: Is a person born to suffer?
Answer: No, it is precisely the opposite! All of the sufferings that we feel are only the force of nature pushing us to attain wholeness, harmony, happiness, and Light.
Question: Is it important to ask ourselves about the meaning of life?
Answer: Yes, because, during your lifetime in this world, you can exit to the level of the eternal world, as it is written, “You will see your world in your lifetime” (Masechet Berachot 17a).
People who begin to study the wisdom of Kabbalah reach that question, “What is the meaning of my life?” A person must ask about this! Even if everything is good with him, he asks, “So, in all of this, what am I living for?”
He wants to know why everything is arranged like this. He doesn’t have much of an answer, and he doesn’t know how to direct himself. Get up in the morning, go to work, come back home in the evening, and what else? He wants to know that it could be that a more lofty goal exists so that he can justify his existence because it is very difficult to say that I live only to provide for my family and that my children live only for this.
We already have developed to such a state where we must ask ourselves the question about the meaning of life, and find an answer for it.
From Israeli Radio Program 103FM, 1/18/15
Every level of his desires belongs to that, including the level of still nature. This is the reason that if I yearn for the attainment of the goal of creation, for the revelation of my movement toward the Creator, I first must focus myself in all my desires on the initial level, on level zero.
I must see myself as a total zero and constantly maintain and hold on to that level. This means that I make a restriction (Tzimtzum) on myself and exhibit the initial standard.
Then, the Creator begins to work with me by continuously changing different parameters, conditions, and relations in me, and I must hold on and maintain this standard.
When I hold on for a while under these conditions, I can begin to change myself by myself and move on to the level of the vegetative without waiting for Him to throw and rock me from one side to side. At the same time, I must hold on to the right intentions. Now, I change the different conditions inside me by myself in order to advance.
In other words, I can advance not according to speed, but according to its derivative, acceleration, by transcending by myself to a higher order level, which is multiplied by ten.
The level of still nature is the level on which I keep myself totally focused on the goal of creation, no matter what external parameters influence me. This is where everything begins, as it is said, everything grows from the earth.
A person grows from the earth. If I don’t want to be an egoist anymore in my mutual relations with the environment, this is the level of the still nature because I hold on to it by determining quality through it. No matter what is done with me, I hold on to my line.
My friend and I, for example, continuously maintain good and unchanging relationships despite the global human storms, family tragedies, and social changes we undergo. What is more, these changes can be on different levels: still, vegetative, animate, or speaking.
We must hold on to it despite the impact of different external factors that keep us apart: slander, plotting, and so on. Love covers all our problems.
This is the level of still nature in which we encounter all the interruptions of the levels of still, vegetative, animate, and speaking nature. However, despite all the kinds of interruptions, we still remain permanently connected, and, thanks to them, we ascend and complete our work in the world of Assiya.
It isn’t simple. A person is strongly affected on all sides, but he constantly must work on raising the greatness of the goal since otherwise he will not be able to hold on to it. The states that he must confront will throw him from one side to the other.
Question: Does this mean that I present myself as a total zero and say to the Creator, “You cannot force me to accept more than this level. I can take only 20%”?
Answer: No, I cannot take anything. The earth doesn’t accept anything, except for cases in which something must grow from it. This is the next level already, the vegetative level that belongs to the earth.
Here, we face a dilemma. Do I correct the earth so that it would produce the level of the vegetative, or do I want to work on the level of the vegetative, and therefore use the earth?
I am either in the world of Assiya using the world of Yetzira for the sake of the world of Assiya, or in the world of Yetzira using the world of Assiya in order to ascend above it. Baal HaSulam speaks about that in the Introduction to The Book of Zohar.
This is what our work with the earth, with the level of the still nature, is about.
From KabTV’s “Secrets of the Eternal Book” 7/16/14
The laws of a person’s behavior are examined in the Torah under the condition of his correct integration in general nature. After all, a person isn’t subordinate to nature, he has freewill. His hesitations bring about imbalance not only in society, but also in nature that surrounds him.
Since human society is the most important part of nature, a person’s improper behavior affects nature by disrupting the focus and the meaning of its evolution.
This is the reason that the Torah gives us the major laws of proper behavior of human society, thanks to which it must be integrated harmoniously with the environment that surrounds it: the still, vegetative, and animate nature. This is the only way that the system can reach the ultimate state that initially was planned.
Human desire is made of four levels of the ego. Their correction is called working with the still, vegetative, animate, and human nature in a person. Therefore, the initial work is to relate to the level of the still nature properly.
The level of still nature is characterized by working with the category of the land because even the name Adam stems from the Hebrew word “Adama – earth.” Everything stems from the land.
When a person works on this level, he must include everything else in it because the four levels in us don’t operate by themselves but only in mutual connection with the others, just like all of nature. Therefore, when we work even on the lowest level with the earth, we also operate the levels of the vegetative, animate, and speaking in us.
Baal HaSulam tells us about this in the Introduction to The Book of Zohar, emphasizing that even in the world of Assiya, which is the level of the still nature in itself, we perform actions by drawing all the other types of Light.
It isn’t only the Light of Nefesh but also the Lights of Ruach, Haya, and Yechida that are dressed in the world of Assiya, but only temporarily. Only the Light of Nefesh operates permanently in the level of the world of Assiya, the level of the still nature.
From KabTV’s “Secrets of the Eternal Book” 7/16/14
Chapter 7: Mingle Bells
To Be Jewish, or Not to Be Jewish—That Is the Question
The Land of Unlimited Possibilities
Once entrenched as a major force in Germany, Reform Judaism spread to the United States, Hungary and a number of countries in Western Europe. This was a result of the emancipation of the German Jewry.[i] A similar process of dispersion occurred with Conservative Judaism,[ii] and the two denominations became the predominant religious forces in United States Jewry by the mid 1800s.
In Response to Modernity: A History of the Reform Movement in Judaism, Professor Michael A. Meyer of Hebrew Union College writes that while Reform Judaism in Germany constantly had to defend itself from both the entrenched Orthodox establishment and from government intervention, these impediments did not exist in the US. “True, individually and collectively, Americans were not entirely free of prejudice,” Meyer adds, “but in the United States there was no government control over religion, no conservative established church to set the pattern of religious life.”[iii]
Thus, Reform and Conservative Judaism found in America a land of unlimited possibilities. The mindset of amalgamation with the host, predominantly Christian society, has finally found fertile soil in which to grow. According to Prof. Meyer, “German Jews could never really feel they were partners in shaping the destiny of the nation with which they so much identified. The United States was different in this regard as well. Like the major European nations it had its own profound sense of mission, but that mission rested upon a destiny not only unfulfilled but not even wholly determined. In America, Reform Jews could feel that their own concept of mission might be woven into a larger still inchoate national purpose.”[iv]
Indeed, with the obvious exception of Israel, the contribution of Jews to the shaping of a nation has never been more substantial than it has, and still is in the United States. Be it economy, entertainment, education, politics, or any other aspect of American life, the Jews play a major, if not leading role.
Never in all of history have Jews been in a better position to fulfill the role for which they were chosen. They are embedded in every corner of American public life and entrenched in the mediums that determine public discourse and public opinion. Considering the predominance of American culture worldwide, the Jews can now affect change that will impact the entire world.
Put differently, despite antagonism toward the United States coming from other powerful nations, the global culture—and therefore social standards—is still predominantly American. The dominant films come from America, pop music comes primarily from America, the main news outlets come from America, and the internet is dominated by American companies such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Apple. In a sense, America is to the world what New York is to America—if you make it there, you’ll make it anywhere.
American Jews, therefore, bear a greater responsibility for offering what they must than any other Jewry, perhaps excluding that of the state of Israel. If American Jewry unites and projects the values of mutual guarantee, the rest of American society will follow. Today, many Americans understand that the principles on which the American Dream was fashioned no longer hold true. Rampant egotism and an excessive sense of self-entitlement have consumed everything that was good about the freedom to speak your mind, to initiate, to work hard and succeed, and to live by your faith.
There is so much violence, distrust, competition, and exploitation in American society that unless a major shift happens very soon, the society will implode. And if that happens, the Jews, as always, will be held at fault. Arguments about Jewish contribution to science, culture, and economy will be rebuffed, and the Jews will be the obvious wrongdoers in everyone’s eyes. Anti-Semitism that has been latent for several generations will roar to the surface, and a repeat of the horrors of Nazi Germany cannot be ruled out.
As we have seen throughout this book, Jews and non-Jews alike are keenly aware that the Jews are essentially a task force, a unit built for a very specific mission. In 1976, the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) adopted a platform which it titled, “Reform Judaism: A Centenary Perspective.” In that platform the conference announced, “We have learned that the survival of the Jewish people is of highest priority and that in carrying out our Jewish responsibilities, we help move humanity toward its messianic fulfillment.” [v]
Indeed, currently, the Jewish people are the only nation within which cohesion and subsequent revelation, attainment, and acquisition of the quality of the Creator, the quality of bestowal, are possible. Our “messianic fulfillment,” whether the conference delegations were aware of it or not, is for all the nations to obtain the qualities just mentioned and enjoy their benefits. Until we fulfill our role, the world will keep blaming us for every adversity and plight that comes upon it. And the more we avoid our mission, the more harshly they will force us back to it.
Prophet Jonah should be a reminder to every Jew that our vocation is preordained and non-negotiable. We can follow it willingly and reap its benefits, or follow it unwillingly and reap the punishments of the world, as history has proven so many times.
In a very willing spirit, the platform’s final section is aptly titled, “Hope: Our Jewish Obligation.” In that section, CCAR takes a paramount commitment (emphases are the editor’s): “…our people has always refused to despair. The survivors of the Holocaust, being granted life, seized it, nurtured it, and, rising above catastrophe, showed humankind that the human spirit is indomitable. The State of Israel … demonstrates what a united people can accomplish in history. The existence of the Jew is an argument against despair; Jewish survival is warrant for human hope.
“We remain God’s witness that history is not meaningless. We affirm that with God’s help people are not powerless to affect their destiny. We dedicate ourselves, as did the generations of Jews who went before us, to work and wait for that day when ‘They shall not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.’”[vi]
Indeed, history, especially Jewish history, is not meaningless. It has an educational purpose: to teach us our role in life and to show us the right way from the wrong way, the blissful path from the painful one. Yet, it is our choice which way we want to go.
In his “Introduction to the Book of Zohar,” 20th century Kabbalist, Baal HaSulam, relates specifically to the role of the Jewish people at this time: “Bear in mind that in everything there is internality and externality. In the world in general, Israel, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, are considered the internality of the world [closest to the Creator], and the seventy nations [the rest of the nations] are considered the externality of the world. …Also, there is internality in every person from Israel—the Israel within—which is the point in the heart [desire for the Creator, for bestowal], and there is externality—the inner Nations of the World [all other desires]…
“When a person from Israel enhances and dignifies one’s internality, which is the Israel in that person, over the externality, which are the Nations of the World in him … by so doing, one makes the children of Israel soar upward in the internality, and externality of the world as well. Then the nations of the world … recognize and acknowledge the value of the children of Israel.
“And if, God forbid, it is to the contrary, and an individual from Israel enhances and appreciates one’s externality, which is the nations of the world in him, more than the inner Israel in him, as it is written (Deuteronomy 28), ‘The stranger that is in the midst of thee,’ meaning the externality in that person rises and soars, and you yourself, the internality, the Israel in you, plunges down? With these actions, one causes the externality of the world in general—the nations of the world—to soar ever higher and overcome Israel, degrading them to the ground, and the children of Israel, the internality in the world, to plunge deep down.
“Do not be surprised that one person’s actions bring elevation or decline to the whole world, for it is an unbending law that the general and the particular are as identical as two peas in a pod. And all that applies in the general, applies in the particular, as well. Moreover, the parts make what is found in the whole, for the general can appear only after the appearance of the parts in it, according to the quantity and quality of the parts. Evidently, the value of an act of a part elevates or declines the entire whole.”[vii]
Moreover, continues Baal HaSulam, “When one increases one’s toil in the internality of the Torah and its secrets [exerts to attain the Creator], to that extent one makes the virtue of the internality of the world—which are Israel—soar high above the externality of the world, which are the Nations of the World. And all the nations will acknowledge and recognize Israel’s merit over them, until the realization of the words, ‘And the people shall take them, and bring them to their place: and the house of Israel shall possess them in the land of the Lord’ (Isaiah 14, 2), and also ‘Thus says the Lord God, Behold, I will lift up my hand to the nations, and set up my standard to the peoples: and they shall bring thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall be carried on their shoulders’ (Isaiah 49:22).
“But if, God forbid, it is to the contrary, and a person from Israel degrades the virtue of the internality of the Torah and its secrets, which deals with the conduct of our souls and their degrees [attainment of the Creator and conveyance of that attainment] … [the nations] will humiliate and disgrace the children of Israel, and regard Israel as superfluous, as though the world has no need for them.”[viii]
When that happens, he adds, “the externality of the entire world, being the Nations of the World, intensify and revoke the Children of Israel—the internality of the world. In such a generation, all the destructors among the Nations of the World raise their heads and wish primarily to destroy and to kill the Children of Israel, as it is written (Yevamot 63), ‘No calamity comes to the world but for Israel.’ This means, as it is written in the above corrections, that they cause poverty, ruin, robbery, killing, and destruction in the whole world.”[ix]
In conclusion, if we carry out our role and pass on the light of benevolence to the world, the quality of the Creator, the internality that Baal HaSulam speaks of, then “the internality of the Nations of the World, the Righteous of the Nations of the World, will overpower and submit their externality, which are the destructors. And the internality of the world, too, which is Israel, shall rise in all their merit and virtue over the externality of the world, which are the nations. Then, all the nations of the world will recognize and acknowledge Israel’s merit over them.
“And they shall follow the words (Isaiah 14:2), ‘And the people shall take them, and bring them to their place: and the house of Israel shall possess them in the land of the Lord.’ And also (Isaiah 49:22), ‘And they shall bring thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall be carried on their shoulders.’”[x] (Repetition of the quotes is in the original text.)
It may seem like a hefty task for such a small number of people to make such a great difference in the world, but in truth, the success or failure of our efforts depends on one and one thing only—our unity. And so, to remind ourselves of the paramount role that unity plays in our success as a nation and in the success of our mission, the next chapter will be dedicated to the words of our sages throughout the ages as they describe their thoughts about unity. Subsequently, we will examine the means by which we can achieve that unity.
[i] Assimilation and Community: The Jews in Nineteenth-Century Europe, Ed: Jonathan Frankel, Steven J. Zipperstein, 12.
[ii] “Conservative Judaism,” The Encyclopaedia Britannica, url: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/133461/Conservative-Judaism
[iii] Michael A. Meyer, Response to Modernity: A History of the Reform Movement in Judaism (Detroit, US: Wayne State University Press, 1995), 226.
[iv] Meyer, Response to Modernity: A History of the Reform Movement in Judaism, 227.
[v] Reform Judaism: A Centenary Perspective, Adopted in San Francisco – 1976 (Oct. 27, 2004), url: http://ccarnet.org/rabbis-speak/platforms/reform-judaism-centenary-perspective/
[vii] Rav Yehuda Leib HaLevi Ashlag (Baal HaSulam), The Writings of Baal HaSulam, “Introduction to the Book of Zohar” (Ashlag Research Institute, Israel, 2009), 450-453.
Writings of Rabash, “Dargot HaSulam,” Article 936
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Writings of Rabash, “Dargot HaSulam,” Article 930
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Writings of Rabash, “Dargot HaSulam,” Article 932
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Writings of Baal HaSulam, “Introduction to The Book of Zohar,” Item 20
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