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My recent article in Ynet: “Today Is A Holiday: The Journal Of A Spiritual Journey”
What is the reason for all the customs that we so consistently perform – Eating the traditional fish that a mother cooks for Rosh HaShanah, fasting on Yom Kippur, and hanging decorations in a Sukkah? Rav Laitman explains the holidays of Tishrei according to the wisdom of Kabbalah, and reveals how we change our lives for the better with their help.
It is customary to think that the holidays mark historical events, victory in war, the birth or death of a special person. According to the wisdom of Kabbalah, the holidays of Israel are essentially different from the holidays of other peoples, and they describe stations on the way in the spiritual development of every person.
The Israeli holidays and their customs were introduced by the great Kabbalists thousands of years ago. The Kabbalists are people like us, who through studying the wisdom of Kabbalah succeeded in reaching a life of love for others and through that to love of the Creator—the general force of love that exists in reality. They discovered that there is one single purpose for this upper force: to lead us to be connected, happy, and full of love like Him while we are still alive. This force has been granted many nicknames: Creator, Light, Nature, Love and even King, like it is customary to call Him during the Ten Days of Repentance: “We have no king but you” (Ta’anit 25b).
To describe the stations through which the King passes us on the way to His magical kingdom, to become familiar with Him and to discover all the good that He has prepared for us, the Kabbalists established the Hebrew calendar and the cycle of holidays and festivals in it. So a moment before we dip an apple in honey and hang decorations in a Sukkah, let’s stop and clarify once and for all, why we bother so much every year and how we derive from these customs something better for all of us.
The First Station: Rosh HaShanah
“Rosh (head) is regarded a root ….According to the root and the Rosh that a person establishes for himself at first, so he continues his life” (The Writings of Rabash, “Letter 29”).
The first station in the spiritual journey of the person is Rosh HaShanah — “The beginning of the creation of the person” (The Writings of Rabash, “Dargot HaSulam” 882). In this stage, the person is like a newborn. He looks at the good and bad that he has gone through his whole life and asks himself: What is all of this for? Why am I alive year after year? Who is managing this reality and what is the purpose of existence?
If he is lucky, these questions don’t let him go and they lead him toward the goal, toward the significant and final station of the journey: the discovery of the network of harmonious connection between people within which he will feel the positive power of connection in its full intensity—the Upper Force that manages his life.
The first Rosh HaShanah was “celebrated” for the first time 5,777 years ago when a human being asked similar questions. The name of that person was Adam. Like a child who wants to grow up and be like his parents, so do we need to be like the force that created us and wants to be discovered. This entire desire will provide us with the power to rise above our limited egoistic nature, above the private concern for ourselves, and become “children of Adam.”
The Kabbalists call the longing to know why we are alive by the name, “the point in the heart.” The “heart” represents the totality of the egoistic desires of the person that continue to grow, beginning from the most basic desires – for sex, for nourishment, and for family, through the more developed desires – for money, for respect, and for knowledge. The point in the heart is the most developed spiritual desire in a person on the ladder of desires. And when it is awakened, it breathes into a person the spirit of life and a new desire for self-realization. This desire is not satisfied by money, respect, or knowledge, but only through realizing the purpose of life. And when for the first time the change is felt within a person, he celebrates Rosh HaShanah.
From Rosh HaShanah and on, the person increases the pace of his journey. Equipped with new powers, he struggles to reach a true point of connection with others and realize the point that is burning in his heart. But hope is one thing and reality is another thing. Instead of oneness, he discovers a big separation, the most terrible judgment of all. “The day of judgment was established in Tishrei, since those are days of desire. And that desire awakens upon us at that time each and every year, and it is necessary to waken to complete repentance more and more than during the whole year. And the essence of repentance is to unite with each and every one with love and with one heart” “Meor veShemesh”). This discovery leads the person to the next station on the journey, Yom Kippur.
The Second Station: Yom Kippur
“We see the truth through Rosh HaShanah, then one can ask for atonement. So Yom Kippur is after Rosh HaShanah” (The Writings of Rabash, “Dargot HaSulam” 891)
In The Book of Zohar it is written, “’…as far as light excelleth darkness’ (Ecclesiastes 2:13), for the benefit of light doesn’t come except from darkness.” There is no light without darkness, there is no sweet without bitter, and there is no good without evil. To reach the good, we must also discover the evil. According to the wisdom of Kabbalah, Yom Kippur is the recognition that our egoistic nature is evil from its youth. But it is specifically this recognition that makes it possible for us to attain the good. If on Rosh HaShanah the desire to connect with others is awakened in us, everything good is produced through connection with them. So during the Ten Days of Repentance we are gradually introduced to the negative egoistic force that prevents us from attaining unity. After all, on Yom Kippur there is no place to hide the rift and mutual hatred that divides us. So it becomes possible already to ask for correction of our evil inclination, which is good.
“Israel had no holidays like the fifteenth of Av and like Yom Kippur” (Mishnah Ta’anit 4:8). Why? It is because this was a special day of introspection and deep soul-searching. A day of remorse in which it was customary to ask forgiveness “For the sin that we did in your presence through the evil inclination” (Yom Kippur prayer).
The wisdom of Kabbalah explains that “forgiveness” is not just an oral request, “We have been guilty, we betrayed, we robbed….”; rather, it is a stage in which the person becomes conscious of his true state —how far he is from the right connection with others, and as a result of this, from a connection with the good force that manages his life. This difficult revelation actually makes the person happy because as a result, a cry breaks out from him for inner change. This particular request for forgiveness is expected from us, and when it comes, it is answered.
The Third and Fourth Stations: Sukkot and Simchat Torah
“…the festival of Sukkot explains all the questions, even the hardest and worst….” (The Writings of Rabash, “Letter 36”).
At the third station on the spiritual journey, called “Sukkot,” the response to the inner request arrives and we get a special positive force that transforms the evil in us to good. It is written in the Talmud: “leave your permanent abode and dwell in a temporary abode” (Sukkah 2a). The change that we must go through is to leave a permanent abode, meaning narcissism, to a new abode, to altruism. Then our picture of reality is changed. Our senses are apparently reversed. The brain and the heart change direction—from narcissism to altruism—and the picture of the whole of reality is revealed before our eyes. The person begins to get an answer to the request in his heart, and all of his desires that were opposed to connection enter the “Sukkah.”
The Sukkah symbolizes the complete form that every person will reach in the future. The laws of its construction symbolize the manner in which the person rises above his ego and acquires the ability to love and to give. So, for example, the Skhakh (thatch) in a Sukkah leaves more shade than light, as is written, “Its shade is more than its sun” (Mishnah Sukkah 2:2). This custom symbolizes an action in which the person “conceals,” restricts, the usage of his ego so he can go out of it toward the Light, toward connection and love.
Then he is ready for Simchat Torah—he develops the ability to read the texts of Kabbalah and summon upon himself the Upper Light, which is also called the Torah, to raise the connection between us to the head of the ladder of values, and changing his life for the better. This is because the Torah is the force that is prepared to correct hatred and separation between us and transform them into connection and love, which is a discovery that is called “Simchah” (happiness). Then the person senses within himself the entire vast expanse around him, and gains an eternal, whole, and happy life.
I hope, wish, and pray for a year of change, a year of building proper systems of relationships between us.
A good year to all the people of Israel!
Answer: First of all, we need to understand who the Creator is? This is the upper force of nature. We can’t attain this force by itself.
It manifests in the fact that it created the creation that is the desire to enjoy, to receive fulfillment, and it fills it to the extent that this desire becomes similar to the upper force.
If creation, the desire to receive, makes itself similar to the Creator, bestowing, then the Creator fills it, and to this extent creation begins to reveal its maker.
Initially, people are completely opposite to the Creator; they think about their own pleasure and do not want to give anything to anyone.
However, if we know how to change our nature with the help of the wisdom of Kabbalah, we will begin to reveal the Creator, the force of love and bestowal, which gives us fulfillment, health, the sense of past, present, and future, and perfection, and raises us above time, movement, and space into the world of absolute goodness.
And all this is only to the extent of our equivalence with this force of bestowal and love that is called the Creator. So where is this Creator? He is in the connection between people if we unite with each other. All the levels of nature: still, vegetative, animate, and human are connected into one system. The human stands above all others in this hierarchy, and the connection between all the parts of this system depends only on him.
To the extent that a person will be able to establish good connections between everyone and turn this system into an integral, interconnected, balanced, and kind one, based on mutual help and love, the Creator, the upper force, will be revealed in this system.
This entire network in which the creation exists is called a “place” that is filled with the upper force. It is impossible to reveal this force anywhere apart from this place, this vessel, that is woven from our relationships with each other. The stronger our connection, the stronger is this revelation. This is the only way to feel the Creator; there is no other way.
One’s relation to other people defines the relation of the person to the Creator. The kinder we will make our connections with each other, the more we will reveal the upper force that is manifested between us.
There is no point to ask the Creator for forgiveness until a person pays off all his debts to the creatures, to other people. If we establish good relationships between us and provide the Creator with the place for revelation, then this will be our appeal to Him and our plea for forgiveness.
We are not required to make any other repentance before the Creator than what we implement in the relationships with each other. Otherwise it would be just hypocrisy.
Why would I ask the Creator for forgiveness if I could build a corrected place where He could be revealed and I didn’t do so? After all, this is my entire work, and instead of that, I cry and appeal to Him for help. Why does He need to save me if I myself did nothing for it?
From KabTV’s “A New Life” 9/27/16
The Jerusalem Post:
The Huffington Post:
The Huffington Post:
Unidos con Israel:
The Huffington Post:
The Times of Israel:
In the News (The Jerusalem Post): “A poll released Tuesday claiming that 70% of European Jews won’t go to synagogue on Rosh Hashana or Yom Kippur due to security concerns, has been met with skepticism by prominent Jewish leaders.
“The online survey, conducted last week by the European Jewish Association and the Rabbinical Center of Europe had 78 respondents, who the EJA says are a representative sample of 700 capital cities and peripheries throughout Europe – spanning from Britain to Ukraine. …
“Participants were asked if there was an increase or decrease in the number of registered individuals in their Jewish communities in comparison with last year; whether there was an increase or decrease in the number of Jews expected to attend synagogue on the High Holy Days in comparison with last year; how concerned they and their community members are by the increase in antisemitism in their countries; and whether there was heightened security at Jewish institutes in their community in light of the increase in terrorist attacks in Europe. …
“The poll also found that 80% of respondents are concerned about a rise in anti-Semitism in their countries. …
“This poll is conducted annually, and having analyzed the results and compared them with previous years, the groups deducted that the drop in synagogue attendance is a direct result of increased antisemitism. Margolin told The Jerusalem Post that while other factors do come into play, such as secularization, a comparison with previous years shows that security concerns are the main factor. …
“He cited an increase in attacks on Jewish individuals, institutions and communities, which he partly blamed on the influx of refugees to Europe. He also pointed to a growing influence of the far Right across the continent.
“‘Currently the focus of the extreme Right and their activity is focused on Islamophobia, but testimonies of rabbis and community leaders show a great deal of concern about growing nationalism and xenophobia, also against the Jews of Europe,’ he warned.”
My Comment: It is not possible to escape the hatred in today’s world. Soon the Jews will feel that they are being cornered. The only way out is through developing and study of the method of unification, i.e., returning to building one single people. In this state, to the extent of our efforts, we immediately get the support of the Creator through a feeling of a good attitude toward us, first and foremost from the anti-Semites!
The ultimate goal of evolution, its program, remains hidden from a person. Everyone naively believes that he knows where he is going, or simply doesn’t want to know. People are already disappointed in all of this life and prefer to go with the flow passively—today is the same as yesterday, until life ends.
We give birth to the next generation without thinking about its meaning, but simply fulfilling the program embedded in us. Nobody can answer why we need this life that isn’t easy, and why all this race? No answer, we prefer not to think about it.
The protective force of the body suppresses this question and doesn’t allow us to ask too much. After all, this question reduces us to the degree that is lower than animals. Animals don’t have this question; they act automatically according to their natural program. But people can’t live like this, they ask, and can’t find an answer.
That is why this question is very depressing to us; it shows us our own insignificance and worthlessness. Animals don’t ask questions, they simply live. Humans, however, try to find out what force enlivens us and why we are the way we are? We don’t know the answer, and yet we have to continue living and realize someone’s program.
This is a very humiliating form of life that brings us a lot of suffering. If we compare ourselves with a monkey, we see that it is much higher than a human. After all, a human knows that his life is meaningless and nevertheless continues to live. He fulfills the program of nature that is imposed on him. A monkey, however, knows nothing about this and therefore lives in harmony with nature. With every action that I perform at the order of nature, I confirm that I am worse than a monkey, since I don’t understand, but nevertheless act.
Therefore, nowadays a person runs out of patience and asks, “How much longer will it continue like this? Why? What is this suffering for?” If I hadn’t suffered, I would live my life somehow. But the problem is that we suffer all the time, from birth to death, and today this suffering increases more and more.
It seems that we have everything, but the question about the meaning of life awakens more and more forcing us into a deep depression. Poor, pathetic people, they are smaller than ants because all the creatures act instinctively, without asking, in full agreement with nature.
And in us nature left a question, as if mocking us. It makes us obey it fully, and it laughs and says, “Look what I am doing with you, and you have nowhere to escape!” It turns out that we simply must answer the question about the meaning of life.
One percent of the genetic difference between a human and monkey are just the external differences. The question about the meaning of life isn’t in this one percent. Animals also differ from each other genetically, so this is not the reason at all. The reason is that this question lives in the human and it evokes in him a great need to know what is the basis of life, the cause of it, and the purpose for which we live? We just have to find the answer.
From KabTV’s “A New Life” 9/6/16
Answer: We generally understand this quotation as an obligation to injure someone else because he apparently injured me. On the contrary, I should be grateful that he is teaching me about a characteristic that is harming me. If I were corrected, nothing could have an influence on me; I would be absolutely impervious to all kinds of “arrows.” It would be impossible to irritate me and I would not be indignant or insulted because in a perfected state there would be nothing in me that others could hold onto.
And so, if someone were to say something insulting to me or I were to see something that harms me or is personally directed at me, it only indicates my uncorrected state. If I correct myself, in this way I correct the world around me and I stop seeing negative characteristics in it.
Instead of our terrible world, I suddenly begin to see myself in the spiritual world, in Olam Ein Sof (world of Infinity). It only depends on the correction of my personal characteristics, not on the correction of others, because the world is my opposite side, which shows me what I have not yet corrected inside.
Question: Does this mean that I don’t have to respond with the same “measure for measure”?
Answer: I have no answer for that. You should immediately turn to yourself. If you see, hear, or feel something negative from someone, it is because there are uncorrected characteristics in you. You must think and acknowledge that they are showing you precisely what you must correct within yourself.
From the Kabbalah Lesson in Russian 5/1/16
Question: I have been a teacher for 30 years and it is very difficult for me to find a common language with students who can respond with what they want. In addition, there is a significant decline in advancement, culture, and responsibility among the youth. Does the wisdom of Kabbalah offer some fundamental solution for this?
Answer: I understand what people are looking for, especially teachers who work with pupils or students.
The problem is in the educational method and pedagogy because education is not being pursued. And it is reasonable to presume that you aren’t either. You teach a particular subject. What kind of people are studying it and why do they need to treat it properly? Why do they have to be polite, and not respond with conventional crude slang?
They are talking to you just the way they talk to each other, and they suppose that this is normal. They are not offended by each other because this style of speech is the normal for them. So why should they talk to you differently?
There is no education and schools do not educate children.
For at least two hours per day in kindergartens and schools human nature should be explained to children: its character, the psychology of boys and girls, teenagers, men and women, relationships between the sexes, and relationships between youths and adults.
But everything should be explained from the point of view of nature, how it is organized, how it operates among people, and how we must change all of our negative impulses that have been given to us to be corrected.
We should sit children in a circle and discuss all these issues with them. Then the educational system will become an educational system. Unfortunately, for the meantime, it doesn’t exist, so every year disturbances will continue to increase in schools and other educational institutions.
From the Kabbalah Lesson in Russian 5/1/16
New Life #441 – The Tishrei Holidays: Searching For The Creator
Dr. Michael Laitman in conversation with Oren Levi and Nitzah Mazoz
What are the stages that a person passes through on the way to searching for the Creator, how can the connection between us contribute to discovering Him and why specifically in the holiday season do we have the opportunity to approach Him?
In the beginning of creation, we were in contact with the force that created us. We were like an embryo in the womb of his mother. The concealment was made to make it possible for us to grow, to understand who and what the Creator is and to be like Him. So a person doesn’t see the Creator. And one must try to locate Him, like in hide-and-seek, within and around himself. The partition that separates a person and the Creator is composed of five worlds (Olamot), concealments (Ha’alamot), 125 levels.
On every level we transform lack of understanding and feeling into understanding and feeling. We acquire the characteristics of the Creator. The concealment is found within my heart and mind. I expand and transform the characteristics of my heart and mind. Everything that I think and want comes from Him. There is none else beside Him. And I am only a point that discerns this. Discovering the Creator is the role of a person in the world.
Kabbalists who have already discovered this exist to help him. In every generation there are those in whom an urge is awakened to discover the Creator. Some of them have left writings for us.
Today is a unique time in which there are many people who want to discover the Creator. Searching together is much easier. In the levels of attaining the Creator, the level of difficulty always increases, but the Kabbalists help.
The futility and emptiness that is felt today is designed to bring the person closer to a search for the Creator. The Sukkot Holiday is when those who search for the Creator begin to feel waves of warmth and embraces from Him.
From KabTV’s “New Life #441 – The Tishrei Holidays: Searching For The Creator,” 10/5/14
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