Entries in the 'Books' Category

The Meaning Of Kabbalistic Books, Part 8

Laitman_151Can The Book of Zohar relieve misfortune?

Question: It is said by the sages that the study of The Book of Zohar eliminates all misfortunes. How can a book save every person and all humanity from problems?

Answer: The Book itself does not save us from anything. I cannot buy this book and use it, as the townsfolk believe, like a talisman or some miraculous means (Segula). It doesn’t work that way.

The Book of Zohar saves us if we use it correctly, and, by studying it, we try to change ourselves in accordance with it. If we just keep it on a shelf or even put it close to our heart, nothing will change.

Question: But psychologically will it help?

Answer: Psychologically, yes.

I do not dismiss the fact that such psychological assistance is very important to a person. For a small, fragile, weak person in our world, it is very important. However, from a scientific point of view, it is of no use.
From KabTV’s “Fundamentals of Kabbalah,” 12/18/18

Related Material:
The Meaning Of Kabbalistic Books, Part 7
The Meaning Of Kabbalistic Books, Part 6
The Meaning Of Kabbalistic Books, Part 5

The Meaning Of Kabbalistic Books, Part 7

laitman_284.05Three Limitations in the Study of Kabbalah

Comment: Baal HaSulam writes that in order to begin to study his commentary on The Book of Zohar or The Book of Zohar itself, you must first familiarize yourself with the four prefaces written by him: “Preface to the Wisdom of Kabbalah,” “Preface to the Sulam Commentary,” “Introduction to The Book of Zohar,” and “Preface to The Book of Zohar. ”

Answer: Yes. It is impossible to approach reading The Book of the Zohar without a serious study of these four prefaces.

Question: In addition, Baal HaSulam writes that before proceeding with the study of The Book of Zohar, three limitations must be clarified, which cannot be violated. In spiritual attainment, there are four categories that are called: matter, form dressed in matter, abstract form and essence. The Book of Zohar does not deal with such concepts as essence and abstract form. What is this limitation?

Answer: It is impossible to deal with the essence at all since it is above our nature.

We cannot deal with the abstract form because it is not a science.

We only deal with matter, which takes some form.

For example, we study egoism, which can acquire certain egoistic or anti-egoistic, altruistic forms. We can put on these forms and examine them because we ourselves are the matter that takes on these forms.

It is impossible to explore something outside yourself, in particular, such a substance as the Creator. Only if He appears as a person and manifests itself in the form of some property: love, bestowal.

Question: The second limitation—Baal HaSulam says that The Book of Zohar considers only the worlds of Beria, Yetzira, and Assiya, that is, the concealment of the upper force from creation. Why?

Answer: We can only investigate what manifests in matter, and what is above it, abstract forms, abstract forces unclothed in matter, we cannot discuss them because they are absolutely unprovable and unrealistic.

Question: So there are five worlds and Baal HaSulam speaks only about three worlds?

Answer: Yes. He speaks only of those worlds where we exist: Beria, Yetzira, and Assiya.

Question: The third limitation—in each of the worlds BYA, there are three categories: ten Sefirot, the souls of people, and the rest of reality. The Book of Zohar explains phenomena associated only with people. What does this mean?

Answer: We should be interested only in what concerns us and what is clothed in us, and we can explore this from our practical comprehension.

We must see the limitations very clearly. A step to the left, a step to the right beyond the limits of our desire, which takes on various forms, turns us into philosophers and psychologists, but not scientists. Kabbalah is a purely a practical science.
From KabTV’s “Fundamentals of Kabbalah,” 12/18/18

Related Material:
The Meaning Of Kabbalistic Books, Part 6
The Meaning Of Kabbalistic Books, Part 5
The Meaning Of Kabbalistic Books, Part 4

The Meaning Of Kabbalistic Books, Part 6

laitman_250Reasons for the Appearance of The Book of Zohar

Question: The Book of Zohar is a commentary on the Torah. Why did it have to be written?

Answer: Circumstances changed.

There were stages when groups of Kabbalists who were in a state of attainment, that is, a gradual rise from the beginning of the creation of egoism to its relatively complete development, as during the Second Temple, fell. The Book of Zohar was written in the second century AD in a state when a fall had already occurred. There were no groups, no nations; there was nothing called holiness, meaning a sense of at least relative unity. Everything was destroyed, crushed, split. Therefore, a technique was needed to crown this dark period of suffering, called the exile, which should end in correction.

The Book of Zohar is intended for the period separated from its writing to our time by a two-thousand-year exile so that, starting from our time onward, we begin to implement what is written in it, meaning to correct ourselves.

In our generation, we have been awarded The Sulam Commentary on The Book of Zohar. Therefore, we can reveal Kabbalah and begin to understand what the great Kabbalists Rabbi Shimon and his students said two thousand years ago.

Question: Are you saying that without the commentary written by the last Kabbalist of the 20th century, Baal HaSulam (Yehuda Ashlag) it is impossible to understand the Zohar?

Answer: Impossible. Therefore, it appeared.
From KabTV’s “Fundamentals of Kabbalah,” 12/18/18

Related Material:
The Meaning Of Kabbalistic Books, Part 5
The Meaning Of Kabbalistic Books, Part 4
The Meaning Of Kabbalistic Books, Part 3

The Meaning Of Kabbalistic Books, Part 1

laitman_531.01The Many Faces of the Torah

Question: When we open the Torah, we find a collection of historical stories with many characters. How should we correctly relate to them?

Answer: If the Torah did not come from a special source but was an ordinary book written, suppose by a person in the Middle Ages, then it would just be an interesting historical novel.

The Torah itself is presented in very interesting language, and when you start reading it, you cannot stop, because it captivates you. There is something in it that makes you never get tired of reading it.

I speak of this as an ordinary reader who has nothing to do with the origin of this book, religion, history, geography, or with anything else. It is just written in an interesting style.

Some perceive the Torah as a historical document, others as fiction, or, perhaps, as a collection of instructions or legal documents. It contains a lot of information about the interaction of people and nations in ancient times, about their view of the world.

In general, the Torah is a very interesting book. We see something similar in Josephus Flavius, if it is possible to compare the Torah and his works at all. To some extent, he retells the Torah and describes it as a historian.

Josephus is a truly stunning historian with a broad outlook and a deep knowledge of historical facts. He wrote his works while in exile in Rome where a huge institute was created especially for him, where hundreds of people worked for him.

But all the same, what he wrote cannot be compared with the Torah itself.
From KabTV’s “Fundamentals of Kabbalah” 12/18/18

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The Bitcoin Phenomenon

The day will come when, by virtue of a new quality of interconnection between us, a new “currency” will emerge.

Below is a seven-year graph showing the Bitcoin-USD exchange rate, with an unprecedented rise in 2017 (Buy Bitcoin Worldwide).

Impressive, isn’t it?

Obviously, I am not a market analyst or expert on cryptocurrencies. However, Bitcoin is certainly not just a financial phenomenon. It is founded upon the attempt to create a completely new type of universal value.

It would seem that there is nothing backing the “virtual currency” except cryptographic algorithms. However, that is no laughing matter. After all, cryptography is intended to provide reliability and trust, which is already valuable in itself. It is as if the creators of the new coin are declaring: human nature with its “baggage” has no access to our territory.

The modern financial system cannot boast of having this feature; there, money is produced by banks and is a factor of the political and economic influences of specific countries and organizations. In other words, the “old” money serves very specific interests.

On the other hand, right before our eyes, a new, extra-governmental, extra-historical currency is being born, setting claim to becoming a universal, absolute equivalent, and even to driving gold out of its immovable position.

It is being born because the need for it is ripe. After all, globalization, which many people criticize, really is a natural phenomenon. It reflects the current state of humanity, which has already gathered into one whole technologically, but has not yet accepted this fact psychologically.

That is why we don’t yet understand how to use the cryptocurrency, how to integrate it into the system, and how it will later influence us, the ones who created it. However, that does not change its essence: the global world is demanding a global monetary equivalent that does not depend on local, subjective “circumstances” and interests.

On the other hand, if we treat this novelty like in the olden times, with traditional means, it will lose its “charm”—its objective value as seen by the public. Yes, in the beginning of the road, Bitcoin became a convenient means for deals on the black market, which found a way in here, yet the completely legal “financial mafia” will put an end to it and will find a way to secure a grip on the new coin.

Will the illegal players be able to preserve the freedom of the cryptocurrency? One way or another, its future depends on that. There are chances for that to happen since governments and banks are also connected to the “financial mafia.”

However, if we rise above the current fuss surrounding Bitcoin, we will see how egoism on a global scale is gradually building the respective global systems for itself, and in a way that does not attach artificial ideals and ideologies to them.

There is no “good” or “evil” here, but only business in the pure form. And what difference does it make if the reciprocal trust of the parties is provided by virtual computer computations? On the contrary, that makes it even better; there will be fewer errors in the calculations.

It turns out that we are talking about global trends and, for the most part, it makes no sense to resist them.

Moreover, in the future we will develop additional universal parameters, but ones of a social nature. The day will come when, by virtue of a new quality of interconnection between us, a new “currency” will emerge—social rating, expressed by a clear equivalent that anyone can understand.

People will be able to accumulate it as well, but not sell or buy it. It is more likely to have a comparative nature while having completely real value.

After all, society, especially one that is global, cannot be based on just bare egoism alone. Of course, it is rational in its own way, but when left to its own devices, it leads to a dead-end. The social aspect in man and society must take the upper hand over self-focus so the whole will not fall apart into pieces.

These are the paradigms of a new time, whose essence is not a single currency, but new relationships between people in a united, modern world.

Related Material:
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Money Is Merely An Equivalent
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Ynet: “Excuse Me, What Are We Guilty Of?”

From my column in Ynet: “Excuse Me, What Are We Guilty Of?”

Elul is the last month on the Hebrew calendar, so it is considered a month for reflection about the past year and preparation for the new year. For what and why should we ask forgiveness, and how must we act when the reason is discovered? Rav Michael Laitman teaches how to really forgive.

14 billion years ago, the Big Bang occurred, and the universe was created. An enormous amount of energy that was concentrated into one tiny point exploded in every direction, and the universe began to expand at a tremendous speed. The many particles that were created gathered into atoms, and the atoms into stars and galaxies. Billions of years after that, the inanimate planet Earth was formed, and plants and animals developed on it until the birth of humanity.

Man lived peacefully and calmly, in balance with the rest of humanity and the forces of nature, until suddenly another explosion occurred. “The Big Bang of humanity” shattered the pastoral unity in human society, and began to distance people from each other, similar to the way stars in the universe continue to drift apart.

The negative, egoistic, and unconscious force of separation that operated to make distance between us was identified for the first time by a human being named Adam. He understood that he must heal the rift between his contemporaries. Since he was the first to bring a substantial change in the system of broken relationships between people, we have a custom of celebrating his discovery on Rosh HaShanah.

14 billion years ago, the Big Bang happened, and the universe was created

Since then, 5,777 years have passed. We count them according to the Hebrew calendar, and every year we are accustomed to reexamining the essence of our lives and our role in this world. One of the questions that can help us to define our situation is: have we become closer to each other this year above our natural tendency that separates us, or haven’t we? This soul-searching is called Slichot (asking for forgivenesses), and to internalize its meaning, we must go on a short journey through time.

Introducing the Israeli Team

Twenty generations have passed since that human being developed his observations and was called Adam HaRishon (The First Man) and until most of humanity settled in the center of the ancient world, ancient Babylon.

In this period, two natural opposing forces were working on humanity: the force of connection, the positive force that strives to develop society by maintaining connections of mutual responsibility, and opposite it, the force of separation, the negative force that is controlled by the egoistic nature. The negative force is what distanced and separated the inhabitants of Babylon to a previously unfamiliar level until, finally, they stopped talking to each other and became enemies. These opposing forces of nature that clashed with each other caused a difficult crisis, but just as a plant sprouts from a seed in the ground that cracks open, so from the crisis between people, a new humanity was born.

The social rift continued to develop, and humanity was scattered over the face of the Earth. Only a small group of people decided to defy the forces of nature and actually oppose the process of separation. Burning within these people was an inner drive that compelled them to connect with each other.

This chosen group called itself “Israel” because their desire to be Yashar – El (straight to God), like the characteristic of the whole and eternal force of nature. Elsewhere, they were called “Hebrews” (Ivrim) because they already had moved (Avar) toward acting according to the laws of nature, or “Jews” (Yehudim) because they were acting to unite (Yichud) and harmonize with nature.

At the head of this group stood Abraham, an uncompromising researcher who was searching for the meaning of life. He was the first to identify the reason for the crisis: the developing egoism that separates and puts distance between people. Abraham urged his students to be strong, to rise up, and to strengthen the spirit of unity with all of their might above the terrible schism. Their efforts to connect aroused a positive force inherent in nature. This force balanced the negative tendency and connected them with a strong bond that was called “one man in one heart.” From these efforts, Abraham developed a method for connection that he taught to all who came to him. This method made it possible for the members of the group to begin to develop a system of relationships between them based upon giving, love, and mutual responsibility that they called Beit HaMikdash (Temple).

The Turning Point in Human History

Once the children of Israel reached a maximum level of connection between them, the situation deteriorated, and the connections weakened. They understood that in order to strengthen the connections between them, they needed to be connected to their Babylonian brothers who had dispersed and become the seventy nations of the world. Brotherly love was replaced by unfounded hatred, leading not only to the destruction of the system of relationships of the “Temple,” but also the destruction of the physical Temple and continued with the crash of the united kingdom of Israel. The force of ego continued to divide the Babylonians and sowed hatred in every direction.

A Good and Sweet Year.

For 2,000 years, the Jews assimilated among the nations of the world. On the one hand, the spark that Abraham sowed in the people of Israel began to flourish in the heart of humanity, and on the other hand, the Jews absorbed new egoistic desires and opinions. The conclusion of the global merging marks the starting point for a real process that is leading to a turning point in human history.

Slichah, the Error Between Reality and Desire

In the global and connected world of our day, the people of Israel and the seventy nations of the world are immersed together in a common trouble, a bit like Adam HaRishon 5,777 years ago, or Abraham 3,500 years ago. The dramatic crisis that has visited us today is the result of the same imbalance between the opposing forces of nature. The ego creates conflict and division, and causes us to become distant from each other. In contrast, the power of connection develops people, mending the broken parts into a complete, harmonious system.

In the first generations, we did not understand how the forces of nature operated because we didn’t have the tools in our hands for doing this, but once a point of connection was first created in Babylon, we were required to strengthen and develop it when faced with all of the states of separation. Abraham left us a method and a mission: to provide the world with the power of connection until it reaches a harmonious and balanced state.

In order not to make a mistake on the way to the destiny that nature has placed before us, we need to carry out a daily house cleaning and examine in depth how much we have advanced toward connection between us and whether we are still on our way toward the same network of complete connection that Adam HaRishon discovered.

This essential clarification is called Slichot, the discovery of the gap between the forces of nature that aim toward unity and our unwillingness to unite. It is symbolically customary before Rosh HaShanah for us to clarify together the degree to which we are acting in accord with the laws of nature of the entire system. Regarding this, we confess that, “We are guilty, we have betrayed, we have robbed …” and we regret the opportunity that was in our hands to realize the connection between us and we did not do it. Now is the right time to consider a new path toward connection.

I hope, wish, and pray for a year of change, a year of building a system of correct relationships between us.

Happy new year to all of the people of Israel!
From Ynet: “Excuse Me, What Are We Guilty Of?” 6/2/16

Ynet: “How Do We Build Jerusalem If There Is A Ruin In Our Heart?”

Jerusalem, the Temple Mount, and the Temple embody within them much more than what comes to mind when we first think about them. Their spiritual meaning leads us to the necessary understanding that the connection between us is not only for our sake, but for the sake of all of humanity.

Forty-nine years ago, paratroopers entered Jerusalem, liberated the Old City, and united it. It seems that there is no city in the world in which every stone within it is steeped in a history so important to the shaping of the human species. The city that gives hope to an entire people is today the focus of outrageous announcements devoid of all logic from UNESCO, that “the Jewish people have no religious connection with the Temple Mount and the Western Wall.”

International organizations are trying to sever the connection between the Jewish people and their heritage. The EU intervenes in every activity in the city, and given the pace of events, don’t be surprised if the enlightened world wakes up tomorrow morning and decides that Jerusalem is not connected to the nation of Israel, and this doesn’t just mean the separation of East Jerusalem.

Tireless efforts and money are invested in creating a false consciousness, which must awaken this question in the heart of each one of us: How can it be that the capital of Israel—an ancient city that encompasses within it the abundant history of the people of Israel, our religion, and our culture, the city in which two Temples were built and, unfortunately, also were destroyed—is liable to be erased from the map of the land of Israel? In general, from where has such a decisive opposition popped up among the nations of the world to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel? What does this say about the negative attitude toward us as a people?

We Have the Key to the Gates

The wisdom of Kabbalah maintains that the reason for this persecution lies in our not having realized our role as a people, a role that is rooted within us from the nature of creation, upon whose basis the people of Israel were established. According to ancient wisdom, humanity is connected by a network of mutual links. Within this network, the people of Israel were intended to be “a light unto the nations[FD1] ,” which is to say, connected so that the positive force that is inherent in nature would stream into the world and function to connect people and nations.

The world subconsciously feels that the source of all evil and the root of the suffering that it is experienced is derived directly from the fact that the people of Israel are not realizing their role. This feeling continues to bubble up more and more, and is crystallizing into an agenda that is expressed in the attempts to boycott the nation of Israel. Voices from the international community are calling for a recognition that the world was mistaken when it allowed the establishment of the Jewish nation in the Middle East and that perhaps the hour has arrived to take back the scepter.

Rav Yehudah Ashlag (Baal HaSulam) writes:

“Judaism must present something new to the nations. This is what they expect from the return of Israel to the land! It is not in other teachings, for in that we never innovated. In them, we have always been their disciples. Rather, it is the wisdom of religion, justice, and peace. In this, most nations are our disciples, and this wisdom is attributed to us alone. …”

“This would certainly prove to the nations the rightness of Israel’s return to their land, even to the Arabs. However, a secular return such as today’s does not impress the nations whatsoever, and we must fear lest they will sell Israel’s independence for their needs, needless to mention returning Jerusalem.” (Rav Yehudah Ashlag (Baal HaSulam), “The Writings of the Last Generation,” Part 1, Section 12, pp. 75-76.).

UNESCO, the UN, the EU, and the rest of the international bodies that protect us are a kind of reflection for us of the lack of fulfillment of our function. In other words, we are determining our fate with our own hands. If the world is exhibiting so much hatred and anti-Semitism toward us that it denies the connection between our people and our home, it depends only upon us. In our hands is the choice to decide the future of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, for better or for worse. All that is up to us to do is to decide to implement an essential change in the interpersonal relationships between us, connecting as “one man in one heart” instead of each person being concerned only about himself. As a result of the positive force that we create among us, we balance the forces of separation and bring to completion the system of connection between people. The forces of connection between us also will permeate the nations of the world and oblige them to begin a similar process as well, to connect and recognize us as the origin of connection and goodness.

“The built-up Jerusalem is like a city that was joined together within itself.” (Psalms 122:3)

According to the wisdom of Kabbalah, there is a parallel and direct connection between the system called the spiritual land of Israel and the state of the physical land of Israel. The desire (Ratzon -רצון) that is in the heart of a person is called Eretz -ארץ, the land of Israel (Eretz Yisrael – ), which has a desire Yashar El (Straight to God), meaning that it has narcissistic desires, but only love for others (The Writings of Rabash). “Jerusalem – ירושלים” comes from the words “Ir Shalem” (Perfect/Whole City) and Irah – יראה (Fear), a city that is built on the fear of separation, representing the sense of necessity in preserving the perfected connection between us.

In the center of the shared fear of Israel, right in the heart of the connection between us, a unique spiritual stratum is revealed that is called the Temple Mount. In it, we build the Temple, a term for a more internal connection between us, a shared desire for love. The moment we stop striving for inner connection, the links begin to unravel, and the people of Israel are expelled. When the roots hidden in the earth are uprooted, this kills the entire tree. That is how the first Temple was destroyed, that is how the second Temple was destroyed, and that is how it has continued until today. And this is not the destruction of a building constructed from wood and stone, but the destruction of the network of love  between us that connects into one. This is because “The house [Jerusalem] was ruined because of unfounded hatred” (Rabbi Israel Segal, Netzah Israel, Chapter 4).

The same general rule applies in our day, “According to the connection of the people of Israel and their awakening to love and fear, Jerusalem is built” (Koznitzer Maggid). Jerusalem will be built only when we establish it first in our hearts with corrected relationships of connection and love. Until then, the unfounded hatred will continue, and Jerusalem will remain as a ruined capital until then, as a torn city full of conflict and bloodshed, for instead of a place where love dwells, after the destruction, the power of separation and hatred dominates.

“The Messiah sits in the gate of Jerusalem and waits for people to be worthy of redemption. He is in cuffs and needs complete people to release him from his chains. …now he craves men of truth” (Sayings of Rabbi Menachem Mendel). The wisdom of Kabbalah, the wisdom of truth, is a method that teaches us how to connect and apply the general rule, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18). With the help of the power of connection, we can realize our role as a nation and restore the spiritual concept of Jerusalem to its full glory.

Then, Jerusalem will become the capital of love for all of humanity. As it is written, “In the future, Jerusalem will be like all of Israel, and Israel will be the entire world” (the Yalkut Shimoni). Then the world will understand the words of the prophets: “…for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples” (Isaiah 56:7), and “for they shall all know Me from their smallest to their greatest” (Jeremiah 31:33 ).
What else did the sages of Kabbalah write about Jerusalem?
From Ynet article 6/2/16

Like A Bundle Of Reeds

Like A Bundle of Reeds, Why Unity and Mutual Guarantee Are Today’s Call of the Hour, Michael Laitman, Ph.D.


Humanity deserves to be united into a single family. At that time all the quarrels and the ill will that stem from divisions of nations and their boundaries shall cease. However, the world requires mitigation, whereby humanity will be perfected through each nation’s unique characteristics. This deficiency is what the Assembly of Israel will complement.
—The Rav Kook, Orot HaRaaiah [Lights of the Raaiah], Shavuot, p 70

It has not been easy to write this book. I have written dozens of books, but none has been as emotionally demanding or intellectually challenging. For many years now, I have known the task that stands before us, but I have always been hesitant about writing directly to my Jewish brethren. I did not wish to be perceived as condescending or overbearing, and being tediously preachy or admonitory is not high on my “To Do” list.

And yet, my Kabbalah studies with Rabash taught me that the direction in which the world is moving is en route to ending in mayhem. That is why the Rabash’s father, Baal HaSulam, as well as his son, were more eager to circulate the ancient wisdom as a cure to humanity’s soaring egotism than any previous Kabbalist.

Baal HaSulam was anxious about the growing global interdependence early in the 1930s, when very few people in the world were even conscious of the process. He knew that it would lead to an irresolvable crisis if humanity did not support that mutual dependence with mutual guarantee, that human nature would not be able to tolerate the contrast between interdependence and mutual aversion.

At the same time, even at that early stage in our globalization, Baal HaSulam realized that the process was irreversible, that because we are parts of a single soul, a single desire, we are inherently connected. He also knew, as did all the sages quoted in this book, that the goal for which we were created was not for people to be strangers and hateful, but to bond and unite through the quality of bestowal.

Today we see how right he was. We are hopelessly ill-connected, and vehemently resentful of it. Our social systems, such as economy, health, and education, assume that ill will is the foundation of human relations, and therefore each entity shores itself up through regulations, legislations, and solicitors.

But this modus operandi is unsustainable. As good families assume goodwill among family members, all members of humankind must learn to trust one another.

However, as shown throughout the book, because our egos constantly evolve and emphasize our uniqueness rather than our unity, we need a method to help us achieve unity atop our disparity, without suppressing or nullifying it. That method is rooted in the spiritual patrimony of our people, and is the gift of the Jews to humanity, the salvation that the nations all await from the Jews.

The gift can be handed down through the wisdom of Kabbalah, through Integral Education, by the means that Baal HaSulam suggested in The Nation, or by any other means that will yield a fundamental change in human nature from divisiveness to unity, from animosity to empathy and care. If we achieve that unity, then the more we differ in our character, the stronger and warmer will be our bond. As Rabbi Nathan Sternhertz described it, “It primarily depends on man, who is the heart of Creation, and on whom everything depends. This is why ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ is the great klal [“rule,” but also “collective”] of the Torah, to include in unity and peace, which is the heart of the vitality, persistence, and correction of the whole of Creation, by people of differing views being included together in love, unity, and peace.”[i]

Indeed, the beauty of our people is in its unity, its cohesion. Our nation began as a group of individuals who shared a common desire: to discover life’s essential force. We discovered that it was, in a word, “love,” and we discovered it because we developed that quality within us. That force of love united us, and in the spirit of love, we sought to share our discovery with anyone who willed it.

Over time, we have lost our connection, first with each other, then with the force we discovered through our bond. But now the world needs us to rekindle that bond, first among us, and subsequently among the whole of humanity.

We are a gifted nation, a nation with the gift of love, which is the quality of the Creator. Receiving this gift is the goal for which humanity was created, and we are the only conduit by which this love can flow to all the nations. Since the dawn of humanity, “never have so few owed so much to so many,” to paraphrase Winston Churchill’s words. And yet, never have so few been capable of giving so much to so many.

Indeed, as Baal HaSulam says, “It is upon the Israeli nation to qualify itself and all the people of the world … to develop until they take upon themselves that sublime work of the love of others, which is the ladder to the purpose of Creation, which is Dvekut [equivalence of form] with Him.”[ii]

[i] Rabbi Nathan Sternhertz, Likutey Halachot [Assorted Rules], “Rules of Tefilat Arvit [Evening Prayer],” Rule no. 4.

[ii] Rav Yehuda Leib HaLevi Ashlag (Baal HaSulam), The Writings of Baal HaSulam, “The Arvut [Mutual Guarantee],” item 28 (Ashlag Research Institute, Israel, 2009), 393.

Like A Bundle Of Reeds—Living In An Integrated World, Part 7

Like a Bundle of ReedsLike A Bundle of Reeds, Why Unity and Mutual Guarantee Are Today’s Call of the Hour, Michael Laitman, Ph.D.

Chapter 10: Living In an Integrated World
An Integrated World Requires Integral Education

Our Privilege, Our Duty, Our Time

One last thing needs to be mentioned regarding education of adults, youths, and children. No form of Integral Education will succeed if it aims only to improve our material lives. While this is a desirable goal, it will not be achieved without a profound understanding that all of humanity is moving toward an era of interconnectedness and interdependence because this is the Law of Nature.

People do not need to call it “the Creator.” There is no need for anyone to aspire to attain a higher, deeper, broader level of perception unless it is their will. However, people will have to know that equivalence of form, being like the Law of Nature, meaning interconnected, behooves us to adapt our way of life accordingly.

The ones who set the curriculum and design the study programs will have to be as just described, meaning Kabbalists. That said, Kabbalah studies will never be mandatory because only those who wish to transform themselves, to dedicate themselves to the service of others, and genuinely wish to acquire the quality of bestowal will devote themselves to this vocation.

Granted, such a social transformation is a hefty task. And yet, we Jews have been transformed before, and whether dormant or awake, the reminiscence of that transformation exists within us all. No other nation has been given the task of redeeming humanity, as have the Jews, and no other nation has been given the inherent tools to do so. It is our calling; it is our privilege; it is our duty; and it is our time.

It is out of that sense of commitment that the above suggested education method has been devised. It may sound like a rather unorthodox method, but its foundations are rooted deep within our history and deep within our souls, and its “tenets” have been tested successfully by other doctrines. It will succeed if we unite, and it will fail if we do not. As our sages said, “Great is the peace, for even when Israel idol-worship but there is peace among them, the Creator says, ‘It is as though I cannot govern them because there is peace among them.’”[i]

I would like to end with a reference to the words of Baal HaSulam at the end of his “Introduction to the Book of Zohar.” He concludes his introduction with a statement that if Israel should carry out their mission and bring happiness to the world through unity and acquisition of the quality of bestowal, the words of Prophet Isaiah will come true, and the nations shall join us and help us in our mission. As Baal HaSulam quotes, “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).

[i] Midrash Rabah, Beresheet (Genesis), Portion 38, Paragraph 6.

Like A Bundle Of Reeds—Living In An Integrated World, Part 6

Like a Bundle of ReedsLike A Bundle of Reeds, Why Unity and Mutual Guarantee Are Today’s Call of the Hour, Michael Laitman, Ph.D.

Chapter 10: Living In an Integrated World
An Integrated World Requires Integral Education

Integrally Educated Children

While adults must assume responsibility for changing their social environments positively, the situation is much more complicated when it comes to children and youths. Here it is the responsibility of grownups—teachers and educators—whether through private initiatives or with the government’s support, to build this cohesion-inducing environment.

The current education system endorses unabated competition. In and of itself, competition is natural and not inherently negative. But if we consider today’s competitive culture and what it is doing to us, and even more so to our children, it is clear that we are misusing that trait.

In No Contest: The Case Against Competition, Alfie Kohn, a known dissident of competition, quoted psychologist, Elliot Aronson: “From the Little League ball player who bursts into tears after his team loses, to the college students in the football stadium chanting ‘We’re number one!’; from Lyndon Johnson, whose judgment was almost certainly distorted by his oft-stated desire not to be the first American President to lose a war, to the third grader who despises his classmate for a superior performance on an arithmetic test; we manifest a staggering cultural obsession with victory.”[i]

Indeed, libraries and the internet are rife with studies indicating that competition and individualism are bad, and collaboration and cooperation are good, both at work and at school. Jeffrey Norris published a story in the News Center of UCSF, titled, “Yamanaka’s Nobel Prize Highlights Value of Training and Collaboration.” In that story, Norris asserted, “The lone scientist working late into the night to complete a breakthrough experiment that leads to a Eureka moment of solitary joy is a stock scene from Hollywood movies, but in reality science is a highly social endeavor.”[ii] Later, in the section, “Synergistic Collaboration Drives Progress,” he adds, “In the open layouts of modern scientific laboratory buildings, each principal scientific investigator works with several postdoctoral fellows, graduate students and technicians, and a visitor can’t tell where one lab ends and another begins. Scientific ideas and camaraderie are nurtured in the interactive environment.”[iii]

It is likewise at school. Numerous experiments have already been conducted on the benefits of collaboration in the education system. In an essay called, “An Educational Psychology Success Story: Social Interdependence Theory and Cooperative Learning,” University of Minnesota professors David W. Johnson and Roger T. Johnson present the case for the “social interdependence” theory. In their words, “More than 1,200 research studies have been conducted in the past 11 decades on cooperative, competitive, and individualistic efforts. Findings from these studies have validated, modified, refined, and extended the theory.”[iv]

The authors proceed to detail what these studies had found. The researchers compared the effectiveness of cooperative learning to the commonly used individual, competitive learning. The results were unequivocal. In terms of individual accountability and personal responsibility, they concluded, “The positive interdependence that binds group members together is posited to result in feelings of responsibility for (a) completing one’s share of the work and (b) facilitating the work of other group members. Furthermore, when a person’s performance affects the outcomes of collaborators, the person feels responsible for the collaborators’ welfare as well as for his or her own. Failing oneself is bad, but failing others as well as oneself is worse.”[v] In other words, positive interdependence turns individualistic people into caring and collaborating ones, the complete opposite of the current trend of growing individualism to the point of narcissism.[vi]

Johnson and Johnson distinguish between positive interdependence and negative interdependence. The positive kind entails “…a positive correlation among individuals’ goal attainments; individuals perceive that they can attain their goals if and only if the other individuals with whom they are cooperatively linked attain their goals.”[vii] The negative one means that “individuals perceive that they can obtain their goals if and only if the other individuals with whom they are competitively linked fail to obtain their goals.”[viii]

In order to demonstrate the benefits of collaboration, the researchers measured the achievements of students who collaborated compared to those who competed. In their findings, “The average person cooperating was found to achieve at about two thirds of a standard deviation above the average person performing within a competitive or individualistic situation.”[ix]

To understand the meaning of such deviation above the average, consider that if a child is a D-average student, by cooperating, that student’s grades will leap to an astonishing A+ average. Also, the Johnsons wrote, “Cooperation, when compared with competitive and individualistic efforts, tends to promote greater long-term retention, higher intrinsic motivation, and expectations for success, more creative thinking… and more positive attitudes toward the task and school.”[x] In other words, not only the children benefit from this prosocial attitude, but society as a whole gains leverage.

In early 2012, I coauthored with Professor of Psychology and Gestalt-therapist, Dr. Anatoly Ulianov, a book titled, The Psychology of the Integral Society. The book details the essentials of IE, with specific references to today’s over-competitive society. In essence, the book suggests that since competition is inherent to human nature—as detailed earlier in this book regarding the speaking degree’s aspiration for wealth, power, and fame—we should not inhibit it. Instead, rather than competing to be king (or queen) of the hill, so to speak, we can foster a social atmosphere that endorses competition for the person who contributes most to others.

Specifically, those who should be declared winners are individuals who did the most to make others better. In a sense, it is a competition to be the one who loves others the most. Thus, children’s natural drive to excel—and specifically, to excel over others—is not inhibited, allowing them to actualize their full potential while channeling it toward benefiting society instead of themselves, since the only way to win this type of competition is to be the best at being good. In this way, competition becomes a tool for initiating the quality of bestowal in children.

To foster this healthy atmosphere, peer-to-peer relations and teacher-student relations must reflect these prosocial values. This entails some modifications to the traditional teaching style. The premise in IE is that today’s foremost challenge in education is not transmission of information, but rather inculcating capabilities by which to acquire information quickly and in a manner that best serves students’ varying goals.

This is a shift from the traditional paradigm, which results from the fact that today’s life is very different from the time of the Industrial Revolution, during which the concept of frontal lecturing of information was conceived. In the Information Age, data accumulate so quickly that past experiences can only serve as a basis for further learning. In preparation for today’s adult world, schoolchildren need to learn how to learn more than they need to absorb information.

Additionally, because of the interconnected and interdependent nature of today’s world, from early on children need to comprehend that self-interest alone will not lead to happiness. Rather, as Johnson and Johnson demonstrate, mutual consideration and openness to others will promote their chances of success and happiness more successfully.

But children need to experience the interconnectedness of the world in real life, and not just hear or talk about it. One practical way to achieve this is by transforming the classroom into a microcosm, a mini-environment, a small family where everyone cares for one another.

To that end, IE proposes that students and teachers—or “educators,” as they are referred to in IE—will sit in circles, and the learning will take place through lively discussions on the subject matter. Circles place educator and students on the same level, so the educator can gently guide the discussion toward learning, and even more important, toward mutual understanding without being overbearing or domineering.

Another important issue is the school curriculum. This should reflect the interconnected nature of the world. The curriculum should also support integration of topics. Thus, fields of study such as math, physics, and biology will not be taught separately, but within the context of Nature as a whole, which is how the laws of the three disciplines actually function.

Integration should be inherent in the actual study, and it is quite likely to see students apply laws of biology to their studies in humanities. After all, humanity has already been labeled “a superorganism,” so applying the laws of biology to human society seems a natural evolution.

Also notable is the point that in IE, educators are often not teachers, but older students. This enhances overall cohesion and camaraderie among students of different age groups, develops verbal and pedagogical skills of the young educators, and induces far deeper assimilation of information in the tutors because they have to teach it.

But most of all, when young tutors teach instead of grownup teachers, discipline issues become virtually obsolete. Because younger children naturally look up to children who are older than them by two to three years, instead of resenting the educators, as they often feel toward grownup teachers, they seek their favor and race to be the best student in the tutors’ eyes. Couple that aspiration with the above-mentioned desire to be the best at being good, and you have on your hands a school atmosphere to which children will enjoy coming in the morning, and in which they will grow up to be confident and prosocial adults.

Befitting the purposes of IE, the learning itself will take place in groups, as it is the most advantageous form of study for nurturing social skills and for inculcating information, according to the above studies of Johnson and Johnson. Thus, a student’s evaluation will not relate to his or her ability to memorize and recite in a standardized test. Rather, evaluations will be given to groups, rather than to individuals. This will enhance even further the sense of group responsibility and mutual guarantee among the students.

That said, teachers and educators will regularly send reports to parents and school administrators regarding children’s social and educational progress. Because teachers will be much closer to the students than today’s teaching methods allow, they will see if a problem arises with a child before it deteriorates into a major crisis.

Once a week, students should leave the school building and go on outings. To get to know the world they live in, the education system must provide them with firsthand knowledge of the institutions that affect their lives, the governing authorities, and the history and nature of the places they live in. Such outings should include museums, hikes in nearby parks, visits to agricultural communities, tours in factories, hospitals, and outings to government institutions, police stations, and so forth.

Each of these excursions will require preparation that will equip students with prior knowledge of the place they are about to visit, the role of that place in society, what it contributes, possible alternatives, and the origins of that place or institution.

For example, before an outing to the local police station, the students will research the topic of policing on the internet, if possible with specific information on the station they are about to visit. They will learn how the police came to its current mode of action, how it fits within the fabric of life in our society, and what alternatives to the police we might imagine.

In this way, children learn about the world they live in, develop creative thinking to imagine a more desirable future, practice teamwork, and improve their learning skills. Following the outing, further discussions will enable students to share what they have learned, draw conclusions, make suggestions, and compare what they have found with the notions they held regarding the topic in discussion prior to the outing.

There is much more to say about IE schools, such as regarding parents-school-student relations, approach toward homework, recommended hours at school, holidays, punishment-or-no-punishment policies, etc.. Developing this topic further is beyond the scope of this book, but the idea surrounding IE should be clear: children need to learn in an interconnected environment, and experience firsthand the benefits and fun associated with living in such an environment.

[i] Elliot Aronson, The Social Animal, pp 153-54, quoted in: Alfie Kohn, No Contest: The Case Against Competition (NY: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1986), 2.

[ii] Jeffrey Norris, “Yamanaka’s Nobel Prize Highlights Value of Training and Collaboration,” UCSF News Section (October 11, 2012), url: http://www.ucsf.edu/news/2012/10/12949/yamanakas-nobel-prize-highlights-value-training-and-collaboration

[iii] ibid.

[iv] David W. Johnson and Roger T. Johnson, “An Educational Psychology Success Story: Social Interdependence Theory and Cooperative Learning,” Educational Researcher 38 (2009): 365, doi: 10.3102/0013189X09339057

[v] Johnson and Johnson, “Educational Psychology Success Story,” 368

[vi] Books on narcissism in the American society abound. Good examples are: Jean M. Twenge and W. Keith Campbell, The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement (New York: Free Press, A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc. 2009), and Christopher Lasch, The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations (USA: Norton & Company, May 17, 1991)

[vii] ibid.

[viii] ibid.

[ix] Johnson and Johnson, “Educational Psychology Success Story,” 371

[x] ibid.