The Question of the Meaning of Life
Question: When did you first have a question about the meaning of life?
Answer: I was born with it. It pursued me literally from childhood. I searched all the time but did not know where to find the answer. I thought that I would find it in science or something, but it very quickly turned out that as soon as you try, you see it is not for you.
There were years when I did not know what exactly I was looking for. I just felt empty, bored. What for? What can be the goal in life?
Question: How did you try to fill this void?
Answer: First, I tried to choose a profession. There were not many opportunities in Russia at the time. My parents forced me to go to medical school. I enrolled but immediately dropped out. Literally within a few months, I realized that this was not for me because it did not provide a solution for a painful issue.
But if I had graduated from this school, I would have become a surgeon because you see a clear result of your work. The patient is in serious condition and can only be helped by tough intervention, you intervene, and see the result. However, it was still not what I was looking for.
I enrolled in the Faculty of Automation and Computer Engineering at the Ulyanov-Lenin Institute in Leningrad. Then I transferred to the Polytechnic Institute in the department of Professor Akhutin, biological medical cybernetics. I was constantly looking and looking. At the same time, in my last years in Russia, I worked a little at the Institute of Blood Transfusion, at the Military Medical Academy, and even at the SKB, where they made alpha belts for astronauts. But I did not see success in this.
To be a scientist? Well, you will be an assistant professor. So what is next? It somehow disappointed me very quickly.
Question: There is some kind of boundary. You reach it, and there is no further development. And did that initially stop you?
Answer: Yes. It haunted me all the time. In some ways I was unhappy. But misfortune, as they say, helped and led me to Kabbalah after many years. I realized that I had nothing to do in science, nothing to do in Russia at all. At that time, repatriation began. For several years I covered my tracks until through my native Vitebsk, through Lithuania, through the small town of Pobrade, after two years of refusals, I received a permit and left. In 1974 I arrived in Israel.
Search in Israel
After arriving in Israel, I continued to look for an answer to the question about the meaning of life. I specifically settled next to the Weizmann Institute. I thought maybe I would find something there. Nothing again. There was an opportunity to engage in the development of medical equipment, which was closest to my area of expertise. But that did not interest me either. I didn’t want to give it my whole life. It is better to go to some kind of automatic job and be free in heart and soul.
Therefore, I went to work in the army in aircraft maintenance. And in my free time from work, I continued to search. How to find what it is worth living for? This question, this passion, this desire, the emptiness, drove me, although by this time I already had a wife and a child and I was happy in my family life. I am happy to this day that I have been living with this woman for so many years.
Nevertheless, something bothered me. I was offered to search in religion. I started going to some courses and I went to Yarkhei Kala on weekends. They seemed to be saying something, but there was no point in it. And all the time I tried to understand: “Well then, then what?” And they themselves had no questions.
I tried to become like them. I liked what they say about eternity, about the Creator, about the soul, about the connection with the eternal. But where is this connection? They answered: “We read and teach, and this is the connection.” And where is this connection really? Where is the connector with which you connect to this connection? Where do you feel it clearly? Are you involved in this yourself? “No, it is written in the books.” That was enough for them.
But I still searched until Rabbi Fischer from Holland told my trustees who wanted to make me a simple religious Jew: “He probably needs to be introduced to Kabbalists, to those who are more deeply involved in this. There are people who need it.”
And they introduced me to Rabbi Zilberman. Through him, I realized that there is Kabbalah, there are books that really seriously talk about it. He began to study with me in Aramaic on the sly. After all, Kabbalah in the primary sources is set forth in Aramaic. It originates from Babylon, where Aramaic was the spoken language.
But I was not satisfied with his approach either. Believers just study books, and he studied Kabbalah in the same way. And where is the contact, where is the connection? They were not there either. He believed that reading in order to learn more was enough.
What does “learn” have to do with it? I want to be in it! What should I do to find out the very essence of life, everything that happens around, to see the creation from its beginning to the end? Why, how, why? What is the ultimate goal?
To this, Rav Zilberman said: “The question, of course, is a good one. This is understood here and there in Kabbalah. As much as we understand the Kabbalists, that much we understand.” And I left him.
Once, in search of a Kabbalah teacher, I went to one of the lectures at the Berg Institute, but I saw that all this, of course, was not serious. Then I asked to be introduced to Berg and told him bluntly: “I am ready to pay what you want, only I need private lessons.” From a financial point of view, I was a wealthy person and really donated a lot to him, but I demanded private lessons.
So, I started going to his house almost every day at five o’clock in the morning. After a few weeks, I realized that I had nothing to do with him further.
Nevertheless, I learned a little more from him than from the others, because at one time he studied with Rabbi Brandwein, a student of Baal HaSulam. Berg told me a little about Baal HaSulam, about Rabbi Brandwein, how he studied with him when he was still very young. He said that there are still other books, the books of Baal HaSulam, and they can be used. Basically, I learned this from him.
But after two or three weeks, seeing that I had nothing more to learn from him, I stopped studying. And where to look next? Who should I look for? I did not know.
Here He is a True Teacher!
Somehow, literally by accident, after arriving in Bnei Brak, I decided to go to look for a teacher. It was winter, it was hard to travel to Jerusalem at this time of year and I thought, why not look in Bnei Brak. At one of the crossroads, leaning out of the car, I asked: “Where do people study Kabbalah here?” A religious man standing there replied: “Turn left, go to the grove, there you will find a place where they study Kabbalah.” Just like an angel from heaven.
When I arrived there I saw old people studying Kabbalah. I turned to them and they showed me a teacher. So I started studying there. It turned out that their leader was the eldest son of Baal HaSulam. Previously, no one told me about this.
Thus, I ended up with the most important person, I would say the only Kabbalist at that time. Moreover, he was the eldest son of Baal HaSulam and received everything from him. And indeed, when he began to study with me, I realized that a week or two would not be enough here.
I felt this by the way my questions did not fly somewhere into the void but immediately fell on the right ground. I was getting answers straight to the head. Moreover, not elusive answers, like be content with faith and some commandments, or we will wait and see later. They were absolutely clear, serious, calm answers. Moreover, they were accompanied with formulas, with graphs, with logical explanations, without any concessions.
This Is How I was Made
Question: Did your parents know about your search for the meaning of life?
Answer: They always knew what I was looking for. Everything happened before their eyes over the years. Naturally, they understood that I would not give up in any way and in anything because I could not live without it; it was not worth living. Therefore, they did not stop me.
At the same time, I was a serious, sane, very realistic person; I was not in the clouds. I despise mysticism and am very far from religion, from faith. I am very realistic, I know that I need to provide for my family, my children, I stand firmly with two feet on the ground, I do not succumb to any bad influences. They knew all this very well. They saw that I had a very serious goal, that I was created this way, and that I am going forward.
From KabTV’s “Close-up.Generation”