Monday, March 11, 2013

The Obstructing Shadow: Get out of the way of your own Blessing

by Rav Ephraim Kenig shlita [Reprinted with permission from Tzaddik Magazine]

''Every lack a person experiences, whether children, livelihood, or health, comes from oneself.'' [1]  [Rebbe Nachman of Breslov] 

There is an old saying: "The One Who gives life will also provide for it." In other words, since G-d created the world, He most certainly provides whatever we need to exist, whether livelihood, children, health, etc. As discussed in the writings of the Arizal and many other holy books, He created the universe to bestow good on it, not so it should be lacking.

If this is true, when why do we need to exert ourselves so much in order to subsist?  An animal usually has everything it needs in its local environment. Why would it be different for a human being, who is considered the choice of creation?

This is Rebbe Nachman's point. The lack is not inherent in creation - it comes from oneself. The human being was created perfect and complete [2], but something happened that created lack and deficiency.  For example, when a baby is born, the parents hover over the infant to ensure that it is warm, well-fed, and has everything it needs. As the child grows and begins to develop its own ideas and direction in life, the parents still desire to bestow good on the child. Sometimes, the child goes out on their own and acts foolishly without realizing the damage caused to themselves and others. The parents still worry, and do their best to warn the child of the various dangers, even when he or she stubbornly persists in pursuing their own ideas.

Likewise with Hashem. As mature as we consider ourselves, we still possess only a child-like understanding of the greatness of G-d. We don't fully grasp the extent to which He wants to benefit us, and instead, we act like immature children who make trouble.  Divine light, called shefa, constantly flows to us. Descending through all of the upper worlds into this world, it arrives to fill any need we may have.  Shefa is very subtle in the heavens, and once it comes into the world, it manifests as a beneficial influence.  Just as parents desire good for their child, G-d's love likewise directs the appropriate shefa to reach us in a ready-made fashion, like children, money, a home, etc.  The only thing that can stop it is the shadow created by our own actions. The shefa is then experienced as a deficiency.

How do our actions create a shadow?  The first thing to understand is that the nature of a shadow is relative, since a shadow is created from something more physical in relation to something more spiritual.  For example, a tree will create a shadow when put up against the light of the sun or moon.  The earth will also cause a shadow in the form of an eclipse, as will the moon itself.  Even the sun will create a shadow in relation to something  higher than it.  In this case, the sun would be considered physical in relation to what is above it.  Anything more physical obstructs light in relation to something more spiritual. Similarly, a person's  physicality and undesirable deeds form a shadow that obstructs the flow of shefa, since something physical will block something more spiritual.

There is a way, according to Rebbe Nachman, to circumvent this problem. If you nullify yourself by minimizing your connection to the world, no shadow is created and shefa is received unhindered. It is normal to want to fill a place in the world, or to feel you possess something.  You enjoy the respect accorded to you by others, you consume, eat, drink and buy, all of which amounts to experiencing some sort of ''somethingness'' that defines your material existence. The more physical you are, the more it prevents you from receiving the constantly flowing Divine light called shefa.

A basic understanding of human character traits can help a person move towards minimizing their connection to the world.  Let's examine the trait of humility. Everyone is born with a specific predisposition and nature, with varying levels of coarseness or arrogance at one end of the spectrum, and qualities such as humility at the other end.  Each quality, though, needs to be expressed in the proper way and proportion.  For example, it is a natural and positive reaction to feel a sense of nullification or insignificance next to a greater person, not the opposite.

Likewise, we should feel our smallness in relation to Heaven. Our only desire should be to fulfill whatever role G-d gave us with self-nullification, which will naturally bring a tiny perception of G-d's greatness.  Even if we are not currently on this level, it is something that needs to be deeply contemplated, since it is the true reality.

As creations of G-d, we belong to Him.  To the extent we comprehend this message and internalize it, our entire existence and relationship to the world will change.  As we go about our daily business, we will begin to understand that we are nothing more than messengers on a mission given to us by Hashem.  We will also be much less exacting of our own honor and care less about what others say or think about us. These concerns are exactly what make us more material.  Freed of these concerns, we are less physical. More shefa reaches us and we experience less deficiency and lack.

The world was created with such compassion, in a way that is truly good for us in this world and the next. Consider the generation of Noah and the Flood. How did this generation come to such depravity that it had to be completely wiped out?  The Midrash explains that this was actually caused by the abundant and awesome shefa they enjoyed on a constant basis.  They had everything they wanted, immediately, with incredible opulence, which is what brought them to such coarseness and vulgarity.  They believed the shefa came from their efforts and the strength of their own hands. They knew very well G-d was sending this goodness, but they didn't believe He was the ultimate power behind sending it, or had the ability to halt it.  When Noah repeatedly warned them about the impending flood, they taunted ''Where will the flood come from, Heaven?'' since they felt they could stop the Heavenly wellsprings themselves.  Although the good was indeed meant for them to enjoy, their way of thinking was a serious error because it overturned everything to the opposite.

Where are you holding?
You can actually sense where you stand before Hashem through evaluating your current situation, whatever it may be.  The very deficiency you experience is a gauge to how physical you are, since the perceived lack is a result of Divine light that has been blocked.  It is now expressed as a specific shortcoming, which indicates a lesser level of self-nullification to what Hashem desires.

How do we know what Hashem wants from us?  According to Rebbe Nachman, it is all related to kavod - glory and honor.  He writes: '''The essence of the light of Hashem is kavod, since whatever Hashem created, He created only for the sake of His glory.''  The entire world was created only to reveal His kavod, as written throughout the holy writings. [3]  Since Hashem's glory fills the world, when you don't take up space in the world, you receive the light of Hashem unhindered.

Self-Nullification and Humility
The Jewish people have an inherent power of self-nullification, which is epitomized by Moses.  He brought us the Torah in such a way to show anyone, in any situation, that they are connected to the Torah and mitzvot, and what they need to uphold.  Moses was considered to be the most humble human being. Although our own perception of humility is very far from its true nature, we still have some conception of it, since Jews possess a natural point of humility, which is developed when contemplating the greatness of Hashem.

Whatever we have or not, comes from Hashem because of His compassion.  Internalizing this message more and more will generate full Divine consciousness, which is the purpose of our existence.  Our entire life experience is meant to bring us to an awareness of the One Who brought the world into existence. When this is deeply integrated into our daily outlook, we will feel no lack whatsoever in life.

This will be the experience many years after Mashiach will have already arrived, as well as in the Next World, when we will see the world in its perfection. There will be no ''somethingness'' that demands honor and recognition. It will be clear that you are alive only because G-d wants you to fulfill your function in the world, so you will lack nothing required to fulfill your mission.  If you need money,  He will give it to you.  If you need health or anything else, you will receive it.

This is actually the level of the tzaddikim. They already achieved their tikkun, and see the perfection in this world now. Their pain comes only from looking at the Jewish people and seeing how far they are from their true life's purpose.  They are completely given over to bringing each Jew closer to G-d, one after another, by revealing another point of awareness in what it means to serve Hashem.  These tzaddikim, with all of their perfection, are already experiencing the World to Come in this world.  Rebbe Nachman insists this is not only something for spiritual giants, but for us as well.  When we pray for Mashiach and the Temple,we are asking for this level - it is something we must all attain, since it is our purpose.

...to be continued

click here for Part Two

3 comments:

  1. Nice post, thank you!

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  2. Beautiful. Definitely something to think about. I find that I cannot figure out what I am lacking in the physical world, though. We all want money to pay bills etc....that's in terms of the physical. As for the spiritual, I don't know. Control of impulse? To not desire the material?
    I think it will require much thought.

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    Replies
    1. Yes I agree, it definitely needs thought Leah.

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