Posts tagged Kabbalah
Following along in our holiday series, let’s talk about Sukkot now. It’s basically the second half of the High Holiday period.
The first half of the High Holiday period was sort of a self-discovery process called teshuva, a reawakening of who we are and want we want to do with our lives. We see G-d as our partner in this personal process.
After Yom Kippur, in the second half of the holidays we are ready to bond our newly-discovered selves with G-d in a loving, bonding way. It’s like a courtship or a marriage, and that sets the tone for the holiday of Sukkot. It’s not the same as the strict, fear-filled, first 10 days of the High Holidays. These are the love-filled days of the High Holidays.
The love-filled days culminate as we sit under sukkah, or a temporary booth for 7 – 8 days of use each year. We sit or stand inside it with the understanding that we don’t need the comforts of this world to be sheltered and protected and warm. We can enjoy protection in the flimsiest of abodes when we are trusting in G-d to care for us.
This is an analogy that applies not only to the sukkah, our temporary home during Sukkot, but also to our lives throughout the year. It is sort of an inoculation for trusting in G-d, and believing that even though it may not seem that the odds are with us, our trust in G-d is greater than out natural surroundings. You might say we’re loading up on our trust for the year ahead; we’re building our trust factor.
So, first we have the bonding factor, and then we also have the factor of holy space. Like Shabbat is holiness in time, Sukkot is holiness in a specific, small space. Just as we completely immerse ourselves into a mikvah, we immerse ourselves into a sukkah, and just by being in there we’re immersed in a holy space.
In that holy, G-dly space, we have access to higher beings. We have access to the seven ushpizim, the seven shepherds of Israel: Abraham, Issac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph and David. We invite all seven shepherds into our sukkah every night, but the main attraction is the one associated with that night. Abraham is the first night, Issac is the second night, Jacob is the third night, Moses is the fourth night, Joseph is the fifth night and David is the seventh night.
We welcome them and literally try to feel their presence with us. We try to discuss their Torah, and their influence on us. It’s a paradigm we connect-up with on that night of Sukkot and for the rest of the year. It’s very timely as well, because right after Sukkot we go into the new cycle of Torah, which is all about the Patriarchs. We are introducing our new connection to the Patriarchs in the upcoming Torah cycle during the holiday of Sukkot.
We “shake off” the worldly aspect of our lives and enter another-worldly, higher-worldly place inside the sukkah. We thereby gain love of G-d, trust in G-d, and also happiness. We go out every night of Sukkot, just as they did back in the days of the Holy Temple, and we participate in a ceremony that emulates or approximates the ceremony of The Drawing of The Waters which took place just outside the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem. They brought in the water as an offering, and they danced and sang all night long. We, too, dance and sing all night long.
Sleep is over-rated during Sukkot. If you’re really keeping the holiday the way it should be kept, you don’t sleep at all outside of the sukkah, and of course there’s a party going on every night, so you really can’t sleep anyway because you can hear all the other parties in sukkahs in the neighborhood all night long. Sukkot is not conducive to sleep, which is a form of rectification of the whole sleep thing, too.
We go out into a sukkah, not only to party and to be happy with G-d, but also to gain, as it was said in the old days, a semi-prophetic state of Ruach HaKodesh. The happiness allows us to get to higher levels.
We also take the choice species of nature, the four species – the lulav (the palm vine,) the Etrog, the myrtle and the aravah. We take them and wave them, as though we’re waving the evil spirits out of our lives. That’s one way to look at it.
We are also attaching ourselves to the best of the supernatural by waving in all directions, which represents all the Sephirotic directions. We do that on Sukkot. And we do a lot of circle dancing, around and around the altar in the synagogue, and on Simchat Torah we dance around with the Torah. Circle dancing in Judaism is a type of dance which brings down that which is beyond to that which is within us. Circle dancing brings down the surrounding light by going around and around, bringing that which is beyond to that which is within.
It’s another expression of how we grow spiritually, bringing the part of the soul which is beyond us into the part of the soul within us. So, spiritual growth is happening in our circle dancing.
Happiness may be one of the hardest of the mitzvot of Sukkot because there are so many things that can aggravate us and cause us to get crazy, sad or mad. But we do have a mitzvah to be happy during the entire holiday, more so than any other holiday, even though it may be a challenge. Usually the amount, depth and quality of our happiness depends on the first half of the High Holy Days, the amount, depth and quality of our teshuva, of going within and purging whatever keeps us from connecting with our essential self and our connection with G-d.
The deeper we dive into the first half of the holiday, the deeper will be the happiness in the second part of the holiday of Sukkot.
This week is Parsha Mishpatim, and I discovered a common thread running through everything I gathered for it. It is a common thread regarding transcending mind noise, or in a positive expression, it’s mindfulness. It’s about transcending mind noise, and I’ll show how events in this Parsha fit into that category.
First of all, Parsha Mishpatim talks very directly about staying away from shekker, which means deceit or lies. Our Sages come up with all kinds of recipes and definitions of what that means in our lives, part of which are transcending the mind noise created by the actions and lies of others people toward us.
Another aspect this Parsha talks about is to not take bribes. Bribes create a mind noise which makes a person fail to see objectively any more, even a righteous person. We have to stay away from that mind noise, the Parsha tells us.
We have to stay away from the noise of doubt. When the people said, “We will do and we will hear,” they kicked doubt out of their mindset. That’s the most profound mind noise-ridding we have in the Parsha, because that got them back to the level of the Garden of Eden when they said, essentially, “Sight unseen, G-d, we’re jumping in and doing whatever you say!”
At that, the Israelites were blessed with zero mind noise, unlike all of us living in these not-yet-Garden of Eden times who are struggling constantly, in every situation. Staying away from doubt is probably the biggest mind noise trap of all.
But, there’s more… There’s the mind noise we spoke about in the previous Parasha which is a preemptive strike. It has to do with one person coming into another person’s house in order to steal from them. They are coming into that house with the assumption they may be killed, so they will probably be locked and loaded, and ready to shoot first.
We have to be able to pre-empt that thing when they come in, and to shoot first in that situation. And that’s a way of dealing with the evil inclination as well. When we deal with the Evil Inclination as our own inner struggle by pre-empting the battle, we win. When we don’t, we don’t. That’s a huge transcendence of the mind noise happening to us as well.
In Parsha Mishpatim it talks about the righteous convert. So, another type of mind noise transcendence is compassion. It is to look at a person, as the Torah tells us to do, and to have compassion on that person, who may be a stranger, or a convert. Many people fall into the trap of cruelty as opposed to compassion.
We have the mind noise of people in our lives whom we hate. The Torah tells us, “You’ve got the mind noise of hate in your mind? Help the hated one. If you see a person who is bent down with some kind of burden, drop what you’re doing and go help him. That will help you get rid of you get rid of your mind noise as you help him. It gets rid of the horrible mind noise called hating.
Another mind noise is taking pleasure in G-d. There are passages that say G-d is going to help us get rid of our sickness, and so forth, because we will get to a place where we are taking pleasure in what’s happening in the world and what’s happening in our lives. That’s a mind noise inside ourselves. And we need to take pleasure in G-d and the role he’s playing in our lives instead. That’s a pleasure that is sort of the opposite of worldly pleasures.
Moses going up the mountain for 40 days is one of the scriptures here. It represents freedom from mind noise in the form of detachment. He was detached enough to not eat or drink or probably even sleep for 40 days up on the mountain. He was a human being, but he had such a high level of detachment that all the mind noise of, “I need this, I need that…” was removed from who he was.
Perhaps I’ll find other examples of mind noise cancellation, maybe in this Parsha and maybe in my life. But it opens up a very big topic, the idea of the mindfulness of getting rid of mind noise.
What I want to share is about the soul and mindfulness. It’s my theme for the week for MMM, but it’s also what the soul is all about. Our souls come into our bodies to improve, expand and soul-ize our bodies, but also to restore them to be souls, to be more spiritual, to get back to the level of Adam’s body prior to the fall in the Garden of Eden. Adam’s body was more like our souls today.
The soul is inside our body, and it’s functioning maximally when we are the most mindful, and it has a natural drive to get back to that, meaning to “escape,” like a flame leaping up on a candle wick. Our soul is trying to get back that place, to be restored, and mindfulness is what helps it get back to that place.
So, here’s a list of tools we can use to increase the mindfulness of life and enable our soul to live in its proper environment.
Instead of the normal consciousness of _______, let’s go to a mindful consciousness of the following:
- Instead of the normal consciousness of moving our bodies through the day, with all the different mundane movements involved, let’s make all these movements – sitting down, standing up, walking, etc. – soulful and mindful opportunities. Let’s be soulful and mindful by resonating on the deepest level with what that message means for us.
- Instead of the normal consciousness of a sort of “ho-hum” life, let’s Paradise our lives, being soulful and mindful of maximal personal expression and also maximal divine expression.
- Instead of the normal consciousness with regard to which aspects of our awareness we engage the world with, let’s be soulful and mindful by engaging the world with our Allness.
- Instead of the normal consciousness of accumulating and accessing wisdom, let’s open up our Da’as, our knowing, and thereby know things in a soulful, mindful way.
- Instead of processing the thoughts in our minds, in a semi-unconscious way, let’s do it in a mindful/soulful way by watching our thoughts or actually taking notes of them. Do it in an objective, watch-the-movie way.
- Instead of the normal consciousness of jumping around from one thing to another in our lives, let’s have a soulful, mindful engagement of any present thing we’re doing, to the exclusion of anything else. Have complete, hyper-focus on whatever it is we’re doing at the moment.
- Instead of the normal consciousness of taking in the world through the 5 senses as usual, let’s engage the soul and the mind in a much, much more enhanced way of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and touching.
- Instead of the normal consciousness of engaging the world in a happenstance, coincidental way, let’s see how G-d is talking to us and leading us exactly where we need to go, at all times, in a soulful, mindful way.
- Instead of the normal consciousness of engaging wisdom on a surface level, let’s engage wisdom according to the depth of what we can understand and receive about what that wisdom means for us. Consider its associations, meaning what we know about it and what we can reveal and discover about it.
- Instead of the normal consciousness of understanding life through our own eyes, let’s understand and process life through the eyes of G-d, in a soulful and mindful way of seeing the past, present and future implications, movement and unfolding of every situation.
- Instead of the normal consciousness of connecting to topics we are exploring in a by-the-way manner, let’s completely immerse ourselves for an entire day, week or month in nothing but that particular topic, in a completely soulful and mindful way.
- Instead of the normal consciousness of understanding the world is just populated by us and by other people, let’s open up our minds and souls and become aware of the root souls, the angels, the sparks and other souls that are with us, all around us.
- Instead of the normal consciousness of connecting to the world in terms of what we want by just wanting it, let’s completely embrace the wanting from our lower soul to our higher soul, and want it so much that it actually manifests in our lives.
Continuing in the Soul Series, this post is on the topic of Holy Sparks. It’s about seeing how our soul develops itself and speaks to us, and how we speak to our soul as well, through the idea of the Holy Sparks.
Anytime there’s a fall-out in the cosmos, such as the original fall-out of the broken vessels, or the fall-out of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, or the fall-out of any exile of the Jews throughout history, there are Holy Sparks hidden inside reality. And it’s our soul’s job to be drawn toward those sparks in order to liberate, elevate and clarify them, and to raise them up wherever they need to go. So we need to raise the sparks in that way.
So, I’d like to share a list of ways our soul can restore us to ourselves, and to the lost parts of our soul.
First we have to be able to resonate with what’s going on in our lives. Then we have to be able to bring back into ourselves that which is calling to us in life, through the language of resonation, an energy wavelength we need to plug into and feel personally, “This is me. I need to work with this now.”
And we need to do this in all different times of our lives, because every day we have new sparks, more lost parts of our soul that are calling to us, to bring them back home. This is the essence of what our day is all about, really. Every weekday we have more sparks, and we bring them all, from all the weekdays into Shabbat, creating the power of Shabbat and its connection with each weekday as well.
We have sparks in every prayer, and every time we pray we raise up these hidden, lost parts of ourselves. Every meal we eat provides lost sparks of our souls, and if we eat in a holy and properly-intentioned way we raise up those sparks in the food itself.
We raise up sparks in our reincarnations. We ARE those sparks of our previous incarnations, and we raise up sparks by being here and now in our current life. Just by being present, here and now, we are automatically going to connect with sparks in our lives.
We raise up sparks by being in a state of receptivity, and receiving whatever G-d sends to us. Realizing it’s from G-d is what will raise up those sparks. We raise us sparks by understanding that nothing is coincidental, and everything is divine guidance, including the people the people in our lives who are there to supply us with something we lack, but something they have.
We raise up sparks in our relationships, including male/female and other relationships. The depth of our connection with others is the depth of the sparks we can raise up.
We raise up sparks by coming into the land of Israel. We are the sparks returning home, just as we will be caught up one day to return to our divine home. We are the exiles, wherever we are, and we’re there in order to raise up the trapped sparks, wherever they may be. The sparks of Torah, of potential converts, of divine information and energy – these are all put into our lives to be raised up as well.
We’re here as a legacy, to raise up the sparks that fell from Adam & Eve’s fall in Paradise. We’re here to raise up sparks, and when they’re all raised up it will be the Messianic Age. When we are beckoning to another person to fill us up with their life force, which we don’t have, that’s an interaction of sparks, too. Even in suffering, even in the holocaust, even in the lowest of places, Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapira taught us that in that suffering and in those worst situations there are Holy Sparks to be raised up inside the pain itself.
When we have clarity of an unclarified situation and we are learning, we raise up lost sparks in those situations. We raise up sparks by seeing that all the highlights of our lives are basically sacred text; they are the texts of G-d’s book that he’s writing, with each of us as the central character of our own story. We need to interpret that text and understand it, because that’s how we come to home the holy, pristine, divinely providential place where we’re meant to be.
What we’re going to talk about now, in the continuation of the Soul Series, is what I call, “Soul Speak.”
I want to frame this as a list of ways to allow your soul to speak to you, or how to connect with your soul by “speaking it out, “ and bringing it down to a much more practical level now, incorporating ideas we’ve already seen, and some new ones as well.
“Speak your soul into being ______.” Now we’ll fill in that blank with a list of different ideas.
• With the essence or the soul of any matter, the soul being the epicenter within everything else going on.
• By expressing what you’re encountering with the “eyes of G-d,” so to speak. That means seeing what was, what is and what will be in a person or a situation, and speak what will be into being.
• By tapping into the pre-birth impressions we all receive in our mothers’ womb, where we were able to see all our reality, all our wisdom, and all of the world, from one end to the other. Speak that into being.
• By asking your soul what to do in any particular situation. You’ll be amazed how seemingly obvious and yet powerful a solution this is.
• By asking G-d the answer to any question you can think of, and your soul will receive G-d’s answers.
• By connecting to your feelings that don’t match or synchronize with what’s going on in your life, and understanding that those feelings are coming from a higher place, a soul, causal place.
• By connecting to that which is out of your body, beyond you, and located within the 96% of our intelligence which we are not putting to use. As we draw what’s outside of us inside us, we are speaking our soul into action.
• By understanding not the externalities, but the internalities for any situation or any piece of wisdom we study at any time.
• By understanding that the body receives all its well-being, all its growth, protection and healing from the soul. And when we relate to our body as a soul-guided being, that’s the proper way.
• By connecting to events and people in our lives with a resonation, and an awareness of how smooth things are going, because the smoother things are going for you in any situation or encounter, the more your soul is informing you what’s correct, and the right way to go.
• By understanding what kind of unfinished business you need to take care of. That’s what we’re here for in this lifetime, this incarnation. We’re here to take care of unfinished business. Tap into that soul feeling you have inside yourself, and persevere with what you’re driven to do, no matter how hard it may be. By tapping into that you’re tapping into the calling or mission of your whole life.
I’d like to focus on the ladder of the soul levels, and how they are experienced. We have five soul levels, Nefesh, Ruach, Neshama, Chaya and Yechida. Of those five levels, two are entrenched in our bodies, one is partially entrenched in and partially out of our bodies, and the highest two levels are completely out of our bodies.
Their location points to their character as well. The deeper entrenched they are into our bodies, the more they have an affinity for our bodies, which is actually their purpose. The lowest level of Nefesh that’s entrenched in our bodies, for example, is that part of the soul which is most connected to the body. It’s the spirituality of the body, of the organs and the sensations, and so forth.
The next highest level, the Ruach, is the part of the soul that’s more connected to who we can grow into. It’s part and parcel of who we are, but it’s a step up from an animalistic level to a humanistic level. Another experiential difference between Nefesh and Ruach is this – Nefesh is like having the experience of going into a library where everybody must be very quiet so that all can concentrate. Nefesh is a quiet type of spirituality, whereas Ruach is more of a bubbly type of spirituality.
Ruach could be described as a house of Torah study, the Beit Midrash. Compared to a quiet library the Beit Midrash is not quiet at all. Quite the contrary, in fact. It’s a place full of bubbly, new ideas being shared. That’s the Ruach. It’s a higher part of our personality which allows us to grow, and to reach out to new levels of consciousness, which we don’t necessarily know about beforehand.
And the Neshama, part inside of us and part outside of us, serves as a guiding light. It has a connection to us and it bridges us to that which is beyond us. The general picture of the soul inside us is like the tip of the iceberg, only it’s upside down. The rest of our soul is outside of us and reaches much higher. Only a very small part of us is inside the body, and that which is outside reaches all the way up to the heavens.
This third level of soul, the Neshama, is a bridge from the small part inside us to the vast reaches beyond the body. And our Sages tell us it’s pure, unsullied and impervious to blemish of any kind. It’s pure and it stays pure. As a bridge to that which is beyond us, it helps us grow.
These three levels, Nefesh, Ruach and Neshama are parts of the soul that guide us to become better people, vis a vis ourselves, even though it also involves our moral relationships with others. But it’s primarily about our own personal growth at these three lowest levels of our soul.
The next level is Chaya, and it is the level of soul in which we experience “working for the cause.” It’s the part of us that’s trying to make the world a better place, to forge a path of rectification and peace. It’s where wrongs are righted, and we feel a sense of belonging in a global way on this higher level.
And finally, Yechidah is the highest level, and it is connected to G-d. A Yechidah personality is solely concerned with connecting to G-d.
These are all very important distinctions of soul levels, so I’ll expound on them a bit more . They are in an absolutely ideal situation with a brand new soul coming into the world, which occurs only once within many generations. They receive their rectification in different stages of a person’s life.
At the beginning we receive a Nefesh, at the age of 13 we receive a Ruach, and at the age of 20 we receive a Neshama. But that’s only for an ideal, new person. Other than that rare situation, perhaps occurring once in several generations, pretty much all of us in this generation reflect different, subcategories of Nefesh, such as the Ruach of Nefesh, the Neshama of Nefesh, and so forth.
And so we graduate from one level to another, and that’s how we grow. The placement of these three levels of soul inside of us starts from the bottom up. The Nefesh level is the seat, and it’s located in the liver. The Ruach is in the heart and the Neshama is in the brain. Those organs are the seat of each level, but of course they spread out into the entire body.
The physical character of those three parts of the body are appropriate for these three levels of our soul.
The liver, which is primarily concerned with filtering blood, which is activity on the physical level, is the seat of Nefesh, the lowest level of soul.
The heart is concerned with pumping the blood, but it’s more spiritual, and it’s the seat of the Ruach.
And the brain, which is located higher in the body, is the seat of the Neshama, the highest level of soul located in the physical body.
Our individual soul is connected microcosmically to all souls, and to all live aspects of reality. So, we don’t live in a vacuum, alone in our own soul. Our souls are interconnected with other souls, with other people, and with time and space. Therefore, we have a microcosmic effect on the world, and the world has its effect on us. I am using the word “microcosmic” to mean that which is outside of us is also inside of us, and vice versa.
That means one person, if he is intent enough, and living on a quality level, can fix up the world. That’s the power of this microcosmic connection to the world.
Another aspect of souls involves the fact that a great majority of us is actually outside of us. In a manner of speaking, when we really plug into our souls we become something like a holy skeptic. We have a sense of knowing that there’s something better than what we’re being fed in this world, and that there is something much higher available.
It’s like what we always say about a mitzvah. When we perform a mitzvah we understand there’s no payoff in this world, because it’s such a spiritual thing and it’s so far beyond this world. The only payoff in this world is the ability to do another mitzvah. There is no payoff that can really satisfy the soul, because the soul is on a much higher level. On its own, it’s even higher than the parallel angelic levels.
We can plug into our soul in different ways and understand it as a guiding light. We can resonate with it, and begin to understand the difference between its guidance and the body’s guidance. Its guidance is described in some books as the Divine soul, the Divine Nefesh inside of us, as opposed to the animalistic soul inside of us. And when we are able to hear its voice, that’s when we’re able to go forward, and to go higher.
There are times we can hear our soul in unusual ways, and we can feel a kind of deep, emotional yearning, which seems to have no connection to whatever we’re doing at the moment. That’s our soul talking to us. We need to find a way to process it, to say some holy verses, to say a prayer or talk to G-d. Just don’t ignore your soul talking to you or through you.
Different kinds of souls come into this world for different purposes. Not everybody can perform the same way in different situations. A midnight person is one who has a midnight soul, to get up at midnight and do the midnight thing. Over the years, I’ve seen many, many people try to do it, but they have failed because they don’t have a midnight soul.
And the same thing is true of Kabbalah. A lot of people try real Kabbalah and simply fall asleep during classes, sometimes for years on end. It’s because they don’t have a Kabbalah type of soul.
Another thing is to be able to hear your soul, and understand what it needs to complete itself in this world. What does it need to learn, which people does it need to connect with, and which situations does it need to perfect? As we’ve said before, we’re here on unfinished business. The soul guides us in order to teach us what that unfinished business is all about.
I think we can say that there are situations where the soul is renewed and even replaced at higher levels, in rare situations. There’s a verse teaching us that when a person has come to the end of his days, and what he’s come into this world to complete is finished, he can use certain verses to use in order to deposit one level of soul and acquire a higher one.
Every night when we go to sleep we renew, or “polish up” our soul. Just as we renew our physical strength by sleeping, in the same way our soul gets polished up, refreshed and renewed during sleep.
Continuing with the theme of reincarnation basics, I’d like to talk about the fact that we are all born with the main host, meaning who we really are. But we also have, throughout our lives, anywhere from 1 to 4 guests.
These are people who experience what we experience, and they are usually “soul family” people who are connected with us in the map of souls. They have a like for us, an affinity for us. They are rooting for us and we are rooting for them. They are here, as are we all, to fix up something from a previous lifetime.
My main experience is “me,” but if I develop the sensitivity to do so, I can begin to experience these other personalities, not in a schizophrenic or multi-personality type of way, but in a natural way. You might think of it as the different voices within each of us, reacting and awakening in different ways.
All these various personalities will find their main body to inhabit at the time of the resurrection of all the souls into their bodies, and it will be like a grand old reunion in those days. Seeing yourself in so many generations and nuances is part of the experience.
Another experience is this – the greater the person, the more people that are outside of him or her, those people are actually inside of him or her. And the great person has an affinity for all those people. The greatest example of all is Moshe, Moses, who had everybody inside of him. That is why he was able to counsel and get to the bottom of the Daas, the knowings of each person, and help them know what to do.
Each of us, on our different levels, quantitatively and qualitatively, take people inside us, and that’s how we relate to other people.
The second, related topic here is “ibur.” These are short-term guests, as opposed to a life-long guest within us, lasting anywhere from a few minutes to many years in duration. These people come in a helpful way, to inhabit us, because they either need the tikkun, a mitzvah for themselves, or they are present to help us, because we’re doing something extraordinary. They are present to give us an extra boost of expanded consciousness that comes along with their inhabitance of us.
This is not as creepy or spooky as a dybbuk, or an exorcist-type story, but it’s a natural thing going on inside us. We’re either helping them or they’re helping us.
For example, there was a time when divorce was very rare. Now that is not the case, but in the past there were people who needed to fulfill all the mitzvoth in the Torah, and they might jump in right at the time someone is experiencing divorce. That person will feel a very elevated awakening inside, because there are other souls coming on board, so to speak, in the merit of that particular mitzvah.
These others don’t suffer with us if they are here to help us, but if we’re helping them, then they do feel it, meaning our suffering is their suffering. Our refinement is their refinement.
On Shabbat we have what’s called an “extra soul.” The Arizal teaches us that this is literally another human being from the world of souls, come to give us extra aliveness and pleasure, an expanded consciousness. And they leave us when Shabbat is over, and we feel the loss. It can be sort of a harsh feeling.
And it’s similar when we step up to help many people in a public way. We will get many people from the ibur system to help us get across what we need to communicate to them. And we can become aware of them by developing a sensitivity, the same way as we can become sensitive to other people within us throughout our lifetime. We can cultivate an awareness of getting extra help, as if something from beyond us has come to help us.
And, G-d forbid, the opposite is also true. If we are doing something really bad, it could be that some bad souls are coming to mess us up. It works both ways.
The third topic here is what I call the smoothness factor. The basic idea is this – we all come into this world with unfinished business. We all come reincarnated. We are coming, not to fix up the same things we faced last lifetime, but to fix what remains to be fixed. So, we can heal in every feeling and act and word and emotion and thought and interaction and relationship we have. We can feel if something we’re doing is unfixed, and needs to be fixed.
It may be something that’s not smooth for us, and we have to work especially hard at it, we’re driven to work hard at it. Therefore, even if we get knocked down we’re driven to get back up and fix it up.
Or, it could be the other way around. It may be something we’ve already fixed up previously, and we are in our element, so to speak, then we may have the feeling that everything is going smoothly because we already took care of that thing.
Both of these situations are useful, the hard stuff and the smooth, easy experiences. Both exist to advance us in our tikkun, which will ultimately bring us to our culmination in the end of days.
The same is true of relationships. People come into our lives, as close or as distant relationships, to help facilitate our tikkun, our perfection process. We need to pay attention to that perspective, meaning that they are here from a previous time to help take the sting out of bad feelings we may have about other people. They are sent by G-d to help us go through what we need to go through.
Finally, there’s the Sephirot factor. There’s a Sehirotic soul map and we are connected to people closest to us by a particular Sephira, and we will heal in affinity with people of the same Sephira, too. This is true regarding soulmating, friendships and family relationships, among others.
I’m not going to get into all the various Sephirot because that’s a separate discussion for another day, but the basic idea is this – we are here to maximize our Sephirotic profile and to align it as well.
I want to get started talking about some of the basics of Kabbalah, sort of a Kabbalah 101, if you will.
And I figure that a good way to start is discussing the topic of reincarnation of the soul. I’m drawing from a booklet of notes of my work with R. Dardik on Gilgulei Yisrael. He took notes the whole time we were working together, and created a booklet on questions and answers on the topic.
You could think of it as Reincarnation Made Simple. So, let’s get started…
One of the first, fundamental questions is about the ego, going back to Adam. Adam was a container of all souls, basically, and before the original sin, according to the Arizal and others, there were only good souls within him.
The fallout or result of his sin, was a mixture of souls, some of which were not so good. Our task now, and previously, throughout history, is to unmesh or unmix the bad ones from the good ones.
A bad soul is a person who is not yet rectified, very distant from G-d, but in some cases redeemable unless the level is so bad, as defined by the Tanya for example. Unredeemable spirituality is comprised of those things actually forbidden to us. And that’s why they are forbidden, because they are unredeemable.
Potentially redeemable, however, are the notoriously evil rulers and other figures we’ve faced throughout history. This would include Pharoah, Lavan, Esav, all of whom, somewhere along the line in their reincarnations, made the wrong choices and headed down a very, very hard path. Part of their redeemability involves the part each of them played in Jewish history.
I’ll leave it at that regarding bad souls mixed-in with Adam.
Another point I’d like to make here is the fact that we are all old souls. In contemporary culture you have this general conception that uses the phrase, “old soul” to describe a higher, more evolved human being. But, according to the Arizal, we’ve all been here before and we’re back because we have unfinished business, and we have to go through life to finish up our business here. Hopefully, we resonate with what we need to fix up, and then fix it up.
Unlike this popular concept, we are all, in fact, old souls. Maybe there’s one every so often, across many generations, that’s actually a new soul, meaning one that’s never been here before. And the Arizal is a good example, and also the Baal Shem Tov. New souls don’t have unfinished business to go through, and they can get rectified very quickly. So, what popular culture teaches about old souls is an entirely fallacious idea.
It’s similar to another concept I even hesitate to bring up, and will deal with fully another time. It’s the concept of Rest In Peace – RIP. In reality, there’s not a lot of rest for people immediately after they pass away, no matter who they are. Especially if they haven’t been too good. Rest In Peace is simply a mistaken notion. So for now, I’ll just say RIP to that whole concept.
The third fundamental soul concept is another deep one, and it is about the souls of converts to Judaism. Up until the last couple generations the usual definition of a convert involved a person who is not Jewish in their root soul, but have a natural drive to become Jewish. That natural drive is called The Soul Of The Convert, or the Nefesh Gair. It’s a person who is driven to become Jewish, even though they were not born Jewish.
In our generation however, according to some very astute Kabbalists, things are different. Of the many souls who want to convert there’s a good chance they are Jewish at their roots, and in previous incarnations they were Jewish. And for various reasons, in this lifetime they were born as non-Jews. That’s one important idea about converts.
Another is that there will be a pre-Messianic blitz of souls who want to convert. They want to join the Jewish people, which, it should be noted, will not be possible once Moshiach comes. Everyone will see the wisdom of being Jewish then, and we won’t be able to trust their motives for conversion at that point.
An authentic convert makes the decision based on their inner drive, not because things will go better for them when Moshiach comes. In fact, we understand that a converted Jew is deserving of even more tender loving care, and regard and compassion than a born Jew, because it was a choice.
We are all converts at the root level, but converts are Jews by choice, similar to but not the same as a baal teshuva. The Jew by choice is coming for the most altruistic reasons and we need to respect that. It can be a bit embarrassing to us, as regards our wrong choices, compared to a Jew by choice.
Finally, here’s one more reincarnation soul fundamental principle – use of Torah to perfect your soul. It’s very appropriate now, at the time of receiving of Torah, which is Shavuot,
There are there or four different versions about how Torah and mitzvoth come to fix up different parts of our souls, and all but the last are attributed to the Arizal. The first version is by performing actions, doing mitzvoth, we can fix up our Nefesh, our lowest level of soul. And by learning the Oral Torah we can fix up our Ruach, our second level of soul. And by learning Kabbalah we can perfect our Neshama, the third level of soul.
The second version is this – by performing positive mitzvoth, even without the proper intention, we fix the Nefesh. By doing Torah without the proper altruistic intention we fix up the Ruach, and by doing mitzvoth or Torah with the proper intention we fix up our Neshama.
The third version says that by doing mitzvoth we fix up the Nefesh. By doing the revealed Torah altruistically we fix up our Ruach, and by doing Kabbalah we fix up our Neshama.
The hardest part to fix is our Nefesh, because it’s closest to the evil inclination and it’s farthest from G-d, in the lowest world. The Baal Shem Tov, whose yartzeit is just after Shavuos, teaches us that we can gauge the three levels of soul. Our Nefesh is connected with our possessions, and if we are good and altruistic and straight with our possessions we can fix up our Nefesh.
The Ruach is connected with our spouses and the people in our lives, and the Neshama is connected with the level of thought.
That’s a little run-down on the way Torah and life itself serve to promote and fix-up these different levels of our souls.
The next in our series of patriarchs is Joseph, and it is also based on Kabbalah and the Arizal.
Joseph had a unique relationship with his father, Jacob, and he was considered to be the “main offspring” of his father’s. There are many parallels between their lives, in the particular difficulties they faced and the way they overcame their difficulties.
Jacob learned many secrets of Torah in the academy of Shem and Eiver for 14 years. It’s said he never slept during those years of study, but that all the secrets he learned he also shared with Joseph.
Both Jacob and Joseph represent the central column of the Tree of Life, the Sefirotic structure. Jacob is the central column of Tiferet, and Joseph is the central column of Yesod. The central column is an actualization or a bridge of the right and left columns, the culmination or birth place of the right and left columns. It’s an important, all-encompassing type of Sefira. So this is another relationship Jacob had with Joseph.
Joseph was considered to be a Tzadik. He was the paradigm of a “righteous person.” His Sefira represents the male organ, and its biological and psychological characteristics as a representation of the DNA of the entire person and the entire beauty of the entire person. This is especially true if the activating of the principle within the sexual activity is done in a holy way, as it was done by Joseph.
Because of his position he was able to convey beauty. He was a beautiful man, as told in many stories of women chasing him around, the most famous of whom was the wife of Potifar. She chased him to get him to sleep with her, and Joseph was almost seduced by her. At the last moment Joseph saw an image of his father, Jacob, and he ran away from her.
During the act of running away, it is said there were 10 drops of semen issued from his fingernails, which later became 10 leaders of the Jewish people during the Tananic period. These were the 10 martyrs who were killed for teaching Torah during Roman times. The slightest influence from Joseph carried waves of influence over the years and generations.
The fact that Joseph was able to hold himself back at a crucial time is evidence of his righteousness, and distinguishes him as having the wisdom of knowing when to express his male sexuality and when to withhold expression of it, in many ways.
Having physical beauty and being chased by many women, and being a very fruitful man as regards the seat of reproduction, Joseph was also fruitful in a monetary way. He fed the world, basically. When the world was experiencing famine, people came to him from other parts of the world because he was second only to Pharoah in Egypt, trusted with great authority. Joseph advised Pharoah and interpreted dreams for him, also representing fruitfulness.
Joseph was modest and held back at the right times, showing he had power over the “evil eye,” so to speak. And he was protected from those who lusted after him or coveted him. His power is something that characterizes anyone who goes according to the ways of Joseph.
He was very personable and collaborative person as well. He took the qualities of his forefathers and expressed them in the world, even though he had the well-known fallout with his brothers. They thought he was the least desirable offspring of his father Jacob, just as Abraham had an Ishmael and Issac had an Esav his brothers thought Yosef was the least of their father’s sons, and not even part of the lineage of the chosen people.
Of course they were wrong about that. Joseph took them through the steps to show them the error of their beliefs, and in the end they came to make peace with him.
Ultimately, there was a rift between Joseph’s progeny and the other tribes of Israel, those who became the Lost Tribes, and the main tribes of Judah, Benjamin and Levi who all stayed in the land. In most traditions it’s understood all the tribes will reunite in the Messianic times.
I’m going to continue my series on the Kabbalistic root souls of the Patriarchs, from the work of the Arizal. And today I’m going to continue with Jacob, Yaakov, or as he’s also known, Israel or Yisrael.
Here are a few aspects of him, which I think are very important, transformative, transcendent and even mind-blowing aspects of our father, Jacob.
I should mention his wives as well… He had four wives altogether, but his two main wives were Leah and Rachel. Before Jacob ever got married at the age of 84 years, and before he even began looking for a wife, he fell in love. Meaning, he hadn’t even seen Rachel and he was in love with her.
At the end of the courting period, which was more than courting really, it was courting and birthing outside the land of Israel where he was living in the home of his father-in-law, Lavan, he also developed a serious connection with his other wife, Leah. She was Rachel’s sister.
It’s as though Jacob when he was still Jacob, he was on the level of soul-mating Rachel, his bashert.
When Jacob grew into an expanded state and renamed Israel, that’s when he was matched-up with Leah, and he was on her level.
This mirrors who Rachel and Leah are. The way we would say it today, Rachel was the very modest woman, religious from birth, and Leah was a master of teshuva, as she had the personality of someone who was out of it, then came into the fold later. This reflects who Jacob was when he became Israel.
Even though Jacob had two names, unlike his grandfather, Abraham, who used to be Avram (and his wife Sarah, who used to be Sarai) Jacob went back and forth, sometimes using his old name. Abraham and Sarah never did that.
The Israelite people are called Israel when we are on a higher level, too. Like Jacob, we have our struggles with G-d, and we have a constant dialog, or a narrative with him, as did Jacob.
Jacob started out his life detached from worldliness, and that’s when he was known as Jacob the Tam, meaning Jacob, the holy-naivete person, whose actions bespeak simplicity, not ignorance of holiness.
As Jacob encountered the world, for his own sake and for our sake, he opens doors for all his progeny, until the end of time, and especially toward the messianic times. That’s when he becomes the Jacob who is able to leave his 20 years with his deceptive father-in-law, Lavan, and come into the world shining, to face the deception of the world and come out whole.
Jacob is the choice one of the three patriarchs, Avraham, Yitzchak and Yisrael. His grandfather Avraham, fathered Ishmael, which represents the fall-out aspect of negativity that was removed from him, so that he could uphold and represent Chesed. Abraham is the merkavah of Chesed for the world. And the fall-out, the negativity that was removed from him before he could pass on his legacy was his son, Ishmael.
The fall-out from Issac, the middle Patriarch is Esau, or Esav. And these are known not only as individual sons, but entire nations that will continue until the end of time.
Jacob had no fall-out, and he was called Shalem; he was called whole, and it was said of him that, “his bed was complete,” and all of his children were all righteous. There was no fall-out, and that’s one of the distinctions between Jacob and the previous Patriarchs.
Jacob went from his home at his parents’ bidding, in order to start his family. He returned to Lavan’s country. But before doing that, he spent fourteen years in the home of Shem and Eiver, the two major scholars of the day. This period was a preparation for Jacob to be able to graduate into a much higher level, and to cope with the world of deception, because he was so entrenched in Torah. Jacob didn’t even sleep for those fourteen years, and he came to make a family for himself.
Jacob had the trait of holiness, which could be translated as the ability to connect to the world from a mundane place, and to find holiness there, in the mundane aspects of the world
As a reflection of that, the Divine Providence that is drawn down by seeing G-d in all aspects of the world, G-d gives an inheritance to those people following in Jacob’s footsteps. That inheritance is boundless; it is endless for those who are making G-d boundless and endless in our world.