Topic: Consciousness | Posted:October 9, 2013
The Creator tells Abraham, Lech Lecha, “Go from the land” to Canaan, which is known as Israel. He tells him, “I will make you a great nation. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you. I will make you prosper there.”
So Abraham arrives in Canaan, but a famine comes to the land, and he doesn’t know what to do. He has to decide if he should stay in the Promised Land or go down to Egypt because there is food there. And he makes the choice to go down into Egypt, to leave the place where the Creator told him go, where the Creator told him he would prosper and receive his blessings.
It’s an interesting understanding. Not only was Abraham told to go there by the Creator, but he was also told he would prosper there, so when he arrives there and there is famine, it creates, of course, an opening for doubt. And that’s what happens on the spiritual path; an opening for doubt always has to be there. The reality is that before any important blessing, any important growth, or any next level a person will achieve, there will always be an opening of doubt. Therefore, when Abraham arrives in the land of Canaan and suddenly there is a famine, he decides that since there is no food for him or his family, even though the Creator told him he would prosper there, he will go down to Egypt.
This choice that Abraham makes is a choice that has been spoken about and dissected by kabbalists for thousands of years. Was it the right decision or the wrong decision? Should he have maintained his certainty even though he was experiencing famine, and remained in the Land of Israel? Should he have had certainty that a miracle would occur for him and that he would be able to sustain himself and his family? Or was it the right decision to go down into Egypt? The opinion of one of the great Spanish kabbalists, Nachmanides, the Ramban, was that Abraham fell a little bit; by going down to Egypt he made a mistake. He should have stayed in the Land of Israel and maintained certainty, and a miracle of sustenance would have come to him.
So, then, how do we understand Abraham’s decision? And more importantly, what is the lesson for us?
To answer this I’d like to share a section from the Talmud. It says that the sages, the great souls, were sitting and discussing their spiritual level and where they were in their spiritual development and growth. And there is this whole discussion where each one of them says, “Compared to my father, I’m like vinegar to wine.” And they recount how much more elevated their father is than them, and where they’re falling.
This whole discussion is relatively strange. We are talking about very high souls, people who push themselves to grow and change, and yet they recount their failings and compare themselves to their fathers. They refer to certain things that their fathers can do, but they can easily be doing the same thing. The question is then, if these sages believed that the way their fathers behaved and that their fathers’ actions were more elevated than theirs, why don’t they act in that way?
And this brings us to a very important understanding: truth.
When Rav Ashlag, the founder of the Kabbalah Centre, was around seven years old he came to the decision that he would never lie in his life. He teaches that a person cannot be connected to the Light of the Creator if either he lies or lives in lie. It’s one of the things my father, Rav Berg told me when I was very, very young.
So, then what is better – to act as if you are elevated or to show and act your true self?
When the sages were saying, “I am like vinegar to wine compared to my father,” they were saying yes, I can act like he did, but I am not on the level that he was. Therefore it is better to fall and be truthful than to lie and act elevated. Truth is the basis of our connection to the Light of the Creator.
Abraham knew that the right thing to do was to remain in Canaan. But he also knew that he didn’t have the certainty he needed to awaken a miracle of sustenance for himself and his family. So he said better to fall and be truthful than to act a lie.
If the way we speak or act is different from who we truly are inside, we are not - or cannot be - connected to the Light of the Creator. When the kabbalists refer to the wisdom of Kabbalah it is called the Wisdom of Truth, because you cannot be connected to the Light of the Creator, you certainly cannot be connected to this wisdom, to the Wisdom of Truth, if you are not acting as you are inside. And therefore, for Abraham it was better to fall and be in a little bit of darkness in Egypt than to live and remain in Canaan where his consciousness, his spiritual level, was not.
From this we learn a tremendous lesson. It is sometimes easier, or we think it is better, to act in ways that we are not, to say words that we are not truthful to, and to behave in ways that are not where we are. But remember what Rav Ashlag said: to be connected to the Light of the Creator, it is better to be lower, to fall, and be truthful, than to act elevated and be living any degree of a lie.
How many times do we behave in ways that are not truthful? Even in spiritual things, in good things, we allow ourselves to behave in way that are not true to us. Yet, any part of ourselves, our words, or our actions that are not true disconnect us from the Light of the Creator. Even positive actions. If you do spiritual actions that are not of your level, that are not really who you are inside, they will not bring Light. They will disconnect you from the Light of the Creator. Because nothing is more important than being truthful.
Abraham knew that it was wrong to go down in Egypt, but he said this is where I am right now, and better to live in truth and fall than to live a lie. It’s a very important lesson that we are given on this Shabbat.