Topic: Kabbalistic Concepts | Posted:September 16, 2015
The Shabbat that falls during the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is also called Shabbat Shuva, the Shabbat of Returning. This year, it is the Shabbat of the portion Vayelech.
The portion Vayelech has in it all the teachings Moses gave to us before he left this world, and Moses says something very strange to the Israelites in the beginning of it - "I am 120 years old today. I can no longer exit and enter." What does it mean when Moses says "I can no longer exit and enter"? Rashi, the great kabbalist, is telling us that Moses is saying, "I cannot access the wisdom anymore; therefore, I cannot give it to you."
A righteous person, before he leaves this world, has the totality of Light revealed to him or her. Knowing that, how is it possible that Moses is saying that everything is blocked off to him before he is leaving this world? It does not make any sense and cannot be understood literally. So, what is the secret?
This world is an illusion. Very simply put, nothing of what we see, think, or experience is real. We think, for instance, that we read the Zohar, the Torah, or the words of Rashi, and understand them; but what we are understanding is really a diminished and clothed wisdom. What was Moses teaching the Israelites throughout his 40 years of leadership? I do not want to say a dumbed-down version, but the only version they could understand, the only version we can understand. Therefore, our experience, even of the Zohar, even of the words of Moses, is of a diminished understanding.
The kabbalists teach that when Moses was in his last day in this world, the Creator said, “I am going to give everything to you.” And we know that Moses received 49 Gates of Binah, 49 Gates of Wisdom, and the 50th was revealed to him on this day as he was leaving this world. When Moses was connected to that realm, he could no longer speak to everybody else because the frame of reference that the Israelites had was completely different than the truth.
So, when Moses says, "I can no longer speak to you; I can no longer teach you," it is not because he had lost anything, but because he had gotten everything and is therefore telling them, "You cannot understand a word I am saying because now I have the real wisdom. I am at the 50th Gate and from where you are there is nothing I can say that will make sense to you because you are living in the realm of illusion." Yes, for those 40 years Moses is able to dumb it down, to clothe it, to speak to all of us, to speak to the Israelites in the desert, but on this final day the veils are lifted and Moses gets the real vision and the real wisdom. He says to the Israelites, "There is nothing I can give you, because you live in the realm of illusion.”
We live every moment of every day within this realm of illusion, and we buy into it. The wisdom and understanding we think we have, within that frame of reference, is a lie. Whatever we think we extract from the Zohar while we are still residing in the illusion of this physical realm is almost nothing. Of course, any connection to the Zohar brings great Light; but real Light, a real connection to the Zohar, a real connection to Moses? Moses says, “From where you are, I cannot explain anything to you. I cannot teach anything to you. While I was in the lower realms, I could give it to you. But while you still reside within the realm of the illusion of this world, you cannot see anything straight.”
We have to start there. Everything that we see, everything that we think, is based on the illusion that we have created, the world of illusion that we have bought into; we cannot see anything straight, we cannot understand wisdom right, and that is what Moses tells the Israelites.
I want to share a story to further this understanding:
There were two great students of the Maggid of Mezeritch, Rav Shmelke of Nikolsburg and Rav Pinchas, his brother. They asked the Maggid of Mezeritch: when a person sees and experiences darkness, pain, and negativity, how can it be that he blesses it, sees it, and experiences it only as Light?
The Maggid of Mezeritch answers them, “I am not the right one to elevate you to that state; go to my student, Rav Zusha of Anipoli.” So they go to Rav Zusha and tell him their teacher, the Maggid of Mezeritch, sent them to him to teach them. They ask, “How can we get to a state of consciousness where we see negativity, and experience pain and darkness, and see it as blessing?” Rav Zusha answers them, “I have no idea why the Maggid of Mezeritch sent you to me to teach you this teaching; I have never had anything negative happen in my life.”
Those of you who know the story of Rav Zusha, know he had a very difficult life. He was poor, he had trouble with his wife, and if you looked at him, externally, you would see pain or darkness. And yet Rav Zusha said, “I do not know why the Maggid of Mezeritch, our teacher, has sent you to me to teach you the consciousness of blessing on the darkness, on the bad as on the good, because I have never experienced anything bad.”
And this is the secret Moses wants to give us on this Shabbat - there is a state of consciousness that we, of course, desire, but more than desire, have to get to, in which we come to understand that any pain or darkness we experience is built upon the lie and illusion of this world.
Moses says to the Israelites, “I have come to this place now (where Rav Zusha was) where I see there is only Light; there is no darkness, there is no pain. I want to help elevate you. I am here on this Shabbat to elevate your Left Column, or Binah, from which judgment comes, to Right Column, mercy.” Therefore, Moses, on this Shabbat, comes to us and says, “Take all of your Left Column, take all of your sadness, take all of your darkness and come to my side, the place that only sees goodness, that only sees blessings, that only sees Light.”
First you have to believe that realm exists and know it is not only one of the greatest gifts possible, but is also available to us. Rav Zusha and Moses experienced this state, where there was not - and never can be - any experience of pain or negativity, and we need to know that on this Shabbat Moses desires to give it to us.
It is possible for us to leave this Shabbat never again seeing darkness, never again experiencing pain, never again residing within the realm of the illusion. Is it likely for most of us? Probably not. But how much of that we receive is dependent on this consciousness which is, unfortunately, still based on the illusion and lies of this world. On this Shabbat, we can ask to have the consciousness of the righteous that only sees Right Column, that never sees darkness, that never sees negativity. And when we have this consciousness, all darkness is transformed into Light and all judgment is transformed into mercy.