Topic: Well Being | Posted:December 16, 2015
There is an interesting section in the Zohar, in Vayechi, which talks about souls - how they elevate, their different parts, and how we can connect to them. And then, in the middle of that discussion, Rav Shimon bar Yochai goes on to speak of something that when we read it initially sounds a bit scary. But the purpose of it, as we will see, is to awaken us to a new level of responsibility.
Rav Shimon bar Yochai, who we know lived and taught in the land of Israel, said, "When I am surrounded by, and teach, those students from Babylon, I can reveal secrets to them. And when these people who live outside of the land of Israel and in Babylon receive the secrets from me, they seal them with a metal seal and keep them concealed. Whatever Light and secrets that I reveal to them they keep concealed."
Then he goes on to say that, “these students from Babylon are scared to repeat the secrets that they heard from me. When they speak amongst themselves and repeat, or try to repeat, the secrets that I taught them, they are like a person who stutters. When they receive the secrets, there is something missing, and they are not able to retain it, and therefore, they are not able to repeat it. When they try to repeat the secrets and the Light that I give over to them, they sound like a stutterer."
However, even though they don't have a way to hold on to the Light and secrets he has given over to them, Rav Shimon still judges them positively. Why? “Because,” he says, “the Holy Air and the Holy Spirit has left them, because they live outside the physical land of Israel.” We know that the Zohar is not simply referring to the physical land of Israel, but also a spiritual state. Even if a person lives outside of the land of Israel, he can be connected to the spiritual and elevated state called the land of Israel. So, it's referring here not only to the physical land and the people who are or are not physically there, but also to a state of spiritual level.
Therefore, the reason Rav Shimon does not judge them harshly for losing the secrets that he gives them is because they don’t have this “Holy Air” or “Holy Spirit;” meaning, they receive their sustenance of air and spirit from a place other than the Light of the Creator. But Rav Shimon bar Yochai goes on to say that "these people,” referring not just to the Babylonians, but to our generation as well, “are of such a low spiritual level that they cannot stop judgement from coming into this world.”
However, there is a saving grace for them, and us. Although they are not of any elevated spiritual state and cannot draw or hold on to Light, or draw and repeat wisdom, what saves them, Rav Shimon says, is that “I, the soul and body of Rav Shimon bar Yochai, exist in this world." Here are the important words Rav Shimon bar Yochai says, "I am the foundation, the sustainer, and the protector of this world. In my lifetime, my Light is so great that the world will not be in pain, will not be in suffering. The supernal judgments can't come down into this world as long as I reside in it. This," Rav Shimon bar Yochai says, "is what still gives protection to the Babylonians and to those who are not connecting as they should… [But] after me, there won’t be a single soul, or another generation, with a soul as great as mine that can protect the world and remove judgment from the world." Does that mean we're doomed?
The answer is no. Because what Rav Shimon bar Yochai is saying is that we cannot expect a single soul to be the protector as it was in the time of Rav Shimon bar Yochai, but rather that it is our responsibility to become little protectors. None of us are going to be Rav Shimon bar Yochai who can say, "Because of me there can't be great pain in this world." Our spiritual work alone will probably not be able to, as Rav Shimon bar Yochai's did, protect the entire world. But, we have to start looking at our self as a protector of the world.
As we know, consciousness is everything. Therefore, how do you view yourself? Do you see yourself as a protector of this world? One of the most important awakenings that we should draw from the pain and tragedies we see all around us in this world is to push ourselves harder than we have before to become a greater and greater protector of this world. And we have to look at our life, what we do, and the connections that we make and ask ourselves - what can I not allow myself to do, or in what ways do I have to push myself, to become a stronger protector of our world? That has to be a significant consciousness and thought every single one of us has to have about ourselves.
Rav Shimon bar Yochai makes it very clear: in our time, there will not be a single soul who will be the protector of this world. The responsibility, therefore, then gets diffused to all of us. When enough of us see ourselves as protectors of the world, when enough of us take that responsibility, have that consciousness, and do whatever changes are necessary and push ourselves in this direction enough, then we can bring true protection to this world.
And the whole story of the portion Vayigash is of Yehuda awakening within himself this understanding: “It's not my father, Jacob, it's not my other brothers… I have to awaken myself to become a protector." Therefore, this is the unique Light that is being awakened during the week of the portion Vayigash; to truly begin to view ourselves as protectors of this world.