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Burning our Negative Thoughts

Topic: Consciousness | Posted:March 20, 2013

This week, we want to understand what a unique gift is available for us in the portion of Tzav.

To begin this understanding, there is a story in the Midrash. The students of Rabbi Yosi ben Kisma, a great sage and kabbalist, asked him when is Mashiach, the End of the Correction - the end of pain, suffering, and death - going to come to this world? And he gave them a very cryptic answer. He said, zot torat ha’olah, which is the teaching of the sacrifice, and the reading on this Shabbat. Those words on their own are hard to understand, but he was telling them that this Shabbat, and within this reading, holds the secret of bringing an end to the difficult processes that both the individual and the world go through.

Rav Ashlag explains that humanity, collectively and individually, will come to the End of the Correction no matter what, but there are two paths to get there. The question is, therefore, will it be an easy path or a more difficult path? The goal will be achieved either way.

One path, when a person pushes himself to change, is called Derech Hatorah, the way of spiritual change. The other is Derech Hayisurim, the way of difficulty, where external forces have to come down on the individual to force them to be awakened to change. We do not have a choice about whether we’re going to change, nor does the world. But we do have a choice in how long it will take, and what the process will be like. All of us taste both paths, depending on whether we are pushing ourselves or not. The more we are, personally and collectively, pushing to change from the path of Desire to Receive for the Self-Alone to the path of Desire to Receive for the Sake of Sharing, the less we have to taste of the path of difficulty. The kabbalists add an important element - that the closer we get to the End of the Correction, the more quickly and strongly the external forces come to assist transformation.

At the core of this battle between paths is a secret that is spoken about in the portion of Tzav. The portion begins with a discussion of a sacrifice, the sacrifice that was brought every day, remained on the altar all night, and was burned through the night so that only ashes were left in the morning. The kohen, the priests, would then come and take those ashes. Rav Shimon bar Yochai, in the Zohar, says that there is a secret here, in the process of the burning of the sacrifice through the night and the removal of the ashes in the morning.

Tzav, or צו (Tzadik-Vav) in Hebrew, is the word used in the Torah for “command;” in this portion, it says the Creator is commanding Aaron. Rav Shimon bar Yochai in the Zohar tells us that tzav is actually a code word for Avoda Zara, which is the source of negativity - the Sitra Achra, the Other Side, the force that keeps chaos in this world and in our lives. This week’s portion is talking about that source of negativity. And therefore, on this Shabbat, we are given the ability and the power to burn the Other Side. To burn, as the Zohar explains, those negative thoughts.

The Rav has said that the war we talk about that comes as we get closer to the time of the End of the Correction is not a physical war, but a war of the mind; what we have to come to realize is that we have lost that war. For most of us, our mind is already under the control of the Negative Side.

Thoughts of doubts, fear, negativity, depression, sadness... where do they come from? It is not the nature of our soul. It is not our essence. But once we have given over our mind to the Negative Side we have lost that battle, and it keeps feeding us with all kinds of thoughts.

It’s very important that we understand this - every time we have a thought of Desire to Receive for the Self-Alone, that seed is planted, as everything begins with a thought. That’s why the kabbalists teach that the thought of a negative action is even worse than the action itself; when you have a negative thought, you have damaged your core. The seed, as the Zohar teaches, is the place from which everything flows in your life.

Every time we have a negative thought, a thought of Desire to Receive for the Self-Alone, a thought of selfishness, a thought of doing a negative action, we add a shell, a klipah. Then time after time, throughout this lifetime and from previous lifetimes, we have built such a strong shell around our mind that we no longer have control of it.

It’s important to understand that for most of us the battle has been lost; first, by throughout our lives constantly adding shells to our mind, and secondly, by not realizing that those thoughts aren’t coming from us. They are coming from the Negative Side. Yet when we allow those thoughts to stay, when we allow them to develop, we are giving the shells even more strength, and the Negative Side has taken over our mind. But the Zohar teaches us that on this Shabbat, and no other Shabbat of the year, we are given the gift of taking our mind back. We are given the gift of removing those shells that we have built around our mind during this and previous incarnations.

It’s a tremendously important understanding and gift, that this Shabbat we are given the strength to burn away all those negative shells and uncover our true essence, so that all of our thoughts, all day, will be connected to the Light of the Creator – which is the true essence of our brain and the true essence of our thoughts. Therefore, when it says that you burn the sacrifice on the altar all night, it means that you fight the battle. As such, when we read this portion, we can meditate on burning off all those shells. As we read the portion of Tzav and connect to this Shabbat, beg that those shells be broken from your mind, so that your mind can leave the forces of Negativity and come to be under the force of the Light of the Creator.

A person can do spiritual work all night and day, but if he has lost the battle of the mind, as most of us have, it’s worthless. Ask yourself, how are the thoughts of your day? That is the only question that’s important. Not how many actions of sharing have I done, but what is the state of my mind? We have to realize the gravity of the situation. If our mind was ours, and was free of the control of the Negative Side, our thoughts would be pure, positive, clear, and direct every moment of every day.

The reality is, as we said earlier, there really isn't a choice. As we get closer in our generation towards the time of the End of the Correction, the tests have to become stronger. There are more shells around the brain, and the only way to break them is by having bigger levels of certainty... and the only way to get to bigger levels of certainty is by having greater tests.

So, to go back to where we started with Rabbi Yosi ben Kisma and his students, we can now understand what he meant when he said to them that these three words, zot torat ha’olah, are the secret of this Shabbat. Only when we, individually and collectively, win the battle of the mind, can we come to the End of the Correction.

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