Topic: Kabbalistic Concepts | Posted:December 3, 2014
In the first part of the story in the portion Vayishlach, after quite a number of years, Jacob decides it's time to go back home and meet his brother Esau.
The kabbalists explain that this fight which exists between Jacob and Esau is not a fight between two brothers, but rather it is a fight between energies that exist; energies that every single one of us experiences every day. Jacob represents the Light, our soul, the part of us that wants to change and grow, while Esau represents the other side: the desire to receive for the self alone, the aspect that wants to keep us where we are, or maybe even wants to take us backwards. And in this portion is really a pinnacle of that battle.
There is a verse that begins the Zohar's discussion about this portion which says, “The Creator will send his angels to protect you in all of your ways.” How do you achieve this level of protection? How do you achieve this level of support? By understanding and being aware of both the spiritual and physical battles that we go through every day, and by understanding that we can't possibly win this battle by ourselves and that we need the support of the Light of the Creator. This is one of the great gifts of this Shabbat - to be able to access this level of angels to protect and support us in our world.
So, how do we bring that into our lives? The Zohar says that the Creator sent many angels to surround and protect Jacob in his battle as he goes to meet Esau. None of us can go through life and achieve its purpose on our own, no matter how elevated we might think we are, no matter how wise we might think we are, no matter how connected we think we are… it is impossible. We have to draw upon this supernal assistance of what's called angels. There are many different levels to angels, but on the most basic level of understanding, they are different energies that can surround, assist, and protect a person. And because Jacob, through his spiritual work, had become whole and perfected, the angel was sent to him. It says that as Jacob went on his path and through his spiritual work, the Shechinah, the female aspect of the Light of the Creator, came and rested with him, and only then did these supernal angels come to surround him.
Here the Zohar reveals to us the secret of drawing protection, of drawing angels to surround us, protect us, and assist us in our spiritual work in our lives. Many times in life we come to situations that we just don’t think we have to ability to go through or where we feel we need added protection. And we need to remember that we are meant to have the ability to draw upon the assistance and protection of these angels. But we have to understand the secret that the Zohar is telling us here, which is that when the Shechinah, the female aspect of the Light of the Creator, comes and rests within an individual, then the protection of the angels comes and surrounds that person as well.
The angels that protect us and assist us cannot come on their own. Only when a person is able to have the Shechinah manifest within him is when the angels can come. And so it says that because these angels came and rested with Jacob, he was able to protect himself in the battle with Esau. The understanding, therefore, that we have from this portion is that we cannot have the protection that we want for ourselves, for our families, without these angels.
In the verse that begins the Zohar's discussion about this - “the Creator will assign, will command, the angels to protect you and surround you in all of your ways” - the Zohar is telling us you first need the Shechinah to rest within you, and then Her armies, Her angels, will come with Her to surround you and protect you. How do we call and bring the Shechinah, the female aspect of the Light of the Creator, to rest within us? Through the work that we do, through transforming, and through restricting anger and of all the things that disconnect us from the Light of the Creator.
We need to understand that on any given day when we allow ourselves to act in ways of Desire to Receive for the Self Alone, we're not just disconnecting ourselves from the Light of the Creator, but also something much deeper and much worse happens: we are allowing the female aspect of the Light of the Creator to lift a little bit from us with. Every action of Desire to Receive for the Self Alone, every action of anger, every action of selfishness, lifts from within us one more level of the Shechinah. And when the Shechinah begins to rise and leave us because of our actions, then the angels begin to leave with Her; as She elevates, the angels elevate with Her, and the protection, support, and assistance that we need is no longer there for us.
Conversely, on the positive side, every action of Desire to Share, every action where we restrict our anger and selfishness, draws that Light of the Shechinah stronger into our body, into our soul, and then we are surrounded and protected by these angels. This isn't just a trivial thing or a nice addition to our spiritual work; it's impossible for any of us to accomplish our daily spiritual tasks and connections, or to draw blessings, health, and sustenance without the assistance of these angels. So we have to begin to view our spiritual work and our need to restrict our selfishness and Desire to Receive for the Self Alone in a completely different way, because it’s not that we simply disconnect when we act in these ways, but what we are actually doing is forcing the Shechinahto leave us. And the worst part of that is the angels begin to lift with Her, and when the angels leave, we lose our protection and assistance.
So the understanding we want to come to this week through this portion is that we can't accomplish our work without these supporting energies, which are called angels, and that there is only one way to make sure that we have them in the quantity and quality that we need: by making sure that the Shechinah rests with us. And the only way that can happen is through our daily work. So, next time you have a desire to act selfishly, to act in ways of Desire to Receive for the Self Alone, to get angry or yell at another person, remember that you're not just doing something that will disconnect you from the Light of the Creator in some vague way, but that what you're doing is actually causing the female aspect of the Light of the Creator to lift from you. And that is going to cause all the angels that come with Her that are meant to be our protection and assistance to lift away with Her, thereby making it impossible to bring the blessings and the Light that we need in our daily lives.
This understanding should be what drives both our restriction and our push to do extra actions of sharing that are outside of our nature. Because in so doing, we draw the Light of the Shechinah further and stronger into ourselves, allowing those angels to come and surround us in a much more powerful way, giving us greater assistance and protection.