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Extinguishing Negativity

Topic: Consciousness | Posted:August 14, 2013

The phrase uvi’arta harah mikirbecha repeats itself many times in this and last week’s Torah portions. Literally, this is translated as, “…and you will extinguish negativity from within you.”

What does this mean?

We know, as the Zohar teaches, that when the Israelites received the Light at Sinai, they achieved the level of Bilah HaMavet LaNetzach, the level of removal of Death forever. However, although the Israelites did achieve that level of connection, revelation, and separation from the forces of darkness, they fell afterwards. They fell into a certain level of Desire to Receive for the Self-Alone, and lost that dominion over Death. And so we have to understand that there are two ways of removing ourselves from darkness. One is complete and one is not complete.

When the Israelites achieved the level of Bilah HaMavet LaNetzach, removal of Death, at Sinai they went through a process of completely separating from the forces of Desire to Receive for the Self-Alone, from the forces of ego, from the forces of darkness; but the forces themselves remained. The Israelites did not extinguish the forces of darkness, they simply separated themselves from them. They completed the first part of the process, which was separating themselves from darkness, but did not complete the second part, which was extinguishing those forces of darkness. And this is why they were able to fall again – because those forces still existed.

To explain this concept with an example, it’s like on one level a person who has an issue with anger can go through the spiritual work of separating himself from anger, but the reality is that as long as he has only separated himself from that anger and not completely removed the root of it, then he can always, at some point, fall to it.

Every one of us has our own tikun, our own host of manifestations of Desire to Receive for the Self-Alone, and often what we do in our spiritual work is separate ourselves from those actions without extinguishing their source. And we need to extinguish their source, otherwise we can always fall to them again. So how do we not only separate ourselves from those forces of negativity, but actually extinguish them?

It’s all about consciousness. It’s all about what we are thinking as we are doing these battles.

Continuing to use anger as an example because it’s an easy one to speak of, a person comes to the realization that his battle, or at least one of his battles, is with anger. He has the opportunity – today, tomorrow – to become angry. And he knows that in order for him to achieve his correction, he has to fight that tendency. The question is, what is his consciousness as this opportunity arises and he fights that battle?

For most people, it’s something like, “This is something that I need to fight against. I’m going to fight that tendency to become angry. I’m going to fight that tendency to hurt another person,” but we don’t take it further in our consciousness. And that’s what this week’s portion, and this Shabbat, really gives us the ability to have - the consciousness of removing the sources of darkness, the sources of negativity. And removing it really is as simple as consciousness.

We need to take it beyond just saying to our selves, “this is what I have to fight against in order to connect to the Light of the Creator, to receive the blessings that I am meant to receive.” We have to say, “I’m not only doing this to win this battle, but I am also doing it to remove its spiritual source, the source of darkness that pushes me.” Because the truth is that even if you win the battle today and don’t get angry, tomorrow you will still have the opportunity to become angry. You want your consciousness to be one of: “I don’t want to simply just win this battle. I want to go to the spiritual source of this anger and remove a part of it, so that tomorrow, even though I’ll have another challenge that I can defeat, the spiritual source of this anger will be diminished.”

And to take it one step further, if the individual not only thinks about himself and the current battle, but is also thinking that what he is doing is extinguishing or removing a spiritual source of this darkness he, over time, will be able to remove and extinguish that negativity at its source, and therefore from the world.

When a person fights his battle against his own individual Desire to Receive for the Self-Alone in whatever way it manifests in his life, and is always conscious of the fact that as he’s doing this battle he wants to also extinguish it at its source, he is then serving humanity. Because the source of anger is the same source of anger for everybody in the world. And this is true of jealousy, this is true of hatred for no reason, this is true of every manifestation of Desire to Receive for the Self-Alone.

When we have an awareness of how our individual battle influences the world, it gives us strength. When we know that if today I fall to my Desire to Receive for the Self-Alone and become angry, I not only damage my own self, but I’ve also strengthened the source of anger in the world. Which means that now, throughout the world, anybody who is struggling with anger is a little bit more challenged.

On the positive side, if I know that if I win this battle and have the consciousness that I want this not only to do good for me, but also to diminish the source of anger in the world, then I have now assisted the entire world who is struggling with this same issue. Also, when we are going to do battle for the collective we receive strength from the collective.

One of the aspects that the commentators speak about in this week’s portion is the interesting grammar of the first verse. In the original Hebrew, it says Ki Tetze lamilchama al oyvecha, “When you go to do battle with your enemies…” Unetano Hashem elokecha beyadecha, “and the Creator will give him in your hand.” Enemies is plural, while him is singular; the verse begins in plural tense and ends in the singular tense. There are, of course, thousands upon thousands of explanations about that grammatical anomaly. But now, we can understand - because the only way for the individual to win their battle is if they view it as being for the collective. The battle has to begin with the collective in mind (plural) in order for each individual to win their own battle (singular).

The purpose of humanity’s spiritual work is not to come back to the place where the Israelites were at Sinai, but to go to a place where not only are we separated from all those forces of darkness, but we also completely extinguish and remove those forces of darkness so Death can never come back to this world. On this Shabbat, we have the opportunity of shifting our consciousness so that we can all get closer to reaching that goal.

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