Topic: Personal Transformation | Posted:March 19, 2014
The literal story of Shmini discusses Moses, Aaron, and Aaron’s sons Nadab and Avihu assisting with the work to prepare the Tabernacle. Then, the Torah says that after everything is done, Moses, Aaron and all the Israelites stand at the Tabernacle to see what is going to happen next.
Moses and Aaron had brought all the sacrifices, had prepared everything that was needed in order to create the connection, and yet the Shechinah, the female aspect of the Light, does not come to rest on the Tabernacle while all the Israelites watch. Rashi tells us Aaron thought this was because he had assisted and taken part in the creation of the Golden Calf. Aaron believed because of that, he could not be a channel for the Light of the Creator to be revealed there.
So, at the culmination of four months’ work, Aaron took Moses into the Tabernacle and said, “Moses, it’s not going to work. I know why nothing’s happening. It’s because of me. Because I fell. I, in some way, participated in the falling of the Israelites with the making of the Golden Calf. Everything else is perfect, but I cannot be the conduit, I cannot be the channel for this.” Then, immediately, Moses entered into the Tabernacle with Aaron, and they begged. And the Light of the Creator came down and rested on their work.
Their action here teaches us many lessons. First, Moses and Aaron did all this work, which was not an easy process. There were complaints and all kinds of accusations made at Moses throughout the process of the building of the Tabernacle. Many of us, in our spiritual work, think, “Well, okay, I've done work which was really difficult until now, but this is the moment of culmination, the moment of completion, so now it should at least be easy.” We know that we shouldn’t ask for, or expect, the process to be easy all the way, but we expect that when it’s the culmination of all the work, it should be.
Many of us go through a difficult time at some point in our spiritual process, and it makes sense to us that the difficulties we encounter are part of the process. But it doesn’t make sense that when the moment comes to reveal the Light from all the difficulties we have been through that first, there is not even anything there, and second, it gets even more difficult. However, what will happen next depends on us. The choice is always ours: we can decide to give up, or not.
Moses and Aaron, even at the moment when they were so close to giving up when nothing was happening after the culmination of their work, said, “No, we are going to push one more inch,” and because of that, the Shechinah came and rested on their work. This is a tremendous lesson for all of us, especially because there are going to be times when we experience difficulty that is then followed by more difficulty instead of by Light or the culmination of our work. In those times when we could think, “Well, wasn’t the purification process I just went through enough? Why is it still continuing now?” we never know when the last inch of pushing will be what actually reveals the Light for us.
Therefore, what Moses and Aaron give us on the Shabbat of Shmini is the strength to continue in those moments when we tend to give up. We tend to assume that life should be about experiencing a difficult process which then results in the manifestation of Light. But the reality is that when it’s important, when there is a difficult process, there is almost always darkness an inch before Light. There is always an opportunity in that last inch to give up, and the reason why we all too often give up in the last moment is because we have an expectation of Light due to all the darkness we have just gone through.
But Moses and Aaron, by example, show us that there are going to be times in life where before the final revelation of Light from the difficulty we have just gone through there will be another moment of darkness, a moment when nothing happens. And it is in this moment where there still is a little more that we need to do. When nothing happened, Moses and Aaron entered the Tabernacle and begged… and not until then did the Shechinah come and rest upon everything.
The Kotzker Rebbe (Rav Menachem Mendel of Kotzk, 1787–1859) said that when our soul descends into this world it is brought down on a ladder, and as we are born, we fall off this ladder. He explains that our process in life is to jump toward the ladder again, and grab onto it. There are some people who jump ten times and then stop jumping. There are some people who jump a hundred times and then stop jumping. Then there are those souls that keep jumping no matter what; and when you keep jumping no matter what, eventually the Creator elevates you back up onto that ladder.
Moses and Aaron, on Shabbat Shmini, give us the assistance to keep jumping onto the ladder no matter what, whether we are at the 900th jump or the 10,000th jump and are ready to give up. Moses and Aaron say to us, “No, jump one more time. This might be the one jump that brings the Light of the Creator down to elevate you back up on the ladder.” On Shabbat Shmini, Moses and Aaron join our souls and elevate us back onto the ladder, giving us the strength to push that extra little bit when we want to give up.