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Seeing the Complete Picture

Topic: Well Being | Posted:April 3, 2013

On a literal level, the portion of Shmini talks about the culmination of Light that was revealed through all the work the Israelites and Moses did in constructing the Tabernacle. The portion begins, “And it came to pass on the eighth day, that Moses called Aaron and his sons, and the elders of Israel…” Once the physical structure had been erected, Moses worked inside the Tabernacle for an additional eight days on his own, then called Aaron and his sons and the elders of Israel to participate.

Moses and Aaron experienced much difficulty before the Light of the Creator finally came to rest on the Tabernacle. However, something else occurred, which if we look at literally, seems like the worst thing in the world a parent could experience. But once we understand what truly happened, we are given a new insight into life.

The portion says that after the Shechinah came to rest on the Tabernacle, two of the four sons of Aaron, Nadab and Avihu, entered the Tabernacle and died. The Torah then tells us, “…and Aaron was silent.” The kabbalists explain that not only was Aaron silent, but he was full of joy. How could this be? His sons had just left this world!

Most of us already know, to one degree or another, the teaching I’m going to discuss, but hopefully the gift of Shabbat Shmini makes it truly a part of our souls. The only reason we ever feel pain, have fear, or worry, is because we are not connected to, or do not see, the complete picture. And so let us look at what happened here from the viewpoint of Aaron - someone with vision, someone who was gifted with the ability to see the complete picture. The Zohar explains that these two souls, Nadab and Avihu, were two of the greatest souls of that generation, and that this eighth day was a day that the world achieved one of the greatest elevations in history.

So at this moment it was revealed to Aaron, Nadab, and Avihu that the two sons had a choice: they could stay in this world and live out the rest of their lives, or they could prepare their souls for even more important work. As such, after the two souls of Nadab and Avihu chose to leave the world, they elevated higher and higher. They elevated so high that their souls joined with the soul of Pinchas when he left his body as he killed Cozbi and Zimri, and together they all returned to Earth where they became the soul of Elijah the prophet. Therefore, the souls of Pinchas, Nadab and Avihu – together - formed the greatest revelation for the removal of pain, suffering, and death from our world.

If we could see what really occurred with these souls, as Aaron did, we would realize there is no pain. The reason we feel pain when someone dies is because there is a disconnection - there is no clarity about what is happening with the soul that has just departed. There is a feeling of lack of connection because we cannot see them or talk to them anymore. But Aaron was able to see the souls of Nadab and Avihu, and he never disconnected from them, not for one second; he was also able to see what they were doing and speak to them eternally. He saw their souls elevating in preparation to be conduits of Bilah HaMavet LaNetzach, the Removal of Death Forever, from our world.

Because Aaron had clear vision, he never lost connection to his sons. He saw that the process their souls were going through was not negative or painful, but rather, a process of preparation to become the conduit for the Light that is called “Elijah the Prophet.” But even more than that, Aaron achieved a level of joy that he had never felt before, because as he became more strongly connected to them, he was able to experience the joy of seeing what his sons were preparing their souls for.

Most of us are not at the level of Aaron. We do not have this clarity of vision, and so what we learn from this teaching is that the only reason we feel pain or fear is because we lack a connection to the big picture, to the totality of vision.

If we do not push ourselves to connect to that greater vision, we are going to feel pain in our lives, and yet we can only gain that totality and clarity of vision by asking for it. How do we do that? First we need to understand what clarity of vision is, and then we have to ask for it. Without a vessel, without a true desire for this clarity of vision, we cannot receive this gift. It has to begin with the realization that if we lack clarity, if we lack the vision of understanding the totality, there will always be pain in our lives, to one degree or another. On the other hand, if we are working towards gaining this clarity of vision, we can come to a point, like Aaron did in this portion of Shmini, where there is no pain, where there is no fear.

The Ramchal (Rav Moshe Haim Luzzato, 1707-1746) gives a great example demonstrating the difference between someone who is completely connected and someone who is disconnected. He says it is like the difference between viewing a great maze from above, where you can clearly see the path in and out, versus when you are inside the maze and cannot see its entirety, and therefore get lost or stuck in it.

I would like to share one practical tool that we all can start using to achieve this totality of vision. Throughout our lives, usually in small ways, there are things that happen that don't make sense to us at all - he did this, or she did that, this happened, or that happened... Not the big things, but the small things that occur 20-30 times a day. It is our reactions to these small things that indicate whether we are in the process towards complete vision or not.

We need to get to the place that when something happens or someone does something that upsets or bothers us, we know that even though we don’t completely understand why it happened, we choose to focus on trusting that for whatever reason, what occurred is in our best interest... that there’s a bigger picture. When we feel happy with what has occurred and ask that this acceptance connect us to the greater vision, we will ultimately come to a point where we will achieve this complete connection and totality of vision all the time; at which point there is no more fear, there is no more pain, there is no more worry.

On this Shabbat, we have to make asking for this type of connection and clarity of vision our priority, because the truth is that we don’t have a choice. If we do not make it our daily work, life will at one point or another have greater or lesser degrees of pain, fear, and worry. And so, this week, we can connect to the great gift of assistance that Aaron gives us to begin being able to truly see the complete picture.

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