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A Shepherd in King’s Clothing

Topic: Consciousness | Posted:February 27, 2013

One of the exciting things when we study is coming to a newer, deeper understanding of a secret that we have studied before. That is one of the opportunities we have on this Shabbat of Ki Tisa.

There is a beautiful story in the Prophets, in Samuel I, Shmuel Alef.

Many of us know that historically there was a first king called Saul, Shaul. The Creator asks the King Saul to follow His direction and assist this world by removing darkness from it, to fight what’s called Amalek. King Saul, although he was an elevated soul, found his own way with what he thought was wisdom. Because of that, the Creator tells him he can no longer be king.

At the time there was a Prophet living named Shmuel, Samuel, who the Creator tells to go and anoint the next king - even though Saul is still alive and seems to be behaving as a king - who is amongst the children of Ishay in Bethlehem. Ishay had eight children, seven of whom he really liked, one which he didn’t. He brings all of the seven one at a time to Samuel, but Samuel keeps saying no, God is telling me it’s none of these.

Ishay tells him that he must have made a mistake then, and Samuel asks Ishay if he has shown him all his children. Ishay remembers the one son he is embarrassed of, the one who he sent him out to be a goat herder. They call the eighth child, named David, and when Samuel sees him, the Creator tells Samuel to anoint him as king. From the moment that David receives this anointing he receives Divine Inspiration and an elevated connection to the Light of the Creator.

As this happens, not coincidentally, Saul who was the king up until now starts losing his energy and his joy. He becomes depressed. And so David is called to come and play music in front of him, while unbeknownst to Saul, David had taken the king’s spirit, given to him by the Creator. Whenever King David came before Saul he became happy; however Saul doesn’t understand that the reason is because what he has lost David has received, and so every time Saul gets depressed he calls David to come and play for him, and David comes.

This boy, David, who was completely disregarded by his family, had two amazing things happen to him. First, the Prophet Samuel, the spiritual leader of the generation, tells him he is the next leader. Second, the king tells him that he is the only person who can make him happy. So, one can imagine the sort of change that must have gone on within the soul, the spirit, and the emotions of David.

It says that King David, whenever he was called to the king, would go to the king, and whenever he was free he would go back and shepherd his father’s flock. Why would he do that? David had just been chosen to be king! He had received this elevated spirit. His life had changed. But he did not change with the times or with the gifts that had been given him. King David, it says, keeps on going back to the goats and the sheep every free moment he has.

There is a great secret here. All of us, unfortunately, when anything happens - it could be physical, it could be spiritual, it could be big, it could be small - we get some elevation. For some people, for example, it’s making money, for others it’s getting a new position, but either way, we change. Now we are a different person - because now we are a leader, now we have money. It’s a very big mistake. It’s also a very dangerous one.

What made King David great was the fact that even after he became king he didn’t change. If you woke David up in the middle of the night, and asked him, “Who are you, what is your essence?” He would answer, “I’m a shepherd.” Even though King David was a king, even though he had Divine Inspiration and everybody looked to him for leadership, he knew - and this is something that all of us forget - that at his essence, he was a shepherd. In the Midrash, based on a verse in Psalms, it says that King David says to Hashem, the Creator, “My heart did not elevate at all when Samuel anointed me to be king. My eyes didn’t start looking at higher things when I killed Goliath. And I never felt that I was walking in amongst great things or amongst great people. But rather my soul was always silent. My spirit was never elevated in that way.”

A good way to describe this is that in our world we wear clothes, we put on costumes. If a person puts on an outfit of a clown, it doesn’t make him a clown unless he’s funny. We know outfits don’t change who we are. For King David the clothing that was put on him –the clothing of leadership, the clothing of kingdom, the clothing of wisdom, the clothing of Divine Inspiration – was never him. And because of that, he was able to not only maintain, but also grow his connection with the Light of the Creator. King David was King David not because of anything he achieved, but because no matter what happened to him he didn't change who he was at his core.

If we are honest with ourselves, we will realize how much we have allowed ourselves to change from the good to the stupidest, smallest things that happen in our lives. We behave differently. We interact differently. We allow ourselves to treat other people differently. Because of it all of our actions change immediately within every external change that happens to us, and every single one of those layers we put on ourselves disconnects us from the Light of the Creator.

There is an even deeper understanding to this.

In this week’s portion when the Israelites fall so badly, and Moses wants to protect them, he says to the Creator, “Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Awaken their Light. And through their Light protect the Israelites.”

The kabbalists teach that we have the ability to draw the assistance from the righteous through a concept called zechut avot, the merit of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the righteous souls that lived before us, in which we can connect to the Light that they revealed and brought down to this world. There is also a concept called brit avot, the bond of the Creator and the Patriarchs. The secret of brit avot is that Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and King David lived their lives never changing their essence. They never changed who they were at their core. They never changed with all these layers that were put upon them, and because of that, their connection to the Light of the Creator always remained.

In this portion, the Creator says to Moses, “Forget about these people. Let me destroy all of them. And from you, Moses, I’ll create a new nation.” What does this mean? This was a test to check if Moses saw himself as better or more elevated than the fallen Israelites. If he did, then he could not bring down this connection to brit avot, this bond that comes only to souls from souls that never changed. Therefore, when the Creator asks Moses why don’t we just destroy these people and start a new nation from you, he says no. Because he knows he is not any better than them.

Moses, who also began as a shepherd, realized that at his core, just like King David, he was always a shepherd. He was the leader to the world, he was the greatest Prophet who ever lived, yet none of those things were who he was. He remained simple and unchanged, because of which, he was able to bring down a great protection of the brit avot on this Shabbat.

One of the great gifts we have to beg for on this Shabbat, first, is to understand that all the changes we have allowed, which are both ridiculous on the one hand, but also scary and dangerous on the other, disconnect us from the Light of the Creator. The only way to be truly connected to the Light of the Creator is to learn from King David and Moses. We must not change from however we first came into this world, before we started putting all these layers on ourselves, because every single one of those layers disconnects us from the Light of the Creator.

Of course we know Kabbalah is about change. But the real change, what’s the real change? The real change is to break all the ridiculous changes that we have already gone through, and to go back to the simple true being that we are - as King David was a shepherd, as Moses was a shepherd. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and King David were connected to the Light of the Creator, not because of any of the layers that were on them, but because no matter what happened externally, they never changed. It’s a tremendous secret, and probably one of the most difficult things to actually do. But it is the only way to make a true, lasting, and growing connection to the Light of the Creator.

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