Topic: Consciousness | Posted:May 30, 2013
In this week’s portion there is the discussion of the spies. Moses sends twelve great souls to look at the Promised Land. They come back to the Israelites with a negative report that the people living there are too strong and will defeat them in battle. The Israelites accept this report, and because of that acceptance, are never able to enter into the Land of Israel. Neither are the spies, except for Caleb and Joshua.
It’s a very interesting story with a lot of depth. The basic view that most people have of it is that the Israelites were at a point in their spiritual journey where they were ready for their next level. The kabbalists teach when we talk about entering into the Land of Israel, we are not only talking about the physical entry, but more importantly, we are talking about a spiritual elevation. Entering the Land of Israel represents entering into a new, elevated spiritual realm.
So, the spies go, make a mistake, come back, speak lashon hara (evil speech) about the Land, everybody falls, and now they are no longer worthy to enter into the Land of Israel. That’s one way to view it.
But I’d like to speak about something else; a new understanding within this teaching.
One of the scariest and saddest statements that Rav Ashlag makes is that out of a thousand people who begin their spiritual journey, only one completes it. And I think one of the reasons why is because we miss this next understanding, or at least we don’t hold on to it as tightly as we should.
In this week’s portion, as we know, there’s the story of the spies. But every Shabbat we also read the Haftarah, a selection from the books of Prophets; this week’s Haftarah takes us many years later to when Joshua is the leader and sends two spies into Jericho. It says the spies went, and they came to stay in a woman’s house. Her name was Rehab, and she was a prostitute; we are told specifically that this woman’s job was that of a prostitute, which means there is importance attached to it. The story continues that the spies speak to her, she assists them, awakens spiritually, and begins a process of spiritual elevation.
The commentators explain it’s not a coincidence that we have the juxtaposition of the story of the spies in the portion of Shlach Lacha who were twelve elevated souls, the most righteous of that generation, with that of the prostitute in the Haftarah.
If you ask most people - or even if you ask yourself - to choose to be either the spies who were the most elevated souls of that generation who made a mistake, or Rehab the prostitute, who clearly was not living a very spiritual life up until that point, but was beginning to do some spiritual actions, who would you rather be? I’m assuming most of us would rather be the most elevated soul who has just made a mistake than the lowest soul who has just made a positive action. But we’d be wrong. And the reason we’d be wrong is because the way most of us assess our spiritual state is by what we are doing, which is a very big mistake.
What indicates our spiritual connection is not what we do, but rather, whether we are growing or falling, whether we are doing more or we are doing less. Let’s take a case where a person does fifty spiritual actions a day; say, he shares thirty times, he connects to the Zohar ten times, does ten other amazing acts. But yesterday he did fifty-two. The day before was fifty-four. The day before that was fifty-six. A year ago was seventy-two.
The other person, however, is at three spiritual actions; four days ago he was doing nothing. Three days ago he did one, two days ago he did two, and today he did three. Now assess these people: one guy is doing fifty, and the other guy is doing three. Who is more connected to the Light of the Creator? One would say, well the person doing fifty actions of sharing, of course. But that’s not correct.
This is a new understanding for us, and so it’s important to know the logic of it.
The Light of the Creator is in constant movement; the Creator is sharing all the time and is growing in blessings all the time. When a person is growing, he’s, as Rav Ashlag calls it, beshivui tsura – in similarity of form. He’s in connection with the Light of the Creator. When a person is diminishing, or static, he is disconnected from the Light of the Creator, because the Light of the Creator is growing and this person isn’t.
And it’s the saddest thing when you see this - somebody who is making all the connections and doing all the right things. But what we have to understand on this Shabbat is that the quantity of what you are doing makes no difference if you are diminishing or if you are static. The only thing that is important is whether you are growing or not.
Back to the spies and Rehab the prostitute. These twelve righteous souls simply made one mistake; they were the greatest spiritual souls of that generation, but they were falling. And once you start falling, once you start diminishing, you are disconnected from the Light of the Creator.
Rav Ashlag said this amazing statement, which is important to remember all the time: A person can stand by a candle in a room for a hundred years and have light. A person can walk out of that room in a hundred years and one day and have zero light. It’s not that after a hundred years of being by the light he now has a reservoir; you are either by the Light or away from the Light.
So the question should never be what am I doing or how much am I doing? The question is, from yesterday to today, from last week to this week, from last month to this month, from last year to this year, am I doing more? Am I sharing more? Am I connecting more, and pushing myself to do more?
You can only be connected to the Light of the Creator if you are growing. No matter what. And on this Shabbat we have two choices - we connect to the righteous spies or to the prostitute. Now we understand we want to connect to the prostitute, because she had the only thing that’s important - she was growing. The spies had everything, but lacked only one thing - they were diminishing. The only time there is a connection to the Light of the Creator is if there is growth, if there is push, if there is movement. Therefore, this Shabbat, we are given the tremendous gift to find the places where we are spiritual but stagnant and begin to push ourselves to do more tomorrow than we did today.