In the middle of this crazy roller-coaster ride, I thought it would be good to set out some more background.
I had a few emails, that made me realise I need to put more of the context around all this, so we can come through this difficult process of ‘birur’ a little easier.
Also, we are all starting to see why so much if this has been kept under wraps for so very long – and this has literally been going on for centuries – because the truth appears to be very difficult to deal with.
So, here’s some more context, which will hopefully help us along.
I’m not pretending to be some ‘super knowledgeable kabbalist’ here, so as always, feel free to point out any errors (respectfully) and to set the record straight, if you feel I’ve got something wrong. This is my simple understanding of a very complicated subject.
Good and bad have been ‘mixed up’ – totally – since the time of Adam and Eve.
When they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and bad, the world stopped being a place of purity, and ‘good’ and ‘bad’ got shaken up together.
Humanity, and particularly the Jewish people, have been engaged in the job of trying to raise the sparks of ‘good’ out of the klipot of ‘bad’ for the last 5781 years, and that process of birur is intensifying, the nearer we get to Moshiach being revealed, and geula really happening.
Once the last bits of ‘birur’ have been done, the world can return to its pristine state of spiritual purity, that last occurred in the Garden of Eden.
Throughout history, the greatest ‘good’ has always been hidden inside the greatest ‘bad’.
There are very deep reasons for all this, that I’m not going to pretend I understand, but at least part of what’s going on here is that when a soul has massive spiritual potential for good, it also has to have an equal spiritual potential for bad, in order to maintain free choice.
And Rebbe Nachman teaches that free choice is the only reason God created the world, otherwise, there would be a situation where ‘God is serving Himself’, which would totally be missing the point.
So it is, that we find an ‘Abraham Avinu’ dafka being born to Terach, the number 1 ‘idol maker’ of the ancient world.
And so it is, that all of Yaacov Avinu’s wives were the daughters of Lavan, the biggest evil sorcerer in the world.
And so it is, that dafka Moshe Rabbenu was raised in the heart of Pharoah’s palace, in Egypt – aka ‘black magic and immorality’ central.
And so it is, that we find the soul of David HaMelech dafka coming out of multiple klipot and apparent ‘bad’, including incestuous relationships between Lot and his daughter, and also the difficult to understand situation of Yehuda, the son of Yaakov, and Tamar.
The examples of this in Jewish history go on and on.
Each person, at their own spiritual level, has their own internal fight between ‘good and bad’ to deal with.
And the more ‘good’ a person is capable of doing, the bigger the fight, the bigger the stakes – and the greater the risks, that they will fall into ‘bad’.
In fact, the only way to NOT fall into ‘bad’ is to continue to beg Hashem, literally every single day, to help us to only do His will, and to try to make a real cheshbon hanefesh about all our own blind spots and innate biases, and ‘hidden’ bad middot.
If we’re not doing this every single day, we’re in real danger – particularly if we’re a ‘big’ soul, with so much potential for good.
And even if we are doing this every single day, there is still so much confusion and doubt, because that’s just how it is.
Moshe Rabbenu didn’t know God wanted him to smash those first luchot.
He took a massive risk, spiritually, when he did that.
He didn’t know God wanted him to argue on behalf of Am Yisrael, that God wouldn’t destroy the nation.
Closer to our times, Rebbe Nachman also spoke about his great uncertainty about what God really wanted from him, on a number of different occasions.
To give one example, Rabbenu sacrificed his wife and his children to bring down the Torah contained in what was called the Sefer Nisraf, or ‘Burned Book’. But ultimately, when he became ill with Tuberculosis, he understood that he had to burn that book, in order to be granted more time in this world.
He lived for another three years, as a result, and achieved such awesome spiritual levels that Rav Natan, his main pupil, explained it was impossible to even begin to describe what was really going on.
But can we even begin to imagine the test that Rabbenu had, agonising over whether to destroy the Torah he’d sacrificed so much to bring down?
The point I’m trying to make is that truly serving God is often – usually – a very confusing and uncertain process.
And for those biggest souls amongst us, the stakes are so very great, because they are trying to achieve so much in the world.
Look at King Shlomo.
He married 1,000 wives, including the daughter of Pharoah, in an attempt to try to force the rectification of the world, and to elevate the ‘sparks’ via his 1,000 wives.
He failed in the attempt, and destruction followed in his wake, when the Kingdom of Israel split off from the Kingdom of Judah, and ultimately the 10 tribes were permanently lost, banished beyond the Sambatyon River.
King Shlomo was a tremendous Tzaddik, a tremendous Torah scholar, the son of King David himself.
And he still got things wrong, with awful consequences.
So, when we’re looking at what’s really been going on throughout Jewish history, we have to understand that battle that each person is waging inside their soul, between ‘good and bad’.
The people with the greatest potential for good have the greatest challenges, and the greatest tests.
Shabtai Tzvi was a very big Torah scholar and kabbalist.
Jacob Frank was a very big Torah scholar and kabbalist.
They thought their actions, their beliefs, were rectifying the world.
But at some crucial point, some deep level, they took a wrong turn – and everything fell apart, and went bad very quickly.
But many of the ideas they were sharing – at least initially – contained tremendous spiritual good, and were powerful spiritual vehicles to effect real transformation in the world.
So, when we read that the Baal Shem Tov, R’ Israel ben Sarah, took some of the teachings from the ‘Baal Shems’ that proceeded him – many of whom were likely Sabbateans – we have to understand what that really means.
God forbid a million times, that doesn’t mean the Baal Shem Tov was a ‘secret Sabbatian’.
The Baal Shem Tov was a True Tzaddik, the True Tzaddik of his generation.
But like Rabbi Meyer before him, he was ‘sucking the seeds’ of good out of the Sabbatian teachings – then discarding the rind, the klipah.
Like you, I wish all this stuff was easier to deal with.
I wish things weren’t so jumbled up, and so head-wrecking.
I wish that we could get to that ‘geula omelette’ without having to break all these eggs along the way.
But I’m also starting to understand that all this is part of the process encouraging us to have more compassion for our fellow Jew, and to recognise that just as we ourselves are an admixture of ‘good and bad’, so are they.
Most of us have been taught a path, an approach, that involves beatifying ourselves, and anything we’re involved with, and any group we belong to, and ‘demonising’ the other.
‘Bad stuff’ is only ever being done by the leftists, the secular Jews in America, the Litvaks, the chassidim, the Breslovers, the Chabadnikim, the settlers, the Arab-loving-‘Peace Now-ers’, the pro-vaxxers, the anti-vaxxers – the list goes on and on.
But it’s a false paradigm.
Good and bad is mixed up still, until Moshiach comes, and even in the baddest of bad, there is still a spark of good.
Rabbenu teaches us that if we can locate that spark of good, we can tip the person into the scale of merit, and they will make teshuva.
And the opposite is also true, that even in the goodest of good, there is a tiny spark of something that makes us uncomfortable, that doesn’t seem ‘right’.
Nothing is 100%, nothing is totally black and white.
That’s how it is, until this birur is finally completed, and ‘bad’ totally disappears out of the world.
I know, it’s confusing.
I know that feeling of confusion and uncertainty is headwrecking.
But it’s also very humbling.
When we lose the certainty that we are always and only ‘right’, and always and only on the right side of things, then that usually makes us far more wary of laying into other people, and acting so ‘holier than thou’.
That can only be a good thing.
And that feeling of overwhelming confusion can also motivate us to take all our questions and doubts back to Hashem, and to beg Him to give us clarity.
Nothing is certain in today’s world.
It’s a world of lies, mamash.
All our assumptions need to be identified and re-examined, so we can finally emerge into that world of truth.
The rope is being swung all over the place.
The only way to come through it in one piece is to talk to God about what’s going on every single day, and to ask Him to show us what’s really true.
And if we do that sincerely, He will.
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