Hemshech Tzaddik-Dalet Part IV
Just 8 years into the young 21st century, we
are undergoing our first serious transition, marking the
shift from one state to another. From economics to politics,
the United States and the world at large are experiencing
First the economy. Just as it seemed that prosperity would
keep accelerating, markets would never stop rising, and
technologies were advancing at a breathtaking pace, on the
verge of reaching digital utopia, we have all been reminded
of age-old human vices and the fragility of our structures.
Now, the US Presidential election. However you understand
Mr. Obama’s rise to the most powerful position in
the world, it clearly has many historical implications,
reflecting new transitions underway.
Where will we be in four years from now? In one year from
now? In a month? No one can truly say. There are simply
too many unknown variables. And with our shrinking global
village interconnected like never before, any one little
corner of the world, any single individual, can set in motion
a domino effect – viral, in today’s lingo –
rippling through societies across the planet.
Sucked into the vortex of the whirlpool it is very difficult
to see outside of our own selves. Mired in self-interest
and in the challenges of the moment, our vision is heavily
clouded. To recognize the forest from the trees requires
stepping back, climbing up, and take in the scene from a
birds’ eye view. When we are able to transcend immediate
circumstances, it becomes quite evident that we are in a
period of transition from one age into the next.
Which is why these shifts are so disconcerting and utterly
unnerving, even traumatic. Whenever we are shaken from our
reverie and torn from our comfort zones, we undoubtedly
will feel quite upset and disturbed.
Yet, it is precisely at these points in time – when
we blindly turn the corner, leaving the past behind and
facing an unknown future – that allow us, if we only
let go, to see a bigger picture, and allow it to inform
the “smaller picture” of our daily lives.
When you think about it, periods like this are inevitable.
Like a healthy immune system, every few years our systems
have to go through a reality check and a market correction
(no pun intended), to realign us and help achieve balance.
Appropriately, the continuing discussion of the Chassidic
series Hemshech Tzaddik-Dalet delivered in 1933 –
which this column has been covering,
to mark the 75th anniversary of this profound
discourse – helps us relate to this fundamental process,
and how it can radically improve the way we see ourselves
and live our lives. Indeed, 1933 was in its own way a time
of major transition, with the economic Depression and then
the advent of World War II, which would turn the world on
its head with its devastating consequences. Today, we have
been promised, transitions will be peaceful and lead us
to a better world.
The story of the discourse till now: All of existence is
a process, a transmission consisting of three stages, yesh,
ayin, yesh. All matter – the “body” and
being of our physical universe (the created yesh)
– carries within it energy (ayin), which in turn
originates from a source, the “transmitter”
(the true yesh).
Growth is about deeper awareness and allowing that awareness
to shape your actions. We, humans, begin our lives with
focusing on serving our own selfish (yesh) needs.
Then we come to recognize the energy within all matter,
and begin to learn how to convert matter into energy. And
then, in turn, we come to discover the energy source.
This energy divides into two dimensions: The first is the
limited energy as it is contained and relates to matter.
The second is the energy as it emanates from the Source.
From the perspective of the Source, true “matter”
– the ultimate reality- is the Source, and existence
as we know it has no substance of its own. From our perspective
we think we are “it” and we are “where
it’s at,” that the tangible universe that we
see, hear, taste, touch and smell, is reality, and its life
source, the spiritual energy within, is unknown and amorphous.
Now the series continues to explain (in the discourse that
was delivered 75 years ago this week) that these two perspectives
are not merely the difference between how we see things
from the ‘”bottom up” and “outside
in” and how the Divine sees them from the “top
down” and “inside out,” but these two
perspectives are in the energy itself: Not only does the
Source “see” and consider the energy as “nothingness,”
but the energy itself humbly senses its insignificance being
that in the shadow of the Source.
This is the difference between “matter consciousness”
and “energy consciousness:” matter is consumed
with its own self importance. “I am.” Energy,
on the other hand, is inherently selfless, always cognizant
that it is simply an extension and reflection of its source.
– Check out brain researcher, Jill Bolte Taylor’s lecture
at the TED conference, in which she fascinatingly describes,
from her own personal experience having suffered a stroke,
the different “personalities” of the brain’s
two hemispheres. The right brain sees itself and all of
existence as a field of seamless energy. The left brain
sees the person as a distinct entity which declares “I
am, I am.” –
Every transition in life and in history is meant to help
us achieve the ultimate transition – from matter to
energy: Initially our attitudes are driven by self-serving
“matter consciousness.” But as we mature, and
as our material “comfort zones” are shaken,
exposing their cracks and brittleness, we have the opportunity
to glimpse the energy within and channel it outward.
The Rebbe Rayatz then goes on to define three different
dimensions of the selfless “energy consciousness.”
The first is a profound humility: the energy senses its
utter insignificance in face of the energy source. An example
of this is a student who feels absolutely trivial in the
presence of his great teacher, like a candle in the light
of the sun, which actually appears dark in comparison to
the sun’s brilliant backdrop.
What is so amazing about this form of consciousness is
its paradoxical nature: On one hand the energy clearly exists.
It is also infinitely distant from its source. Yet, in its
defined parameters it is completely aware of its insignificance
in the presence of the source.
However, as we shall see, there are yet deeper levels of
energy awareness (to be discussed in future columns).
To remain focused and sane in times of transition like
this – and surely to stay ahead of the curve –
it is crucial that we connect to the reservoirs of our soul
and the energy within all of existence, which makes everything
In simple language this means that as winds of change swirl
around us, we find grounding in the timeless values and
eternal wellsprings of our soul, by dedicating time each
day, each week, to study, pray and be charitable. These
are the three pillars upon which the world stands –
both the large world and our personal world, each person
a “universe in microcosm.”
The more everything around us gets embroiled in confusion
and chaos, the more vital it is for us not to allow ourselves,
as tempting as it may be, to get caught in the vicious cycle
of self-consciousness and self-interest. Instead, go inward.
Find your soul. Dedicate yourself to a cause greater than
your self. Connect to your selfless “energy consciousness”
– the awareness that you are a channel for something
far greater than yourself. In return this attitude helps
melt away fears and provide you with inner peace, materially
Build and reinforce these pillars in your life, and you
will find the strength to understand and appreciate the
transitions of our budding century.
* * *
When the Rebbe stopped delivering this discourse due to
someone’s complaint that it was too difficult to understand,
the Rebbe reportedly said: “M’vil geben perel.
Un zei vilen tzukerlech.” We want to offer pearls.
And they prefer candies…
Hopefully, we can come to appreciate some of these pearls
in our attempt to apply the esoteric concepts in this discourse
to our contemporary lives.