Tuesday, December 25, 2012

“From Quantity to Quality” ~ Reflections on “Vayechi”


To the Reader: The Following is a written prayer in a contemplative style. While it may retain some of the poetic and associative qualities of a prayer, it also has some logical structure.

12 Teves 5773, Tuesday, 9:39AM, Home

Dearest Sweet Beloved Divine Parent,

Thank You for this lovely opportunity to commune with You today. Being off from work today means that I can spend a larger quantity of my time devotionally. Along with greater quantity, can also follow greater quality - as the two are related. This might explain why sometimes the Lubavitcher Rebbe stressed quantity without fear of compromising quality. He probably felt that sometimes there’s a need to spread out thinly in order to reach the missing elements whose absence inhibit a higher level of quality from taking hold.

There’s a reference to this in this week’s Torah portion “Vayechi Ya’akov” - “And Jacob Lived”. The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains that Jacob had his best years in Ancient Egypt. This was despite the region’s state of impurity relative to the Land of Israel, the Holy Land. Yes, it’s true that his new home was in the midst of impurity. However, that’s where the “holy sparks” associated with his soul were lodged and awaiting him. His soul was incomplete without encountering his unique sparks. He had to spread himself over a long distance, traveling through years of time and miles of space, to finally achieve his personal quality and in what for him was an alien environment.

The Zohar (with Rav Ashlag’s commentary) at the beginning of this Torah section explains the idea in more detail. It explains that the title and opening words of this Torah section “Vayechi Ya’akov”, “And Jacob Lived”, meant that he achieved a great level of prophecy, a level almost like Moses’ level, in Egypt as a result of encountering his sparks. Apparently, pre-Egypt he only had access to the upper level of his prophetic abilities, which resulted in very high levels. However, sometimes what’s very high needs what’s very low to bring it into fruition in a practical sense, to gain a sense of what it “looks like” in an earthly sense.

The sparks he encountered in Egypt made this possible. They built up the lower vessel of his prophetic abilities. These sparks were cast offs from the “sapphire below the throne of glory”. These “sparks of sapphire” from the lower portion of the divine throne became the wisdom of Egypt. Jacob’s encounter with Egyptian wisdom allowed his prophecy to grow in quality, to achieve a higher level of resolution in earthly matters - like a lens coming into greater focus. This higher quality in earthly matters obviously also had an effect on the quality of his  perception of heavenly matters ~ as the two are intricately intertwined in a single weave.

What I found personally amazing was how Jacob “living” is really a reference to his prophecy. In some sense a prophet is more “alive”, as s/he’s in contact with higher levels of life. Indeed, attaining higher and higher levels of true prophecy was a main life occupation for many during the Biblical era. These people must have felt more alive the way an angel feels more alive than a human or a human feels more alive than an animal. It just never occurred to me beforehand that in this context Jacob’s “living” is a reference to his prophecy.

Another thing I find amazing is that our two greatest prophets to date, Moses and Jacob bookend the Egyptian experience. Both used the holy sparks found in the Egyptian exile to achieve higher levels of prophecy. Both were associated with Pharaoh's household where the most intense sparks were probably lodged.

I also found amazing that “sapphire” in the heavenly realms is so spiritual that when translated into the earthly form it becomes “wisdom”. In fact, whole systems of human wisdom were from little crumbs, i.e. sparks, of this sapphire.

However, the main practical lesson I learn is that sometimes one needs to leave aside concerns about quality and strive for quantity. Eventually, with that quantity a higher quality will be achieved.

Thank You for this lesson session …

Love and Kisses …


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