Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Inner Light and Surrounding Light

I. Introduction:
It has occurred to me to try a new path in presenting Torah. Until now I largely concentrated on teaching new insights that flowed into my mind from my Torah studies. While these insights were founded on the texts, they weren’t necessarily spelled out. Recently, it occurred to me that it might be more productive to bring others into more direct contact with some of actual texts and allow the texts to speak for themselves.
As part of this effort, I am experimenting with translating various potent excerpts from the vast wellsprings of Jewish spiritual teachings. Below is a translated excerpt from Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, but, first some essential background information.

II. Background Information:
At the dawn of creation there was an Infinite Light. At it’s very center, the Light withdrew slightly to carve out a spherical space to house all realms - both the spiritual and the earthly. An afterglow of the original Light was left in the wake of the withdrawal. This afterglow was not creative itself. It was intended as the raw material to build the various realms. For this building to occur, a drop of the original Light had to return. Then the original Light can reorganize the raw material into realms and living beings. The drop of Light took the form of a linear tube and penetrated itself into the field of the afterglow, down to its center point. In the language of Kabbalah it is referred to as the "line of light".
The tube of Light was too powerful for the afterglow to directly interact with. As a result, there needed to be another energetic field to buffer and modulate the contact between the two entities. This third field is called “mental light”. The mental light grows or shrinks modulating the quality and quantity of light that will reach the various regions of the afterglow - which in turn affects their pace of growth and development.
There are three basic elements in this working system: the line of light, mental light and the afterglow. The afterglow is what’s known as a “vessel” because it is a container for spiritual light - like a body. The light contained in the afterglow, coming from the mental light, is known as “inner light” because it is spiritual light inside of a vessel - like a soul animating a body. The line of light's radiation is known as “surrounding light” because it is the light which is too spiritual to enter the vessel. It is said to surround the vessel, rather than to be inside of it - like a soul of a soul or an aura.
Indeed, this “light and vessel” paradigm is a repeating pattern throughout the teachings of Kabbalah. This is true whether discussing the highest angel or the lowliest stone. Everything is somehow composed of lights and vessels and can be analyzed from that vantage point. This pattern was set with the withdrawal and reintroduction of the Infinite Light and has just kept on repeating throughout every nook and cranny of the creation.
As long as our realm only contains its current low level of spiritual light, humans have free choice to do good or evil. This free choice sets up a challenge so humans can earn their eventual reward. This current state is referred to by Rabbi Luzzatto as “the divine conduct of reward and punishment”.
Once more spiritual light enters into our realm free choice, as we know it, phases out and we enter a period coined by Rabbi Luzzatto as “the divine conduct of Unity”. In such a light filled era many of our deeper questions will be finally answered.
It is my hope that with the above introduction it will be easier to understand the following translated excerpt from Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto:
III. The Translation:
All good and bad human behavior is rooted in the vessels, which serve to modulate the divine conduct of reward and punishment. However, from the perspective of the divine conduct of Unity any action coming from God is only intended for the good. When the glory of God will be revealed in the future, then it will be known how all was for the good. About this day it states, “I thank You, God, for You vented anger at me.” (Isaiah 12:1)
Yet, even when all this will be revealed, He won’t reveal the entire depth of what His actions are about, for they are massively vast and open-ended. Now, when the truth will be revealed, what will be known immediately is rooted in the inner light contained within the vessel - for what the vessel contains sets the lower limit of knowledge. However, the additional great wisdom underlying any given Divine deed, which is massively vast and open-ended, is rooted in the surrounding light which expands beyond the vessel.
Everything mentioned here refer to the inner and surrounding radiances of the Infinite Light, which are explained in the discourses on the inner and surrounding lights. However, this isn’t at all about the surrounding mental lights [which function to connect the inner and surrounding lights].
~ “Divine Knowledge”, p. 27, a quote from Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto

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