Today is the fast of the 10th of Teves. I am not feeling very strong. However, it is certainly easier to fast on a day when I am off from work, for I can contemplate the meaning of why I fast.
Whatever, my range of free choice is, within those limits, there’s still always room to lift my head a drop further away from the direction of selfishness or self absorption and open the door for Your Light to become revealed to humanity that much more. I don’t have to take an all or nothing approach. I can encourage myself with the teaching from our sages that while I am not expected to complete the work, I don’t need to feel discouraged about doing my part. My little bit, is valuable.
So today I stay away from a staple of human self absorption for a safe while, food. The problem with self absorption is that it’s the very opposite from what our Creator are about. Self absorption is about limitation, it limits the scope to a narrow focus, oneself. Our Creator about Infinity, an expansive scope, an all inclusive scope. One needs to look beyond the borders of one’s own skin to enter into a relationship with Him ~ for He has no borders.
This teaching not only applies to the scope of one’s kindness, but to the scope of one’s intellectual probings too. Why accept what imagined limits? As His thoughts are not limited, so too our thoughts should push beyond previously assumed limits, bit by bit. This way we begin to imitate Him and create closeness through a similarity with Him - however, small and insignificant such a step may seem from His Infinite perspective. Yet, what’s barely a fraction of an inch for Him might be light years for us.
Yet, we cannot totally burst out of limits either. Limits form the vessels which contain. They’re part of the fabric of anything which isn’t Him. Hence, neither the spiritual realms nor the physical realm could exist without limits. Neither souls nor angels could exist without limits. Every identity is a unique packet of consciousness, of sentience, contained within defined limits.
The building of vessels is part of what a Torah lifestyle accomplishes. Kabbalah teaches that counterintuitively the mark of holiness is the presence of vessels which contain spiritual lights. The mark of impurity is the free flow of uninsulated spiritual lights, which ends up wreaking havoc. So where’s the balance between too many limits which block true potential and too few limits which intoxicate beyond potential; the difference between not going far enough or going too far?
The answer is likely to be a life of selflessness built on the back of self preservation. In other words, take care of oneself first and be very giving from that basis, without losing that basis. For how can one give if one does not have what to give from?
We can learn a lesson from the afterglow left in the wake of the retraction of the Infinite Light. The afterglow allows in a single tenuous ray of Infinite Light from one opening on top. Rabbi Chaim Vital is very clear that if this tenuous ray reached the bottom of the afterglow too, there would be two openings to the Infinite Light and this would be too much. The Infinite Light would gush in and take over, causing the afterglow to disappear into the Light; much the way dim light disappears in intense light.
Yet, Rabbi Shalom Dov Schneerson quotes a view of “some Kabbalist” who state that in the future the ray of light will reach the bottom of the afterglow, opening it up to the Infinite Light on both ends. Obviously, this will be a time of far more intense spiritual revelation than we experience today. So what happened to Rabbi Chaim Vital’s concern that such a scenario would cause the afterglow to disappear into the Infinite Light?
Perhaps an answer is that the afterglow itself is a vessel which develops in capacity over a period of stages. In an earlier less developed state, the afterglow only has the capacity to give the Infinite Light the pleasure of entering from one opening. As the afterglow develops she becomes a more capable vessel, able to handle more Light. In her new capacity, she can now give the Infinite Light the pleasure of entering her from two openings. So too as we develop, we build our capacity to be more giving without compromising our gifts to give. Hence, we fast today with a balance; not to the point where it compromises our health, a very necessary basis for human selflessness.
This seems like a nice attitude to begin the secular year with. Happy New Year!