Staying Present In The Darkness

In the times we are living in, being part of the Jewish people is difficult. The Israel Hamas war is horrific and the loss of life is heartbreaking. The brutality of the attack on Israel and the endless images that continue to flood social media are deeply shocking. And, the anti-semitism in this country that expresses a blatant and bold disregard for Jewish lives is so upsetting. How do we wake up each morning, stay connected to the goodness of creation, and be an instrument of love and truth within this dark time?

There is a profound teaching of Kabbalah that the entire universe is made up of Divine attributes. The mystics raise our awareness of these Divine attributes through the focus on seven middot or sephirot that make up all of creation including us. Everything that we experience inside ourselves and around us are an expression or combination of the seven Divine energies. Whenever we experience an outflow of energy through kindness, giving, generosity, we are experiencing the Divine attribute of Hesed. Whenever we experience strength, justice, boundaries, judgment, we are experiencing the Divine attribute of Gevuah. And the same goes for compassion, creativity, empathy, mutuality, and integrity.

However creation doesn’t only express the positive aspect of these attributes, but human beings can also express more contracted aspects of these Divine attributes. For example, when the energy of Hesed of attraction, desire, connection, and giving is experienced through a human consciousness that identifies him/her/themselves as separate from the rest of creation, then Hesed is experienced as lust. From a place of disconnection and separation, I experience the Divine attribute of Hesed as the desire to possess,  and my focus is on a particular person or a particular thing rather than the Divine energy that animates the object of desire. When the energy of Gevurah – of strength, judgment, boundaries is experienced from a consciousness of disconnection and separation, I may experience fear and anxiety – that the power in the world will harm me. Or I may think that my perspective is the right one and be closed off to listening to others. The Diivine attributes, Hesed and Gevurah can be experienced as positive life giving attributes or negative egoic ones. It all depends on the human consciousness that is touching them. From a place of mochin de gadlut – expanded consciousness, these attributes are expressions of God. From a place of mochin de katnut – contracted consciousness, these attributes are experienced as evil and darkness.

As we experience evil and darkness, stress and anxiety, can we remember that these experiences are expressions of  Divine attributes, just contracted, and experienced through the meytzar – the narrow place? The great 18th century spiritual master, the Maggid of Mezritch taught:

The principle is that all that  a person sees and hears and all the occurrences that happen to him, they all come to awaken him. Whether it is something concerning love [ahavah], fear [yirah], splendor [tiferet], endurance [netzach], beauty [hod], connection [yesod], or governance [malchut], their principle is in two ways. Either there comes to him during prayer a bad deed that he did that comes before him in his thought in order to be healed and elevated. And this is like a parable of one who looks into a mirror who sees his visage reflected back, thus his deeds come to him in thought…Or letters from the shattering [shevirah] come. And he needs to discern whether they are letters from love, fear, or the other attributes. This occurs both during prayer and at any time. Sometimes a person is scared of some thing or creature. Everything comes to him to be raised. (Maggid D’varav L’Yaakov 161:158-9)

According to the Maggid, in meditation or prayer, we will experience darkness – something we’ve done we don’t feel good about, something that we experienced in our lives or in the news, tension and discomfort in our own bodies. And his teaching is that “everything comes to a person to be raised…” Everything that we experience moment by moment is an expression of a Divine attribute. And in meditation or prayer, we can practice being open to the discomfort and the darkness, remembering that it is a Divine attribute, and becoming aware of our own contraction in the experience. We decide to be present, even though it doesn’t feel good, and we are able to make that decision because we remember this teaching – we remember that it all are expressions of the Divine energies of creation.

The more we practice opening and being with discomfort and darkness, the more we are in touch with the Holy Presence that is radiating through all of creation, and the more opportunity we have to reflect that reality in our lives.

1 thought on “Staying Present In The Darkness”

  1. Am so grateful for the opportunity to receive your wisdom and insight during a challenging time in my life. I have never before experienced depression or anxiety. It is necessary for me to take your words into my heart and soul and use this time to grow and transform who I am. Thank you so much

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