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Blog Post Two: Light From Darkness: Marc Gafni

Marc Gafni » Blog - Spiritually Incorrect » Blog-Series: Light from Darkness » Hebrew Wisdom » Integral Evolutionary Kabbalah » Shadow » Blog Post Two: Light From Darkness: Marc Gafni

For nearly two thousand years, people ignored, denied, or labeled as evil the darker crevices of their soul. It was considered a deficit that was best left unexplored.

Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi—the founder of the Chabad Movement, goes one step further when he asserts that this is not only true about light in the universe, it is true about ourselves.

Our highest light comes from our darkness, from the black holes of our soul.

 The primary source of this idea comes from a graphic description in the writings of 16th century Safed kabbalist, Isaac Luria, on the Midrashic Creationist account of shevirat hakaylim the shattering of the vessels. Now the terms “light” and “vessels” are used symbolically here to describe how an Infinite G–d created a finite world.

As R. Isaac Luria describes it, G–d created a chasm where He concealed all of His spiritual energy, allegorically referred to as light. Then He channeled these lights into worlds—described as “vessels.” Each successive world had coarser and less refined vessels so that they could eventually channel light into a material world where one cannot automatically see G-dliness by observing nature.

According to this schema, G-d had first created primordial worlds where the spiritual lights were so powerful and intense that some of the lower worlds couldn’t contain these lights, and they imploded. 

Then G-d reconstructed these worlds by successively concealing the amount of light into the worlds and assimilating parts of the shattered worlds into this new world order. Some of the light folded back into its source and some of it remained trapped in the shards of the shattered vessels, scattered across creation.

The shards of the shattered vessels encapsulated these G-dly sparks within their resistant capsules and are the source of evil in our world. 

In the language of the Kabbalah, the challenge of emotional, spiritual and psychological growth is to elevate the sparks— that is, to free the sparks from their darkened prisons and let them shine again. In this graphic image the world is understood to be a place of broken vessels, broken hearts, broken promises and broken lives. 

But what, really, is meant by revealing the light, or the sparks from the darkness of our souls? What is this darkness, and how do we approach it to achieve this essential and primordial fixing, referred to as tikkun, or rectification?

The biblical image for darkness is “tzel,” the Hebrew word for shadow—the dark and non-integrated aspects of one’s soul. The verse beloved by the Baal Shem Tov, “G-d is your shadow,” (Psalms 121:5) paints a picture of a G-d, who, like a shadow, responds to our every movement. But according to the mystical interpretation, this verse suggests that in fact, divinity, particularly in the form of the unique Tzelem Elokim—the Divine image in whose likeness we were created, is reached through embracing one’s shadow.

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