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Physically, birth is a one-time occurrence; spiritually, it is an ongoing process.

Spiritual Infertility

Spiritual Infertility

The Kabbalah of Birth

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Spiritual Infertility
Physically, birth is a one-time occurrence; spiritually, it is an ongoing process.

Birth is life. Physically, it is a one-time occurrence that brings a precious new human life into this world. Spiritually, birth is an ongoing process through which we learn to be truly alive.

The Torah warns us against the dangers of neglecting the fundamental role birth plays in our daily lives: "There shall be no woman who loses her young or is infertile in your land; I shall fill the number of your days." (Exodus 23:26)

On a simple level, this verse is conveying blessings for health and longevity. However, on a deeper, more spiritual level, we can read the verse as instruction or warning.

If birth – life – is the state of being we want to achieve, then infertility, its opposite, is what we want to avoid. Infertility can result either from a problem with a reproductive organ or from a deviation in the processes of conception, impregnation or gestation. In the former, even the potential for birth does not exist. In the latter, the potential is there, but for some reason it doesn’t come to fruition.

...birth refers to the emotions that are born out of the union of the two intellects.

According to Kabbalah, the mother and father are two separate components of the intellect, while birth refers to the emotions that are born out of the union of the two intellects. In other words, to get excited about something, I first have to think about it. Then, there is a period of gestation in which the idea develops within me, which involves contemplation, meditation and integrating the concept into my being. Only then can the idea find tangible expression in my life as an emotion that excites me and effects me.

When we speak about infertility in spiritual terms, the lack of excitement, we have two possible problems, just as in physical infertility. It is possible that there is no potential for birth because the intellect is not functioning properly. Because I am so full of myself, my intellect is unable to grasp any truth or get affected about anything meaningful outside of my self; I see everything only as it is tainted by the subjectivity of my ego. This spiritual infertility expresses itself in the fact that I am immersed in my own desires. Depending on how refined I am (or what kind of day I’m having), those desires may be positive, or they may be negative – but either way they are my desires, and therefore by definition they are egocentric even if they are altruistic.

Alternatively, spiritual infertility can express itself even when I do have the ability to be inspired intellectually, but the inspiration remains ethereal and foreign to me, and it find no expression in my life. The end result is still that I am unable to be affected by it. The problem is that just as physical birth requires a Higher Power that is infinitely greater than the parents and a healthy nine-month pregnancy period, so too spiritual birth, the expression of inspiration, requires something beyond mere intellectual activity; it requires G‑d to be invited into the process to ensure that power for the miracle of birth is there, and it requires a healthy gestation period, a profound integration and development of the idea that leads to its eventual expression and affect.

The only thing that lasts forever is truth.

But there is still the potential for one more type of "infertility" – when birth occurs but it is not a live birth. Here, the Torah is instructing us to ensure that whatever is born out of the spiritual process of birth retains its vitality and remains alive. The only thing that lasts forever is truth. For my efforts not to be in vain, I have to make certain that the entire process was conducted honestly.

My intellect is devoid of ego, it is functioning properly, and I am able to perceive truth. There is no blockage that stops these perceptions from affecting my life. And I am careful to be honest with myself at each stage of the journey so that the excitement stays with me. Having achieved all of this, I can now bask in the satisfaction that I am spiritually sensitive and alive – can’t I?

Satisfaction is the beginning of the end. Once I am satisfied with what I accomplish, all of my future endeavors will be measured against my satisfaction rather than my ultimate potential. And so the verse instructs: "I shall fill the number of your days." When I contemplate the fact that G‑d created me with a purpose in mind, and each moment that I am here but not doing whatever I can to fulfill my personal mission in life I am wasting it… how can I possibly feel satisfied? How can I even find time to think about my satisfaction, even in spiritual terms, when every moment that I am not working on my assignment I am rebelling against the King?

Thus I overcome the final obstacle to living, ensuring that my ego does not creep back into the picture by basking in my own self-aggrandizement. I do my part, and wait for the day when G‑d will do His, when all illness, both physical and spiritual, will be healed.

Izzy Greenberg, a writer, scholar and teacher, is the Educational Director at Ascent of Tzefat and the Creative Director of Tekiyah Creative (//tekiyah.com). To learn more and to read his writings, go to //izzygreenberg.com
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Geetika India March 8, 2017

I was very confused over my own reproductive ill health when I read ur article. It cleared away so much of that confusion in me. I realised all these qualities are inheremt in me, subconsciously, like- being full of myself, not being satisfied, not being truly excited about the birth of a baby I want.
Thank You for the good writing. Reply

Izzy Greenberg Israel via kabbalaonline.org April 3, 2017
in response to Geetika:

Dear Geetika,
Thank you for your kind words. I am saddened to hear about your reproductive ill health. I’m not sure the teaching is directly saying that these psychological/emotional limitations lead to actual infertility; it is meant more as a metaphor for personal growth. So, though I wish you complete personal liberation from all shackles and limitations, I also wish you complete good health regardless of how much progress you make in these areas – both for you and your baby, who should come in the right time. Reply

Cathy Fried Toronto September 22, 2013

My guess would be that you 'fill each moment' or be 'mindful' of every moment - that you choose the best responses to each moment by acting present, focused, compassionate - essentially not in the default mode we usually spend our busy days. It is only when we are mindful, or filled with each day that our mission can be revealed. It is for us to find it - a journey not a destination. Reply

Anonymous May 12, 2013

...the fact that G-d created me with a purpose in mind, and each moment that I am here but not doing whatever I can to fulfill my personal mission in life I am wasting it..."

In theory, this sounds very logical and right. But in practice it is quite impossible-
Most (if not all) people do NOT know what their personal mission is, so how should we try to fill EACH moment of ours to pursue -something- if we even dont know what this something is? Reply

Izzy Greenberg Israel via kabbalaonline.org April 3, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

Dear Anonymous,
(Sorry for the delayed response. For technical reasons, your comment only found its way to me now.)
You’re right. Figuring out my personal mission can be challenging - but it is definitely a challenge worth pursuing. I don’t have to get it perfectly right, but simply engage in a journey toward it and see what happens. It is anyways something that evolves over time, so I need to be attuned to the changes in my self and my circumstances, and refine it as I go. It is also worth noting that in addition to my personal mission, there is a universal purpose that all human beings share – to make the material world shine with spiritual light by fulfilling the Divine will in my day-to-day life. When I’m feeling lost or out of touch with my personal mission, I can always begin by investing my energy in the universal and working progressively toward a more personal focus. Reply

Izzy Greenberg Israel via kabbalaonline.org April 3, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

There are many teachings and teachers out there that provide tools and guidance in this are. My favorite is Simon Jacobson of the Meaningful Life Center. Reply

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