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
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
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.