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Fallen Sparks

Fallen Sparks

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He pondered our world from every side and every angle, and he realized something must have gone wrong.

Something at the very beginning. Something before Time had begun and there were moments to count; before the laws of nature had been established and matter had yet a chance to form. Something at the very core of reality, and if he could find it, all the cosmos could be healed.

He continued his meditations on the banks of the River Nile, his fasting, his recitation of Psalms and his sleepless nights poring over and over the scrolls of the Zohar his teacher had left him. He received wisdom from ancient souls, as had Rabbi Shimon and his son when they hid in the cave. He gazed upon the river wildlife at day, the stars of the Egyptian sky at night. He pondered all that he learned. But most of all, he pondered existence.

There is wisdom here, he thought, but wisdom gone mad. There is beauty, magnificent beauty, but she is shattered. If all the world is an epic novel, the words have been tossed in the air and scrambled; if it is a grand symphony, the musicians have lost sight of their conductor, each playing his melody on his own time. As though an explosion had occurred, blowing apart the pieces that were meant to create a harmonious world, creating instead a cacophony of melodies, a chaos of fragments.

How he discovered the secret, we do not know. A human mind, writes his protégé, Rabbi Chaim Vital, could not have unlocked this knowledge. Perhaps it was Elijah that revealed it to him; for Elijah, the Zohar says, was to reveal the deepest truths in preparation for the light of Moshiach at the end of days. Perhaps he received from beyond even there. But when he looked in Genesis and in the Holy Zohar, he saw it clearly: Olam HaTohu—“the World of Chaos.”

Rabbi Yitzchak Luria—also known as Ari, “The Lion”—was a Kabbalist, and the Kabbalist seeks a deeper reality. To the Kabbalist, the mass of humanity lives in a dream. There is wisdom here, he thought, but wisdom gone mad. There is magnificent beauty, but it is shattered.Truth lies on a higher plane, and the Kabbalist’s soul yearns to soar to that place. He separates himself from the commotion of society to sit in solitude and contemplation. He meditates until he can perceive beneath the veneer of our reality a deeper world—perhaps the World of Formation, or deeper to the World of Creation, or even to the divine World of Emanation beyond the angels.

But the World of Tohu is entirely beyond the finite being. It is a world emanated from the Source of All Worlds before finitude existed, before bounds were set to reality. The only bounds of Tohu are the ten luminous emanations, and they too are without bounds. Infinite light in ten discrete modalities.

That was it, he realized. That’s where things went wrong. For that is the first impossibility: the place in G‑d’s mind where His boundlessness meets with His desire to be found. The place where G‑d comes face to face with His own paradox: His passion to be infinity within a finite world.

And so, it shattered. The very core of reality is G‑d’s shattered dream, waiting for us to pick up the pieces.

The fire of the sun, the air we breathe, the roaring waves of the oceans and all that lives in them; When we perceive beauty, it is because we have found that window to the infinite . . .the Earth and the plants and animals that live upon it; even the human flesh, its vital soul and the angels above—everything we find in our world and in the worlds deeper within—all are no more than artifacts of the sparks that fell in the explosion of that primordial world. But the essence of the human being, the breath of G‑d within us, that is G‑d Himself, gathering, refashioning and piecing back together an impossible dream.

He is like the father who fashions a castle from his child’s wooden blocks, only to say, “See? Like this!” and then to knock it all down—so now the child can build it on his own. Because that is the purpose: that we should build it on our own. That we should redeem that boundless light of Tohu and fit it into the boundaries of human everyday life. For that is the only way His paradoxical dream can become real: through those who live within it.

As for the Ari, he was like one who scales a colossal wall, convinced that a treasure lies at its summit—only to discover that his prize has fallen to the mud below. Just how are these sparks of infinite light to be redeemed from their captivity?Which changed everything. Because if so, the entire focus of human spirituality is misled. The greatest light, the highest beauty, is not “up there.” It has fallen down here. And it is humankind, not the angels, who can pick it up and reveal it.

Rarely does an idea so radical become so readily accepted. Yet, in a relatively short time, the teachings of the Ari became the standard reading of the Zohar. Not just because they made sense of many otherwise recondite passages, but because they made so much sense of reality and the place of Torah in that reality.

To the Jews of the East and to the Sephardic communities, the Ari has the stature of a prophet. The chassidic movement of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov that revitalized the Jewry of Europe would have been impossible without the teachings of the Ari. The most common Jewish liturgy today follows the form of the Ari’s custom. Even the voluminous discussions of the nitty-gritty halachah—Jewish law and practice—are speckled with the authoritative clause, “the custom of the Ari was . . .”—and if that is what the Ari did, then most often that’s the end of the discussion.

Not just Jews, but also philosophers among the gentiles studied his ideas and were profoundly affected by them.1 Leibniz’s monads can easily be traced to the Ari’s partzufim-which we know he read about in Count van Helmont’s Kabala Denudata, as did Henry More, John Locke and Anne Conway. There is even evidence to suggest that the modern idea of social activism to better our world owed much to the impact of the Ari’s teaching. For the Ari truly provided the strongest basis for the spiritual person to be involved in the material world. In a way, the Ari can be called the first modern revolutionary—for he stood the entire focus of the enlightened individual on its head.

That the Infinite Light is everywhere is an axiom of the Kabbalah, but the Ari made that light immanent, almost tangible, by declaring it to be held captive within every object, every event, even within evil itself.

Think again of the analogy of a jumbled text. If the Ari lived today, he would have a more ready metaphor: the e‑mail that occasionally slips through without decoding, turning up in your inbox as a jumble of nonsensical letters. You see that there are patterns, that this was meant to say something—but that meaning has been lost in the encoding.

In technical jargon, data without meaning is called “noise.” When it happens in our own reality, we call it “evil.” Confusion unarrested and running wild. The Ari concluded that within this evil must be the relics of that primal explosion, fragments that fell below, yet still glow from the infinite light they once contained. The sparks are G‑dliness, but like us Jews, they are exiled in a world where they are out of context, held captive within their own confusion.

Evil is then an artifact, essentially fictitious, arising from the temporary state of disorder. Reorder the world, and evil disappears as though it never was.

And this is where the Ari and his students after him glued together the revealed and the hidden faces of Torah, where they made the Kabbalah into an effective theology of the halachah—and at the same time a theology of human endeavor. They asked: just how are these sparks of infinite light to be redeemed from their captivity? Where is the decoder that will return each spark back to its context, so that the artifact of evil will vanish?

To find infinity within each event of our world takes no more than an objective human mind. When we perceive beauty, it is because we have found that window to the infinite. When we investigate any detail of our world as a scientist, we discover infinite information—we can continue for a lifetime and never fully understand a single organism or cell or molecule or atomic structure.

But to piece together all that infinity and reconnect it to its source—for that, we must have access to the encryption code of the manufacturer. Which is exactly what we were provided when we received the Torah at Mount Sinai.

FOOTNOTES
1. The most extensive research in this regard has been done by Allison Coudert. See her work The Impact of the Kabbalah in the 17th Century: The Life and Thought of Francis Mercury van Helmont, 1614–1698 (Brill’s Series in Jewish Studies, 9). An excellent review of this work is in the Jewish Quarterly Review, vol. 94, no. 1 (Winter 2004).
Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, a senior editor at Chabad.org, also heads our Ask The Rabbi team. He is the author of Bringing Heaven Down to Earth. To subscribe to regular updates of Rabbi Freeman's writing, visit Freeman Files subscription.
Image: "Ten Vessels" by Chassidic artist Michoel Muchnik.
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Discussion (19)
April 10, 2014
wow
the essence of the human being, the breath of G‑d within us, that is G‑d Himself, gathering, refashioning and piecing back together an impossible dream.

He is like the father who fashions a castle from his child’s wooden blocks, only to say, “See? Like this!” and then to knock it all down—so now the child can build it on his own. Because that is the purpose: that we should build it on our own. That we should redeem that boundless light of Tohu and fit it into the boundaries of human everyday life. For that is the only way His paradoxical dream can become real: through those who live within it.

- and yet, also we learn to rebuild together unconditionally and with freewill until it is complete and G-ds purpose for our one shared life is realised. wow

thankyou for your visual and most wonderful explanation, I think this one will just stay with me forever and carry me for a very long time. thanks ~
Michelle
uk
April 10, 2014
Reconnect The Sparks
G_d withdrew His Light of love that bonded all of us. All we saw was our self - an ego that expanded into all it's negative attributes - we separated from the other and G_d. While in this exile, we feel a spark within us, a taste of Life & Love - a desire to unite with Him and others again.
We recognize the chaos of the broken Soul and all the crises it creates. He waits for us to ask for His Light to reconnect our shattered sparks.
Brenda
April 10, 2014
Elequence
The article is very eloquent and true. Yes, GOD created a flawed world, the containers he designed were flawed. And the Zohar as is well documented is a fake. So where does the truth lie. Surely not in the stories that tell us these things.

GOD makes it clear that all he did was good, very good. No mistakes no design flaws, So where do the stories of a broken world come from? From broken people who can not accept GODs world as it is. People with no emunah who see a GOD of their own minds creation.

No need for an encryption key for the truth or any so called gurus " It is not in the heavens, that you should say, "Who will go up to heaven for us, and get it for us and impart it to us that we may observe it?" Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, "Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us, and get it for us and impart it to us that we may observe it?" No, the thing is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe."
Anonymous
Montreal
April 10, 2014
Fallen Sparks
WOW ! that will teach me...opening my e-mail at 6 a.m. ;-)
Joseph5716
Ct.
August 25, 2013
for example, Zeno
The dichotomy paradox leads to the following mathematical joke. A mathematician, a physicist and an engineer were asked to answer the following question. A group of boys are lined up on one wall of a dance hall, and an equal number of girls are lined up on the opposite wall. Both groups are then instructed to advance toward each other by one quarter the distance separating them every ten seconds (i.e., if they are distance d apart at time 0, they are d/2 at t=10, d/4 at t=20, d/8 at t=30, and so on.) When do they meet at the center of the dance hall? The mathematician said they would never actually meet because the series is infinite. The physicist said they would meet when time equals infinity. The engineer said that within one minute they would be close enough for all practical purposes. (copy and paste since I'm not this funny)
Doug Schulek-Miller
Ottawa, Canada
April 26, 2012
Fallen sparks and Adam Kadmon
Please, what is the relation between the fallen sparks and the primordial Human Being before creation that is often drawn as the Tree of Life whose branches are Kether, 'Hochmah, Binah, Geburah, 'Hessed
(Spirit of wisdom, understanding...Isaiah 11)?
Is this Human Tree the messianic vision that shall lead us to configure our mind in the likeness of It and that way to orbit the fallen sparks again?
I wonder too, what the difference is between manifestation and creation.
Thank you so much for your article.
Michèle TOUSSAINT
NANCY, FRANCE
August 16, 2010
Amazing!
This write up has amazed me by opening new dimensions I was never aware of.

Thanks and Regards.
Shahid
December 15, 2009
Tohu
Tzvi - I just want to commend you on your phenomenal and quite poetic expressions that continue to instantiate radiant truths in the minds of your readers.

You have passed along insights that surely must help quench a thirst in many souls.

That aspect of our very existence, ever-reaching for G-d, can be thankful for one's such as yourself.

Thank you for your insights regarding Tohu and thank you for continuing to be who G-d created you to be - A man of light. Shalom,
David K. Austreng
Yacolt, WA
October 5, 2008
Re: confused
Best to read Immanuel Schochet's "Mystical Concepts in Chassidism" for a definitive introduction to these concepts.

In real short: Tohu is a primal world of tremendous light. When its shattered sparks fall below, they generate worlds of confusion and acrimony. By shining the light of Chochmah in that world, the sparks fall into place and create harmony.
Tzvi Freeman (author)
October 5, 2008
confused
im confused...
one way i just learned about the world of tohu and tikkun was that tohu represented the 7 middos...totally uncontained and 'all over the place' where there was a great amount of light and only small vessels with which to hold the light, as opposed to the world of tikkun which is the world where the 3 faculties of the brain are dominant, where everything becomes organised and simple.

This seems to be the opposite of what has been explained in many articles on this topic. tohu was the original plan (that plan A aritcle)...the perfect world where all the desired things like peace and harmony existed, when G-d scrapped this idea there was this idea of sheviras hakeilim where everything fell into one big mush and where good is s/times hiding behind evil (that hacker article)and its our job to unjumble this huge mess, reveal and re-elivate the sparks......

i get each one individually and the outcomes the same, but they seem to contradict..
can s/o plz clarify this
Anonymous
sydney, NSW
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