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The World Is a Clothing Outlet

The World Is a Clothing Outlet

Life really is all about shopping

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© Yoram Raanan
© Yoram Raanan

Your soul came into this world to shop. Heaven is one big party, and you’d better arrive dressed in style.

Don’t take my word on this. Take the Mishnah. It compares our world to a kind of powder room, where you fancy yourself up before walking into the grand party hall.

Then there's the Zohar.

The Zohar describes the wardrobe you'll need to assemble before walking into the grand party upstairs. Depends on what sort of seating you want there. Lower level, basics are good. Higher level requires some haute couture.

But the real question is: What’s it really all about—the party or the shopping? Do we get the gear so we can go to the party, or is the party just an excuse to get all decked out?

Obviously, the answer is #2. Why? Here goes:

© Yoram Raanan
© Yoram Raanan

Zapped In Heaven

First off: What’s the point behind all this gear? Why can’t you just come as you are?

The point is that the party takes place in a world where truth pours down like cosmic rays.

Here, we are shielded from truth. This entire universe, all 93 billion observable light years across plus whatever else is out there and every critter in there—can’t handle even a trickle of that intensity. So it's dispensed as a glimmer of a trickle in a muddy raindrop, in endless steps of down-glimmering and down-trickling, until it still can power the whole thing while allowing it to remain physical.

But the World of Truth? No more physical body, no more physical limitations. Just a downpouring of unlimited love and raw truth. A place of unbounded ecstasy. A very intense place. A dangerous place. Unshielded and unprotected, you’re zapped. Absorbed into the light. Gone.

Which is why, before you blast off to that world, you need a spacesuit.

You come down to this world. You give to the needy. Run an honest business. Nail up a mezuzah. Visit the sick. Celebrate Shabbat and the holidays. Have kids (yes, that's a mitzvah). Raise them to do more mitzvahs. Wrap those leather boxes and light up those pre-sundown Shabbat candles. Study all the Torah you can. Grab whatever mitzvahs you can.

But there's a point where plain clothing becomes high fashion. It all depends on the depth that clothing brings out. When you prayed, was it from your heart? When you learned Torah, did you feel G‑d was talking with you? When you did a mitzvah, did you do it with a smile, a leap in the air and a click of your heels?

Each mitzvah is another piece of that suit. Once you’re in full gear, not only does heaven not zap you, it provides unlimited enjoyment.

The suit, you see, doesn’t just block those rays. It filters them, fine-tuning them exactly to what you can handle. And being as these are heavenly rays, rays of love, of beauty, of delight, you’re in total bliss.

© Yoram Raanan
© Yoram Raanan

Clothes of Light

So far so good. But there’s a problem. A technicality. As in: How does this work?

The light up there, you see, isn’t just intense light. It’s not like you’re going to get atomized flying through the core of some supernovae. Well, of course not. It’s not physical light.

Even in non-physical terms, the intensity of this love, beauty and ecstasy cannot be measured. It’s called The Infinite Light for a reason.

If so, the question remains: What in heaven could be an intermediary between finite and infinite? We called our consultant highly-recognized-mathematics-prof on that one, and he answered, “There ain’t no such number.”

But Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi provided an answer—an answer with some radical implications.

He points out that to mediate between infinite and finite you need something that has both at once. Which is exactly what mitzvahs are.

Mitzvahs are “clothing of light,” beamed down from the 620 pillars of light way beyond even the infinite light of the world of truth. That’s why there are 620 mitzvahs—613 mentioned in Torah, and seven rabbinic—like reading the Megillah on Purim and lighting a menorah on Chanukah.

And yet they come all the way down into this world, crystallizing into practical, measured actions done (mostly) with finite, physical objects.

How do they do that? How are mitzvahs able to bridge the finite and the infinite?

Because they come from a place beyond both finite and infinite. A mathematician might call that “the absolute.” (Well, Georg Cantor did, and he was a darn good mathematician.)

What’s the absolute? That’s G‑d Himself. Not just light. The Source of All Light.

So you’re wearing G‑d?

In a way, yes. Because these mitzvahs, what are they really? They’re what G‑d wants of you. His innermost will. Why He made everything to begin with. He’s totally invested in those mitzvahs, and in those mitzvahs you have all of Him.

Which is why those mitzvahs are the only medium that can fine-tune infinite light for your finite enjoyment. Because they totally transcend finite and infinite. So they can connect the two.

© Yoram Raanan
© Yoram Raanan

Shopping Versus Partying

Now you’re beginning to see the radical implications here: What’s greater, the heavenly, blissful light, or the gear that allows you to experience it?

Obviously, the gear is greater. And if so, what’s life really about, the party or the outlet mall?

Obviously, life is about the outlet mall. Life is not about heaven. It’s about grabbing every item of clothing you can while you are here in this world.

And that’s also a Mishnah: “One moment of returning to your soul and doing good deeds in this world is more beautiful than all the life of the world-to-come.”

Get that? It's worth it to leave all that bliss up in the World of Truth just for one moment of one mitzvah done with a full heart.

And which mitzvah-clothing is going to be most valuable? Not necessarily the pricey, fashionable ones.

Rather, it’s that grungy old suit you tugged out of the bottom of a pile of damaged returns. You scrub it and launder it with sweat, tears and prayers. And when you get to the World of Truth, you discover you’re in high fashion.

Why? Because the higher these clothes come from, the further they fall.

Like we said, that's really the power of all these mitzvahs. They connect the highest with the lowest and vice-versa, bringing divine light down to earth and carrying earth beyond the heavens.

© Yoram Raanan
© Yoram Raanan

And Then, One Day…

While you are shopping, you can’t experience the magnificence of that clothing. Even in that other world you can’t experience it.

That's what “the resurrection of the dead” is all about. No, it's not the spooky scene people imagine. It’s just a time when our world has been refined and purified to the point that we will eagerly return to our bodies from the party upstairs and experience the ultimate bliss. The bliss of those mitzvahs we did with those bodies.

At that time, writes Rabbi Shmuel of Lubavitch, the soul will be nurtured by the body. That’s beyond tripping out on divine energy. That’s being one with the Creator Himself.

Grab off the rack whatever comes your way while you can. By all accounts, the sale is ending soon.

Torah Ohr, Chayei Sarah. Ibid, Miketz. Maamar V’Avraham Zaken 5738. Maamar L’havin Inyan Techiyat Hameitim.
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. FaceBook @RabbiTzviFreeman Periscope @Tzvi_Freeman .
Yoram Raanan takes inspiration from living in Israel, where he can fully explore and express his Jewish consciousness. The light, the air, the spirit of the people and the land energize and inspire him. His paintings include modern Jewish expressionism with a wide range of subjects ranging from abstract to landscape, biblical and Judaic.
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louise leon PA, USA March 18, 2017

As I am apparently in a good mood (rare), I say that life is a box of chocolates as per Forrest Gump (movie).
Loved your article. Reply

Brenda Toronto, Canada March 17, 2017

All Physical actions are null and void unless they are clothed in the intention from the heart: The intention to benefit the other. This connects us to G_d's quality.

Whether we perform a custom to slaughter an animal in a certain way is not the spiritual meaning - This is the dressing of the Torah - remove the clothing and we reveal the internality of the Torah - He instructs us how to cleanse our beastly intention. That is the mitzvot. Reply

N.K March 15, 2017

Instead of getting the main point, I realized something else through some weird (involuntary) process which seems to happen whenever I read articles by Rabbi Freeman. Thanks ! Reply

Julia Australia March 15, 2017

I thank Hashem for sending you from heaven to earth (to borrow one of your book's title) dear Rabbi Tzvi Freeman. Your articles, in general have always been spot on - scientific and spiritual at the same time. A great help in my spiritual journey in this incarnation. Reply

Jonathan Carp Santa Monica March 15, 2017

Fabulous and well written, wonderful parable. Amazing job!!! I will be sharing this. Reply

Ashley March 13, 2017

Rabbi, you really got my attention with your title! I really enjoyed the article. I couldn't help but get think about mitzvahs I should be doing. Thank you Rabbi! Reply