Jack Schwartz was so big into Kabbalah, he left his upscale Long Island home to travel for many days so he could meet with a great Kabbalah master hiding out in a health spa in Guadalajara, Mexico. In breathless awe, he asked the master his one burning question, “Great Kabbalah master! My name is Jack Schwartz, and I have come all this way to ask you: What is Kabbalah?”
In typical Jewish form, the great Kabbalah master answered, “Who is Jack Schwartz?”
That was all Jack needed to open his eyes and his heart to the mysteries of Kabbalah.
You see, you could wonder for years, “Who am I, really?” Some people think they are their job. Others believe they are their clothes, or their car. A lot of people believe they are their portfolio. Well, they used to, but nowadays they don’t have much of that left anyways. So they’re starting to realize, “Hey, maybe I exist even without my portfolio! But then, who am I?”
And that, really, is what Kabbalah is all about.
Well, it’s a little more complicated. You see, you are not just one person. You’re two people. Actually, three. Actually, you’re a whole bustling metropolis of people and personalities. A study on bilinguals revealed that they had one personality when ordering a hamburger in English at McDonalds and another when ordering papas y beer at the Casa del Chili. So, which one of these many people are you really?
Among all those personalities inside, the two main players are the human-animal person and the G‑dly person. Feivel is nothing more than a material manifestation of the human-animal person within most of us. Miri, on the other hand, is playing the part of the G‑dly person. The clothes and disguises she is talking about are the behaviors a person takes on—clothes to express the soul.
Feivel always remains Feivel, no matter how you dress him up. You can teach him, train him, discipline him, and maybe he’ll even start acting a little more civilized. You can inspire him with love, imbue him with a sense of awe and fire him up with a taste of wonder. But under all that, he still remains the same instinct-driven creature as he was born, and you can just never be sure what he might do next. The clothes look nice, but clothes can’t make you a man.
The G‑dly person inside you—that’s like Miri, just the opposite of Feivel. Even when she is not dressed in her royal robes, without any inspiration, no clue of how she’s supposed to act, unadorned with the regalia of mitzvahs and jewels of Torah that belong to her as a princess—nevertheless she remains untainted, a pure and dignified G‑dly soul. Dress her in that regal finery, and immediately you see her true essence come out. The clothes become her—because they really are her clothes.
So, who are you really? It’s hard to answer, because each of these souls inside is vying for that position—the position of being you. The truth is, however, that even the animal inside knows that it can never be complete without that G‑dly spark guiding and directing it. And eventually, with the help of a tzaddik, that animal-person will also be a least a little transformed.