Many spiritual pathways extol the virtue of other-worldliness, and even "next-worldliness." Islam and Christianity both look to the "afterlife" as the focus of life, to escape this ordinary plane. Spiritual Judaism, on the other hand, focuses on this world as being the primary arena for the soul’s activity. It notes the immensely higher potential for the soul in the world of time and space, as opposed to the realm we enter into after death.

It does seem illogical. Time and space are limitations. The soul is a virtual prisoner of the body. Physical life entails pain, fear, and destruction. What possibly are the redeeming virtues of the earthly plane?

Chassidic teachings explain that there are two types of consciousness and awareness. The first is the tangible and visceral perception of reality. We recognize a face. We feel the cold. We understand a concept. All these are features of our world "down here". This tangible awareness is termed Memalleh — the way that the cosmos is "filled" with creative energy.

Yet we all experience a more sublime consciousness — an awareness of an aura, an atmospheric presence, a sense of the sacred, the expression of faith. These intangible faces of reality are termed Sovev — the way that the cosmos is "surrounded" by the cosmic breath, a Divine presence that encompasses reality rather than permeating it.

In the worlds above the awareness of Sovev is muted, ironically so in these "higher" realms. Everything in the higher realms is fixed in position, unchangeable, and immutable. The angelic force of Michael always remains one of liquid love. The angelic force of Gabriel always remains in a state of fiery strength. There is no growth or movement amongst the celestial beings. Nothing changes its nature — Divine law prevails by way of Memalleh.

In our "lower" world there is constant change. Under challenge we can wilt and give in to our baser instincts. Or we can overcome the temptation and grow in stature and character. The soul has the opportunity to guide us through higher consciousness. That is because the more transcendent consciousness of Sovev is available to this world — facilitating movement and change.

Hence the Kabbalah's emphasis on "good works" — Mitzvot. Only the finite physical activity of being a practical co-creator of the unfinished universe touches the sublime level of Sovev. Only the tangible activity of change provides the soul with the opportunity to fulfill its mission. It is this emphasis on self-mastery and personal excellence on this plane, that distinguishes this spiritual pathway from those that simply focus on hope and aspirations in the world to come.

Life’s purpose is not saintliness, or other-worldliness. It is being a better you — recognizing your role and responsibility as parent, child, friend, spouse, and citizen.


MASTERY: Become aware of the process of change. Ask yourself why you should change, in what way, how to plan change, and what resistance you feel to that change. Change is the way you allow the wave of growth to carry you to shore. Life is a matter of learning to surf — to catch these waves, and allow them to become teachers and instructors. Fear and intransigence lead to a "wipe-put".

MEDITATION: Focus on a specific change that is taking place in your life. View it as a wave of the ocean. Observe that wave rolling gently to shore. See yourself catching that wave and riding it to shore. Note how success depends on your preparedness to ride the wave, allowing your mind and body to synergize with its strength and intensity. Focus again on the change taking place in your life. Be prepared to roll with the change, while maintaining your integrity of self and core beliefs and values.

Follow-up resources: Activating Your Higher Self (audio); Awakening to a New Dawn (audio); Achieving Inner Balance (audio) ; available at Rabbi Wolf's Website (see link below)