Have you ever been excited about an idea, a project, or a goal, so excited that you felt like you could reach out and touch it – only to find that when you try to bring it into actuality the whole thing breaks down?
It’s a common experience. In it’s pure ungrounded form, in your imagination, the vision can look vastly inspiring and easy to achieve. But when you try to bring it into reality, manifest it in all the myriad and fragmented details of your life, more often than not you find that there are lots of obstacles along the way.
This is the stage that, as the saying goes, separates the men from the boys. The easiest thing to do at this point is to give up, to stay with your old habitual ways of being that may not be ultimately fulfilling but are, at least, comfortably familiar.
But, if you make up your mind to stay the course, to work through the obstacles and manifest your vision no matter what it takes, you will find at the end that you have not only altered your circumstances, but you’ve grown hugely in the process.
Light-Darkness-Light: A Core Principle of Creation
If you’ve ever had this experience, you have unwittingly stumbled upon one of the core spiritual secrets of Creation. Life is designed in such a way that our deepest and most powerful growth occurs not as a smooth upward process, but in a three-fold pattern of vision-breakdown-transformation, or light-darkness-light.
At the beginning of the process the light of your vision shines powerfully and clearly – but in an external way, without taking account the myriad details through which that light must be manifested. It’s there, inspiring you, but it’s not really yours, nor does it do anything to affect the world around you.
Bringing your vision into actuality means that the light has to be contained in “vessels”. It must be expressed not only in your mind, but in the physical details of time and space – your relationships, habits, and environment. The problem is that at this stage, these vessels are often too small and immature to contain the light of the new reality you want to create.
When this is the case, things don’t work out the way you want them to. In fact, sometimes they actually get worse.
As you attempt to create new ways of being or implement new endeavors, your relationships may get even more difficult, your environment more disorderly, your schedule more stressful or your emotional state more overwhelmed. As often occurs when we attempt something challenging, you might experience fear, resistance, confusion, or disappointment. And inevitably, you will get in touch with things about yourself that you would have probably preferred not to see.
The Choice: To Give Up or to Grow Up
Once this happens, you have a choice. You can give up, leaving all those parts of yourself and your life (the vessels) the way they were when you started, your light unexpressed, and you with yet one more failure under your belt.
Or, you can continue to move forward, taking a good hard look at what’s in the way and making the effort, within those myriad details of time and space, to correct, remove or transform it. This stage can be challenging, even intensely so, and it often requires grounded and persistent effort to get through to the end. It means taking a good hard look at yourself and your life, working to expand your abilities, improve your relationships or your character, and build your inner strength and courage.
If you are willing to do this, chances are high that you will succeed over time in making your vision a reality, although this is never certain. What is certain, however, is that you will have grown as a human being – the reason the obstacles were there in the first place.
In fact, this growth, this process of expanding beyond your own boundaries, of interacting with the G-d-given circumstances of your life in such a way that your infinite soul expresses more and more of itself through the “vessel” of your finite physical body, is the purpose behind your very existence here on earth.
Moses and the Shattering
The story of the giving of the Torah – specifically, of how Moses received the two tablets of the Ten Commandments – embodies this principle.
Altogether, Moses spent 120 days and nights on Mount Sinai in intimate discourse with G-d. During the first 40 days he was divested from all of his physical needs, and taught the secrets of Torah by the Creator. At the end of this period he descended from Mount Sinai with the first set of tablets on which were engraved the Ten Commandments. This first set was of heavenly sapphire and the words were engraved in the stone in a miraculous manner by G-d Himself.
When Moses brought these tablets down from the mountain he was confronted by the sight and sound of the Jewish people celebrating over the Golden Calf. In response, he smashed the tablets on the ground, shattering them to pieces.
After punishing the ringleaders, he once again ascended the mountain for another 40 days and prayed for G-d’s forgiveness for the people.
Then, during the final 40 days, Moses received the Torah once again. But this time he did so as a human being, in a body, through hard work and struggle. Rather than G-d carving the new tablets, Moses had to carve them himself, on stone that came not from heaven, but from the ground. This time, although G-d once again provided the light, Moses had to create the vessels.
Lights in Vessels
At first glance this episode looks like a tragic disappointment. But oddly, after Moses smashed the first tablets, G-d complimented him.
Why? Because from the inner plane of reality these events were an absolutely necessary part of the Divine template for Creation. The stage of “shattering” is an intrinsic part of the process of the transformation of our world – and us. It is through this process that we create a “dira b’tachtonim”, a dwelling place for G-d in the myriad physical details of time and space.
In order for the Torah – G-d’s infinite Wisdom and Will – to be truly and fully received by the world, the world must be a vessel for that infinity. And in order for that to happen, the Torah had to be given from above, shattered, and ultimately reacquired and contained in vessels from below – in the three-fold process of light-darkness-light.
Although the second tablets were acquired with far more effort, much less fanfare, and were, on the surface, on a much lower level, in actual fact they had to potential to be much higher. With this second set of tablets were included the potential for all of the depth and breadth of Torah that would be uncovered throughout the generations by the study and wisdom of the Jewish people themselves. Divine wisdom would thus flow not only from above to below, but from below to above.
It is not every day that we receive the Ten Commandments. Most often our challenges are much more personal and specific than that. But that doesn’t mean that they are not holy. In fact, making the personal details of your personal life a dwelling place for the Divine is the whole point of living in the first place.
So, whether you are aiming to experience more love, connection and generosity, more meaning in your work and life, more balance, peace, harmony and joy, or a deeper connection to your purpose, there is no need to be discouraged by the fact that it can sometimes get hard along the way.
Man and G-d: Partners in Creation
Unlike all other creatures, including the highest of spiritual beings, only man has the potential to be a partner to G-d. Only man is created in G-d’s image, complete with free choice. Only man can sin, and only man can repent – meaning, to use his distance from G-d to become even closer, greater and holier than he would have been without it. True repentance has nothing to do with self-hatred, with putting oneself down. On the contrary, it comes from self-love, from a recognition of who you actually are and what your life can actually be.
That’s why the word for repentance in Hebrew is teshuva, ‘return’, because true teshuva puts us in touch with our own essence and brings us closer to G-d.
The power of teshuva is our contribution to Creation. It was acquired through the act of Adam and Eve when they ate from the Tree of Knowledge, bringing exile, struggle, suffering and death to themselves and all of humanity. This cycle will continue until the vessels through which we experience life – our minds, hearts, actions and the world around us – have matured enough to be able to encompass the infinite light of G-d.
At that point we, through our own efforts, we will have found G-d in the details, where He was hiding all along, waiting with infinite patience to be revealed. And in doing so, we will have caused the very darkness to shine.
*Since the Torah forbids the erasing of G-d’s name, it’s customary to avoid writing it out in full.