The Shattering of the vessels


In this class we are going to focus on a general introduction to self-transformation as spelled out in the Kabbalah.

An important theme in Kabbalah is the concept of “lights” and “vessels”. Throughout all planes of existence there are the “vessels”; the more mundane part of a given being. Then there is the “light” of that being which is its more spiritual element and energy. The “vessel” serves as a recipient and “container” of the “light” aspect of that being.

For example: In the Human body the ability to see is facilitated by the eye. This ability is made possible through the combination of the physical eye which is the “vessel”, and the power of sight which filters through the eye which is the “light”. The eye is the appropriate vessel which corresponds to the power of sight. If the power of sight would go through the ear and the power of hearing would go through the eye one wouldn’t be able to see or hear.

Another example: A music CD is made out of polycarbonate plastic. The plastic in this case would be the “vessel”. The music which the cd contains would be the “light”.

The creative process, as well, involves the union of the “light” elements and the corresponding vessels which contain the light. Each light & vessel union in that plane of existence is referred to as a Sefirah.

The Kabbalah relates the following narrative: The creative process happened in 2 phases in which the lights and vessels were paired. In the first phase, 10 very intense points of light were drawn down into relatively small vessels creating the Sefirot of the world of Tohu - literally the “world of chaos”. Due to the intensity of the lights and the limited capacity of the vessels, the vessels “shattered”. In Kabbalah this narrative is referred to as the “Shattering of the Vessels”.

Following that came a 2nd phase where lights of lesser intensity were drawn down into larger vessels. Due to the less intense lights and the vessels of greater capacity these “Sefirot” lasted. This world is referred to Olam Hatikun, the “World of Rectification”

When we talk of the Kabbalistic narrative of the creative process we are talking about something that lies at the very essence of everything in the world since all beings are a result of creation. In every scenario there is the Olam Hatohu version and the Olam HaTikun version.

The intense lights of Tohu are the inflexible rigid stance where the specific “lights” insist on their expression without any humility or flexibility. The “smaller” lights of Tikun are not essentially less powerful, they are just more “humble” and give room for one another. In the bottom line Tikkun succeeds and doesn’t lose out on its brilliance while Tohu fails and self-destructs.

Here are a couple of examples:

Story 1:

You’re a therapist and you plan the following day’s schedule the night before. 7am - Wake up time. 7:30 - Eat nutritious breakfast prepared for you diet. 8:45am - Meet your 1st patient. 9:30am – meet your 2nd patient. 10:15am Leave for mechanic for service on car. 11:00am - Leave mechanic to return to office, eat a snack and work on preparing tomorrows lecture at the university.

But things didn’t go as planned. In the morning you didn’t hear the alarm and you got up at 7:30. Then the 1st patient calls to say that they can’t make it till 9:15. The car is having problems and you don’t want to risk driving it to work so you’ll need to take the bus. So many things are going wrong and you did all you can to be organized this morning. But the real question is, how are you going to respond?

The Tohu response: In frustration you tell yourself that that’s already 3 things that went wrong before the day even started. You fall apart, become so frustrated and just cancel your 2nd appointment. You go out on a binge and by the time you get to the bus you sink into your seat and fall asleep.

The Tikun response: You right away call your 2nd appointment to reschedule in the time of your first at 8:45. You push off the late first appointment to 9:30. You take your breakfast and lecture preparation material with you on the bus. After eating and preparing on the bus you feel good and are ready for your appointments. After your appointments you take the bus home and continue preparing for the lecture. After carefully driving car to mechanic you continue preparing for the lecture while waiting. That way you make up for the time you lost by taking the bus both ways. In the final analysis everything you planned for was accomplished, you didn’t lose a thing.

There’s a saying: 2 types of people fail: those who don’t plan and those who stick to their plan.

So what’s the difference: The Tohu approach is that you insist on your way, your “light” exactly, without being flexible. When it doesn’t work with the vessels of your life you fall apart. This is an expression of the unrestricted Ego. In the Tikun approach you are willing to bend to your own vessels and adapt. You also employ “vessels” of greater capacity by not letting yourself fall apart easily.

Story 2:

There’s a town meeting about the pothole problem in the roads. At the meeting there are 3 different opinions on how to solve the problem. Councilman #1 says: “Fix them right now! If we don’t then the economy will go bad because no tourists will want to come”. Councilman #2 says: “Redo the roads with better material so there won’t be any potholes in the future”. Councilman #3 says: “We don’t have money in the budget to deal with this every year because we need to deal with the mounting drug abuse problem which is claiming lives. Let’s skip it for this year.”

The Tohu scenario: No one agrees and nothing gets done. The pot holes grow and the auto insurance company is wondering why there are so many pothole damages in town. Eventually they stop insuring the local cars. Meanwhile the problem only escalates and the economy only gets worse.

The Tikun scenario. Everyone is open to seeing that the other councilmen have good & valid points. They try to incorporate all views. They all recognize that pot holes cause damage, money loss and turn away tourists. On the other hand, repairing them every year is expensive. They decide to use cheaper material this year to fill the holes and put aside money to redo 2 miles of road a year with pot hole proof material. Now everyone’s view has been taken into account and with time the issue will be completely solved.

Summary of Kabbalah illuminated points

So to sum up how this Kabbalistic narrative enlightened us: 1) Everyone has “light” and value that they bring into the world. 2) In order for us to exist harmoniously with ourselves and others in the world we don’t need to give-up on our unique contribution, we just need to be humble, flexible and use a softer approach when we engage others as exemplified by the “world of Tikun”. Then we will earn our rightful place together with the other “vessels” of the world. 3) The world in its ideal state is made up of all the Sefirot co-existing harmoniously together and all are needed for the world to be complete and perfect. Our world cannot reach perfection without every individual’s contribution.