Brian Sullivan
giving

In 1905, the reflections and analysis of Albert Einstein revolutionized of physics, time and even our view of ourselves. Einstein had spent many hours wondering how time and space was experienced under different conditions. With this in mind, writer Alan Lightman wrote the science fiction novel Einstein's Dreams that asks us to think about how our perception of time influences the way we live.

Set in 1905, Bern, Switzerland, Einstein is found hunched over his patent office desk, exhausted after long hours of calculations into the early morning. We are then taken into the mind of Einstein as he dreams a series of ‘what if’ scenarios.

For example, if time slows down as one goes to the top of incredibly tall buildings, so the wealthy buy mansions at the top of buildings they never come down from, or live in a city where people live in constant motion in the belief that time will slow down and so they will have more time.

Einstein was effectively a secular Jew and so Lightman’s Einstein scenarios neglect the Kabbalistic view of time. Yet it is the Kabbalistic world view of time that has held the Jewish people together in millenia of exile and offers lessons for all mankind.

Western Societies see time as linear. The future is a product of the past. Some other societies see time as cyclical, a recreation of the seasonal year of pre-industrial society. Others, like the traditional New Zealand Maori, the past is before him. “‘He sees his parents, grandparents and forebears spread out before him and he participates in this ongoing process by his participation” Metaphorically the future is behind him, it cannot be seen for it has not yet happened.

Kabbalistically, time is a product not of the past but of the future. The future is teleologically ahead for those who care to learn to perceive the leadings of an altruistic creator that we experience in the feedback loop called life.

Meta historian Arnold Toynbee tried to develop a world view of history leading to ultimate human realization. Where Toynbee theorized the Kabbalistic perspective of time has been applied in practice and helped hold the Jewish people to turn adversity to good.

The same Bible book that describes the hopeful creation of man ends with Joseph dying in Egypt, his family awaiting years of Egyptian bondage. From a beginning of creative hope, there is a prospect of desolation and hardship. Yet in his dying words we read of an unbending belief in the future: “Joseph said to his brothers, "I am going to die; God will surely remember you and take you up out of this land to the land that He swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob" (Bereishit –Genesis 50:24).

The TaNaK, or Jewish Bible, is placed in a different order top the Christian translations. The TaNaK ends with Israel in exile in Babylon and Persian king Cyrus proclaiming that G-d “commanded me to build Him a House in Jerusalem, which is in Judea. Who among you is of all His people, may the Lord his God be with him, and he may ascend" (Divrei Hayamim II - 2 Chronicles 36:21).

This futurist vision has held the Jewish people together in exile for millennia. It is why the Dalai Llama has met with Rabbi’s to understand how to successfully navigate a future for the Tibetan people in exile.

einstein

"Jewish life is not about rights, or power, or access. It is, above and beyond all else, covenantal. It is about actualizing the covenant between G-d and each individual and G-d and this world” wrote Jewish feminist Rivkah Slonim co-director of the Chabad House at Binghamton University and author of Total Immersion: A Mikvah Anthology chabad.org.

“The Torah teaches that the ultimate purpose of our lives - male and female - is to fill the universe with G-dliness and spirituality. This we do by infusing our every action with sanctity, by using every opportunity to free the G-dly spark inherent in each facet of creation.”

Of course, we live in a world influenced by cause and effect. The question for us each to ask is how we will navigate its influence.

Rabbi Moshe Kordovero , the Ramak (1522 -1570), taught that the outer dimensions of Creation is a product of the evolutionary unfolding of all that preceded it, while the inner light, the soul, runs by different rules.

Rabbi Yitzhak Lurya, the Ari (1534 – 1572), expanded the idea that the soul is enclothed in outer reality. The Ari, describes the universes creation ex-nihilo as a process where G-d regenerates existence at every moment, nullifying and reclothment, hitlavshut , of reality with a pulse of life, a divine quanta of light, that permeates the cosmos. Pulses of existence, non existence, like the yes-no sequences of an electric circuit that power the illusion of reality on our computer.

Unlike an electric circuit, the divine spark within creation, binds mankind’s collective consciousness to the divine argued Yisroel ben Eliezer, known as the Baal Shem Tov (1698 – 1760). Rather than creation being the continual recreation from a vacuum, creation emanates from G-d’s infinite light, the Ein Sof. This infinite energy obliterates and recreates our universal reality in every moment. Hence, our universe is a field of G-d’s self expression with a multiplicity of forms.

In the word of the infinite, past, present and future exist simultaneously. This incomprehensible state is suggested in the unpronounced four letter name of G-d, sometime restated as Havayah, described as an amalgam of the words hayah, hoveh and yihyeh-"was, is and will be." G-d is therefore beyond time, and yet he is within time. He is trans-infinite, being infinite and finite simultaneously at will.

Just as the characters in Alan Lightman novel reality depended on their view of time. We can perhaps ask whether our hopes and aspirations are limited by our view of history.

Are we simply a product of deterministic chaos? Are our psychological needs attained by what Maslow called self actualization, achievable only after our physical and emotional needs are met, Or do we achieve fulfillment in Adlers pursuit of power?

The kabbalistic inspired psyhological worldview of Chassidus, perhaps more closely suggests finding fulfillment in the search for meaning espoused by Victor Frankl. But at variance with Frankl, Kabbalah finds the search for meaning fulfilled in the pursuit of unity with the Creator.

“The more enlightened conception of time, deriving from the consciousness of hitlavshut,” explained Rabbi Harav Yitzchak Ginsburgh “allows for constant renewal and creativity as each and every moment releases one from the past and reveals the range of possibility inherent in the continuous present moment.”

“It allows one the absolute freedom of identifying with He who created time itself. This state of consciousness, which will crystallize at the time of universal redemption, holds the key to liberating all of Creation from its imaginary bonds of selfhood and restoring the true Divine face of reality.”

Whatever our religious persuasion, we are all Children of God, created in His image. As a collective society we must ask whether we will choose to chose to rekindle the spark of G-dliness in creation. Will society learn to turn its nuclear swords into plow shares and redress the balance of social and ecological responsibility? Will we choose to be pulled along by the power of a collective vision of unity and justice? Or will we live our futures kicked along by historical animosities, perceived injustices and yearned for revenge?

According to Kabbalah, humans are the only creatures that that exist in the spiritual and physical world at the same time. As Kabbalist's life is defined by his relationship with God in every level of his life.

Of course, the principles underlying Kabbalah transcend organized religion. However, the intricacies of Jewish practice embody Kabbalistic principles.

Although, Judaism is often misunderstood as a collection of rules and restrictions embodied in 613 commandments. This view misunderstands the deaper meaning of mitzvot, or commandment which also means connection. Whether in lighting a Sabbath candle, awakening to the Modeh Ani prayer, or obeying a Torah demanded ritual, each act seeks to connect with the creator with the fervor of a man for his beloved, or a fan for an admired celebrity.

The connection is not a burden, but a pleasure Each observance rekindles the spark of the divine in all things in the Kabbalistic pursuit to make the earth a home for G-d so that all mankind will be bless themselves in unity, in altruism and in love.

For this to occur, mankind must reverse his linear, past driven prospects and aspire to a vision of the future that transcends selfish pursuit and compels us to experience the pleasure that comes from service and the joy of giving altruistically like his creator.



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