Building a Bridge of Certainty
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Building a Bridge of Certainty

Michael Berg
May 13, 2020

This week’s portion begins with a discussion of what’s called shmittah, the seventh year when no work of the land is supposed to be done. You can work for six years, but on the seventh, you must stop.

In those days almost everyone’s food came from the fields they worked; most people were farmers and sold whatever extra they had to other people. Essentially, if they didn’t work their fields, they would not eat. But the Creator tells them, even though this is how you make your livelihood, you cannot work on the seventh year. This could be quite a problem for them, because if you do not work in the seventh year, you certainly don't have food in the eighth year, and then the food won’t come until the ninth year because you’ll have to work the whole eighth year… but the Creator tells them not to worry, because miraculously, they will have food. Relating it to our lives today, it would be like the Creator coming to you and saying, whatever business you are in, whatever you are doing, stop working for three years… but you will still miraculously have sustenance. Who would be able to do that!?

Rav Ashlag speaks of a concept called emunah lemala min hada’at, certainty beyond logic. When most people think about certainty, it has some basis in reality; however, emunah lemala min hada’at, certainty beyond logic, is when all physical indications tell you one thing, and you push your certainty to the opposite. There’s certainty within the framework of logic, for example. Meaning, I’m doing this business deal and it makes sense. It will probably work out, but either way, I’m going to bring in certainty to make sure that it happens… But that’s not certainty beyond logic.

Certainty beyond logic is when all physical indicators tell you something won't happen, and yet you awaken your certainty that it will. This is the type of certainty that the process of shmittah was meant to bring. Through it, the Creator is telling us that if we want to come to the purpose for which our soul came into this world and to elevate to where we need to be, we have to be constantly doing actions that are pushing us to certainty beyond logic.

The whole purpose of shmittah, the whole secret of this teaching, isn't about the land, or about working the land at all. Physically, there is no money or food coming in - the business is closed, the land is not being worked, and so logically we think that nothing is going to come from it and we will starve. Shmittah, therefore, is about an individual, us, pushing ourselves to this certainty beyond logic, pushing ourselves, in this case, to be able to maintain complete certainty beyond logic that there will be sustenance.

All of us who have been studying at the Centre know about certainty. We know the importance of certainty; if you want to draw the Light of the Creator, you have to awaken certainty. We view it as a tool amongst all the spiritual work that we do. We do actions of sharing, we connect to the Zohar, we pray, we connect to Shabbat, and we have certainty. Certainty is one of the tools that we use to connect to the Light of the Creator – but that’s a very big mistake.

Rav Ashlag teaches - and this is the fundamental understanding which will hopefully shift for all of us on this Shabbat - that the only purpose of everything we do, the only purpose for which we came to this world, the only purpose of our spiritual work, is one thing: to grow in our certainty beyond logic. That’s it.

He uses a beautiful parable which says that it’s like we live in a little village that is under attack all the time. And we can see the palace of the king, the Light of the Creator, from where we are. But between where we are and the palace of the king there is a huge stormy ocean with very high waves. Some people try to go through the ocean to see the palace of the king, but they all drown. However, there is only one small bridge that leads from the village where we live to the palace of the king; from the world of Desire to Receive for the Self Alone to the world of the Light of the Creator. And that bridge, Rav Ashlag says, the only bridge that can bring you across, is emunah lemala min hada’at, certainty beyond logic.

There is no other way to get across. Someone can be the most righteous person in the world, he can do actions of sharing all day and all night, he can connect to the Zohar all day and all night, except if he doesn't have certainty, or he has just some level of certainty, he will never make it across the ocean. We know it's a tough ocean, but we think if we build enough actions of connection, enough actions of sharing, enough actions of prayer, enough reading of the Zohar, then that boat will bring us across. But it never will!

And now we understand that this is what life is about. Having times where logic says one thing, but you say, no - I am pushing my consciousness now to certainty beyond logic. Why? Because this is the only reason I’m in this world. I can be the most spiritual person in the world, but if my certainty beyond logic is not growing, I am not going over that bridge to connect to the Light of the Creator.

Everything we do, all the spiritual work, all the spiritual study, all the actions of sharing, all the connections that we make, are for one purpose - to give us the strength to be able to push ourselves to certainty beyond logic. There is only one small bridge that can bring us from where we are to the palace of the king, and that is certainty beyond logic. And therefore, that has to be the complete, singular focus of our spiritual work.

It’s a tremendously exciting opportunity that we have on this Shabbat. Everything that we do, all of our spiritual work, is to bring us to certainty beyond logic. And b’zrat Hashem, may we all merit, to whatever degree we can, to strengthen and grow it. But most importantly, we need to come to really understand that it is everything. We have to grab those opportunities. There is only one bridge between the troubled village we live in and the palace of the king, the Light of the Creator – and that bridge is certainty beyond logic.