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When we first begin to walk a spiritual path, we feel inspired to shake things up. In our quest to make the world a better place, we want to revolutionize something, commit big sweeping actions that will make a difference in the lives of others. What is often overlooked is that the road to a deeper connection with the Light of the Creator can also be a quiet one.
It is also a road that many have traveled before us. Every kabbalist and spiritual giant that inspires us has experienced true transformation. As we pursue spiritual growth, it is important to remember that we need not reinvent the wheel when it comes to our spiritual practice. By following in their footsteps and allowing their peaceful and positive actions to inspire us, we can tap into the powerful channels of Light they have created and continue bringing Light into the world.
According to Michael Berg, “We are not being asked to create a path where there is none, nor are we awakening anything new. We are simply finding trails to the miraculous that the spiritual giants of history have blazed for us.”
Rav Berg’s teacher, Rav Brandwein was once visiting his hometown of Safed with Rav Berg and another student. The three men were out for a walk, enjoying a lovely Shabbat afternoon when a large tour bus pulled up and out came a sea of people. The tour guide asked Rav Brandwein if he would show the group around. He leapt at the opportunity and spent an hour walking them through the city, sharing the city’s stories, history, and landmarks. All the while, the tourists were smoking and snapping photographs of the sites–actions that break the connection to Shabbat.
After they parted, the student that was accompanying Rav Brandwein and Rav Berg commented, “I don’t understand! How, in the middle of Shabbat, could you walk around and guide these people who are smoking and taking pictures and doing all the things that are not connected to Shabbat?”
To that, Rav Brandwein replied, “I didn’t see anybody smoking or taking pictures!”
It wasn’t that he didn’t actually see the tourists breaking the connection to Shabbat. Rather, Rav Brandwein subconsciously chose to focus on the people around him, not their actions. With so elevated a consciousness, he was able to see only the good and continue to connect to the positive energy of Shabbat.
The early followers of the Baal Shem Tov were once called the frielicheh or the “happy ones.” What set them apart was their attitude of perpetual joy. They were known for bursting into song and dance facilely. According to the Baal Shem Tov, “The ability to be joyous, by discerning the good and joyous within every experience” is a biblical commandment. Sometimes the most revolutionary spiritual act is simply having a positive attitude and celebrating the good in the world.
There is a story of Rav Simcha Bunim of Peshischa, who was once called to help when a boy in the town was drowning. He was known for drawing in great blessings and miracles, so the people of the town, naturally, ran to him for help. It is a special gift to be able to invite blessings into our lives with joy. Knowing this, the rabbi approached the edge of the river and called out to the boy, “Do me a favor and say hello to the whales!”
At such a serious moment, many people were upset with his response. The remark seems callous and unhelpful. Yet, it was just enough to lessen the child’s panic and he was able to draw the Light and be saved, all because the rabbi lightened the moment with a silly remark! Kabbalists teach that it is extremely difficult to draw in blessings when we are in a state of lack or experiencing distress. Depression, sadness, or worry can prevent miracles from entering our lives. The boy was able to ask for help from a place of joy even though he was in a desperate situation.
To be sure, notable spiritual giants of the past have brought great Light into the world by standing up for others, fighting injustice, or instituting systematic change. Yet, they have also opened up great channels of Light through quieter actions, like simply choosing to see the good in others and living with a joyous heart. “These channels are gifts given to us by the spiritual giants of previous generations,” says Michael Berg. “By their positive actions they created spiritual viaducts through which Light from the Upper Worlds enters our physical realm.”
While the spiritual path to changing the world for the better may be new to us, many have already been down this road and successfully made a difference in the lives of others. Our job then is to tap into this energy and continue their great work by seeing and celebrating the good in order to bring more Light into the world.