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The Zohar tells us that on the first day of Creation, there was joy akin to that which was awakened on the day when the Mishkan, the Tabernacle, was put together. What was the joy that the Creator felt through the process of Creation? The Zohar tells us the Creator begins the process of Creation, comes to the sixth day, and creates all the animals, creates man… but for what purpose?
It says in the Zohar that the animals come before Adam, after he is created, and want to bow down to him. They see this human form for the first time and know it is more elevated than they are, and therefore, want to bow down to, and follow, Adam. However, Adam says to them, “You're mistaken. There's a greater force in this world. There is the Light of the Creator. Let's all of us gather together - myself, humanity, the animals, and all of the inanimate objects that have been created – and direct our energies, our focus, and our work towards the Light of the Creator.”
That was the purpose of Creation, for man to gather all of the world and elevate everything towards a connection with the Light of the Creator. But then we know what happened; Adam fell.
There was a second and third time in history when that possibility also became awakened. It says when the Torah was given, when the Light of Immortality was revealed at Sinai, there was a moment when the Israelites were getting that Light and that consciousness to be able to gather the entire world and direct them towards a connection to the Light of the Creator. And then again, at the Mishkan. When Aaron began his work, the thought of the entire world gathering together was again awakened: humanity, animals, and everything else directing their efforts, consciousness, and desire towards a connection to the Light of the Creator.
So, when man was created, when the Torah was given at Sinai, and when the Mishkan was created, are the three times in human history when the world was awakened to at least begin the process of directing everything towards a connection to the Light of the Creator. But we know at each of those times, there was a falling; Adam fell, the Israelites fell with the Golden Calf, and after the Mishkan, the Israelites fell again. So where's the joy? It is a teaching Rav Ashlag speaks about, and it's one that we have to maintain in our mind whenever we do a spiritual action.
Rav Ashlag reveals the beautiful concept he calls the Thought of Creation. What is the Thought of Creation? The Thought of Creation is that in the first moment on the first day, the Creator, who is above time, space, and motion, saw everything from beginning to end, saw the thought… what is the thought? The thought is a world where there is no pain, suffering, death, or lack; only joy and fulfillment. The Creator also saw all the ups and downs throughout, but when time does not bind you, as the Light of the Creator is not bound by time, those ups and downs aren't even really there. There is the thought that goes all the way to the end.
Rav Ashlag used the example of when a person is thinking about building a home. First, he has the thought in his mind of what the built beautiful home will look like, but he also knows that throughout the building of it, there's going to be a lot of dirt, a lot of filth, it's not going to look so nice in the process, and it might take longer than he thinks. He knows all of that, but it doesn't matter, because he holds onto that Thought of Creation.
So, Rav Ashlag says when we talk about the joy that existed at the time of Creation, when we talk about the joy that existed at Sinai, it is a time when the awakening of the Thought of Creation was brought into this world. What was Aaron thinking, as we read in the portion Shmini, as he enters into the Mishkan? He's thinking the same thought Adam had at the moment before the fall when he brought all of the animals and all of Creation with him and directed them towards the Light of the Creator. He had the same thought that the Israelites were able to achieve when they received the Light at Sinai. “My job,” as Aaron, Adam, and the Israelites said to themselves, “is to gather all of this, all of humanity, all of the animals, and direct everything towards the Light of the Creator.” At that moment, the Thought of Creation is awakened, the consciousness of the Creator that sees from beginning to end. And that's where true joy comes from. Connecting to that Thought of Creation the Creator had in the moment of Creation, seeing the ups and the downs and the good and the bad that would happen all the way until the end.
When Aaron was able to connect his consciousness to that goal, he was able to connect to the Thought of Creation. He was able to connect to the true joy, and therefore, bring it into the world. So when the Zohar tells us that this was the day when the greatest joy was brought into this world, it means that Aaron was able to connect to the Thought of Creation. And that's what's available for us on Shabbat Shmini.
I want to make this practical in our own spiritual work. For those of us who are involved year after year, maybe decade after decade, in the spiritual work, it becomes a personal journey; “I’m going to connect to the Creator so that I bring more Light into my life, into my world, into my family. I need this help or that help.” And while that draws Light and blessings, it doesn't connect us to the Thought of Creation. Why does the Zohar tell us, even in this portion of Shmini, and in almost every portion, that a person who's truly connected to the spiritual path can live with constant joy?
How can one live with constant joy when we see this darkness and that pain, and this challenge and that problem? If we’re able to connect to the Thought of Creation, then we're able to live with constant joy, because the Thought of Creation drags us all the way to the end, when all of humanity, all of the animals, and all of Creation is directed and connected completely to the Light of the Creator. This is what Shabbat Shmini is about, connecting to joy. But how do we connect to joy?
We have to connect to the Thought of Creation… and how do we connect to the Thought of Creation? When we come to do a spiritual action and to connect, maybe we come because we want some Light or because we have a certain challenge we want assistance with. That's okay, but that's not the ultimate. The ultimate should be, “I'm here, because I know that my job is to gather the entire world. To gather all the animals, to gather all of Creation and direct them towards the Light of the Creator. And my desire is that through my connection today, I bring the entire world one step closer to that.”
If we have that consciousness, then we are connecting our consciousness to the Thought of Creation. And by connecting our consciousness to the Thought of Creation, we connect to the end when there is only joy, when there is only connection, when there is no pain, suffering and death. Then we can experience true joy. That is why, the Zohar tells us, there was no greater joy like on Shabbat of Shmini.