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In the portion Devarim, Moses tells the Israelites the story of a journey. He says it takes eleven days to travel in a direct line from Horeb up to Kadesh-Barnea and through Mount Seir. But the Creator took the Israelites from Horeb to Kadesh-Barnea in a round-about route through the desert, and it only took them three days. Whenever the Israelites camped, a cloud rose up and told them where to go. Sometimes they went backwards and sometimes they went sideways; the reason for this, Moses told them, was because of their actions. Moses tells the Israelites that some things that should have taken eleven days or even more took only three days. However, the majority of the trip, which should have taken nowhere near forty years, did take forty years. Yet, the Israelites still didn’t enter the Land of Israel.
Here, Moses is revealing to the Israelites, and to us, a tremendous understanding about life. We know that whenever a person does a negative action, an action of darkness, of Desire to Receive for the Self Alone, then darkness will come into his life, but what we don’t understand - and we have to begin to understand - is that there’s a worse effect than that from our actions of Desire to Receive for the Self Alone.
Every day there are at least two doorways we can enter. For example, let’s say that on Sunday, a person falls, and on Monday he was supposed to achieve a certain amount of Light, a certain next level of spiritual growth. However, because he fell, now the Creator has to wipe away whatever was going to happen the rest of the week and use those five days to repair Sunday. So even if that person uses those next five days to the utmost possibility, they are going to bring him back to where he was on Sunday.
It should have only taken the Israelites a few days to travel from Egypt to the side of the Jordan. And if they would have done that they could have completed their purpose in this world, their tikunne, in one lifetime. But they didn’t; they fell, and they kept on falling, so it took them forty years. We need to remember that what’s being discussed here are not only actually physical places, but indications of spiritual levels - to the place that they could have gotten to in weeks, or months, at most. But, what happens to the Israelites? They die in the desert, because they have not completed the purpose for which they came to this world. Those forty years that they expanded their time of correction into ate up from the time they were meant to use for their spiritual work.
This is an important understanding: when we fall, when we do actions of Desire to Receive for the Self Alone, when we do actions of ego, we eat up time that was given to us to make our corrections. Which means that that amount of time is not going to be able to be used for our next level; therefore, a person has to come back in another incarnation. However, the converse is also true. A person can accomplish in one day a correction of eighty years. There are many times in the Gemara and in the Zohar where there is a discussion about people who can make their entire correction in one hour, one minute, or even one second, because just as we can expand time, we can also collapse time.
Moses tells the Israelites that the travel time from Horeb to Kadesh-Barnea is at least eleven days, but it took them only three, because when we are connected to the Light of the Creator, time becomes diminished. This is a tremendously important understanding, because we - through our decisions - expand or retract time. Every single one of us can come to the level of complete correction, to the level of Bilah HaMavet LaNetzach. But unfortunately what too many of us are going to do is act or fall in ways of Desire to Receive for the Self Alone, in ways of ego, thereby opening up the door that expands the time of our correction, and as such, not leaving us enough time to make our correction. That’s what happened to the Israelites in the desert. The Creator was there to shorten time for them, but they fell, and kept on falling; they did not finish their correction, even in those forty years.
Rav Berg often talked about the idea that it is really part of the work of our generation, the generation of the Gemar HaTikun, to retract time, to remove the element of time. We can view it as two doors that we can enter. And next time you have the opportunity to do an action of Desire to Receive for the Self Alone, to do an action of ego, to do an action that harms your soul or somebody else, stop for a second and realize it’s not just that if you do this action you are going to have some sort of negativity come into your life… No, you are now going through a door that will take up a certain amount of your lifetime that was actually needed to make your correction.
We will all get to the Gemar HaTikun. We will all come to the Final Correction. The question is - how long it will take? Will we be expanding the time or contracting the time? It is the choice that we make every single moment. And it’s also true in the positive way. When we choose to push ourselves in uncomfortable ways to do an action of sharing, we contract time; we take the eleven day journey from Horeb to Kadesh and make it three days. Every day of our lives, through every choice that we make, we add or take away minutes, hours, days, weeks, or months. It gives us a whole new perspective to life and the choices that we make. Every positive action contracts time. Every negative action expands time.
One of the most important gifts in consciousness that we gain from the revelation of Moses to the Israelites on this Shabbat, therefore, is in understanding these choices that we make. We can no longer view negative choices or positive choices simply as whether they bring Light or darkness into our lives. We need to start viewing these choices as things that are either expanding or diminishing the distance of time. We need to have the understanding that every single one of us, no matter where we are in our process today, can completely finish our journey in this lifetime if we are consistently making the time smaller and not making those mistakes that expand and eat up the time from our lives.
The kabbalists teach that one of the gifts of this Shabbat, which is called Shabbat Chazon, the Shabbat of the Vision, is that our soul is able to, whether it is conscious or not, come to see our perfected self. We have the gift of that vision of our perfected self, to have that vision of the perfected world, and through that vision, receive the energy and the Light to push us; to push us to make the time shorter for correction, to make those choices that do not expand time. And the amazing truth is that every single one of us, in this lifetime, can achieve whatever vision we have of our perfected self on this Shabbat