Going Up the Down Escalator
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Going Up the Down Escalator

Sarah Weston
February 11, 2014

The kabbalists teach that when we study the lessons of the weekly Torah portion, we awaken the Light revealed through its passages. This energy available during the portion of Ki Tisa is about the destruction caused by the sin of the Golden Calf. What type of energy, exactly, are we awakening?

The story of Ki Tisa documents the Israelites’ creation of the Golden Calf. As we follow the story of Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt and through the desert, we come to the point where Moses leaves the camp for 40 days and nights as he goes to Mt. Sinai to receive the Torah and Light of Immortality. The Israelites miscalculated the time and six hours before Moses was due to return, believing he had abandoned them, they created the Golden Calf. The Golden Calf represents a fall of consciousness, the idea that we will get Light or fulfillment from physicality instead of doing the spiritual work.

The great lesson in this is that anytime we fall, the Light will still be with us if we recognize the mistakes we’ve made. We can work our way back from that negative place. However, when we make mistakes but are stubbornly sure we are doing the right thing, there is no space for the Light to come into our lives.

There is a story about a student of the Baal Shem Tov, a great kabbalist who lived a few hundred years ago in Ukraine. The kabbalist arrived in a small town where all of the people wanted the honor of hosting him as a guest in their house. After the kabbalist chose a place to stay, the wealthiest man in the town complained, “How can you stay at this person’s house? He’s done terrible things. Everyone in the town knows how good I am, and I could provide you with much more comfortable lodgings.” The kabbalist replied, “When a person falls, the Creator is always with him. But if a person is full of pride, there is no room for the Creator in his life. You are correct in saying this man has done terrible things, but the Creator is still with him. You, on the other hand, are so proud of your goodness, therefore the Creator is not at your side. If the Creator cannot stay with you, neither can I.”

Often, we feel hopeless and shattered when we make mistakes. But if a person acknowledges the error of their ways, there is always hope. However, if a person falls spiritually and continues to think they have done the right thing, there is no opening for the Light.

Rav Berg explains that our life is like a downward moving escalator where we must constantly be climbing upwards. If we do not continually move forward in our spiritual work, or even if we are standing still, we will find ourselves falling backwards.

Look at the areas in your life where you feel you have moved backwards, or where you feel things are not moving forward. Speak to your Kabbalah teacher about ideas to keep climbing the escalator. Where can you push and grow?

We all make mistakes. It’s about taking responsibility for the mistakes we have made, and injecting the Light into that area. It’s too easy to desire to hide our gaffes, or the areas in which we are weak. As Karen Berg says, the only perfect people are in the cemetery!

If we want the Light to reside in us, it’s not about what we’ve done. It’s about what we are going to do about it.