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One of the very powerful and important teachings found in the Zohar, in a section called “Locks, doorways, and the great rooms,” is explained by Rav Ashlag. He tells us all three things are part of the same; the lock transforms into an opening, and the opening transforms into a hall, not like in this world where we have a lock, and then an opening, and then beyond that, a hall.
We know that the purpose and thought of creation was simply to give each of us, and humanity as a whole, only goodness. But if the purpose of creation was to give us great Light, then why is it that the experience of this world is filled with so much darkness, pain, and suffering? Rav Ashlag tells us we can we make sense of these two opposite realities by understanding that the basis of the creation of the physical world is the Desire to Receive for the Self Alone, which is the exact opposite of the nature of the Light of the Creator, which is the Desire to Share. But even though that Light exists within each one of us, we experience pain or darkness based on the degree of the existence of the Desire to Receive for the Self Alone within us.
And this is the secret of the locks. Each one of us is locked out from the Light of the Creator, from the goodness that is at the core of the creation of this world. Our holding onto the Desire to Receive for the Self Alone is the lock between us and the ultimate purpose of creation and the ultimate Light of the Creator. If we were to fight through those times of darkness and confusion for the purpose of revealing the Light of the Creator in this world, and not allow the states of confusion or darkness to separate us from the Light of the Creator, then every single confusing thing, every single thing we did not understand, every single thing that does not make sense to us, would become an opening through which we could gain greater connection to the Light of the Creator.
We think that confusion means we’re not connected. But what Rav Ashlag explains is that every single thing we don't understand, every single thing that happens that contradicts the goodness of the Light of the Creator, has within it a spark of great Light. Such that when we fight through that confusion and doubt and still keep connecting, sharing, and doing the spiritual work, that state of confusion actually becomes an opening to understanding. And this is where we should focus our work on Shabbat Nitzavim-Vayelech.
Most of us went through challenges and things we didn't understand this year. But how do we know if we’re transforming? Rav Ashlag is very clear here, and this needs to be a question we ask ourselves: Can we look at one of the challenges that happened, and say, wow what a tremendous opening that was? Can we say we’re so happy that happened, because we realize what kind of gate of wisdom and connection that opened up for us because of it? Because real teshuvah is when we're able to go back into the year and say, “I understand why that darkness and confusion happened; it's an opening, a great hall of Light and wisdom for me.”
That is the test. If we hurt someone really badly, and do teshuvah, then it’s true on one level that negative action becomes a positive. But on a deeper level, it means we’re able to look at the year and realize nothing negative happened to us, that there was not really a lock, because the lock is an opening, and the opening is a hall. It's correlated, of course, to the spiritual work that we do, but I'm sure for all of us, there are still things this year we went through that do not make sense to us, that we do not understand, and that still feel negative. This means there's still work that needs to be done around them, because ultimately, we can come to see even the worst things that happen to us as tremendous Light.
It is the work that we have to do on this Shabbat. It is the work that we have to do as we prepare for Rosh Hashanah. We have to look through the year, find those locks, think about them, and see if we can find the opening within that lock. And if not, we need to do more work and commit more to the removal of our Desire to Receive for the Self Alone. Because one thing is certain: if we were completely elevated out of our Desire to Receive for the Self Alone, we would see everything as Light. There would be no darkness or confusion. If there's still something we look back at this year, and don't understand and see it is as darkness, it is because we haven't transformed.
That is the work of this Shabbat. Can we look back on the year and see it all as Light? Can we see all the darkness and confusion as only the Light within it? If not, then let's do some more work. Let's elevate higher, because when we get closer to that state of complete certainty which comes from complete removal of our Desire to Receive for the Self Alone, we only see the Light, and the locks are only openings that lead to greater halls of understanding and wisdom.
Now we understand what we're asking for: greater certainty so that we can see only the Light within the locks, and the strength to do the work that will enable that certainty. During the week, we do that work, and on Shabbat, we receive this gift. That's what this Shabbat is about; we want to get to a state where we don’t see the locks, or even doorways anymore - only the great halls of wisdom and understanding, and the great Light and wisdom of everything that has happened to us. We’re not there yet. We have to do the spiritual work of elevation from the Desire to Receive for the Self Alone. That is what the work of Elul is about. That's what the preparation for Rosh Hashanah is about.
And on this Shabbat we can receive, as we've said, both the strength for greater certainty and to do greater spiritual work, seeing those locks as openings, and turning them into great halls of understanding and wisdom in everything that's happened to us, in every aspect of our lives.