Consciousness Outside the Confines of Nature
The Shabbat and reading of Naso has many important aspects to it, but there’s one teaching I am excited about sharing, because it relates to a section in the Torah that I think for most of us is relatively esoteric; it’s not a section very often understood, even on the most literal or basic level.
Part of the reading of the portion Naso has to do with the erection of the Mishkan, the Tabernacle, the place from where the Israelites, and the world, are going to receive all of their Light. All the Israelites at the time, except for 12 people, were taking part in the building of it. These 12 people were the 12 leaders, the princes, of each one of the 12 tribes. And they realize they missed the opportunity to be part of an amazing process, and therefore have to do something. So, it says that the 12 leaders, the 12 princes, come together, and bring a gift in front of Moses that is meant to be used in the Tabernacle.
Everybody else who had taken part in the building of the Mishkan was told by Moses what to bring or what to build; everything was by directive from the Creator through Moses to the Israelites. And everybody was following orders. However, the 12 leaders weren’t following Moses. They had their own idea, which was to bring six chariots and twelve oxen to drive and lead the chariots - two oxen for each chariot.
The Tabernacle was completely built as the Israelites rested in a place, but when they got up to leave, it had to be taken apart, with the pieces to be carried by the Levites. As such, the idea behind the gift of the 12 princes was to help them carry those pieces throughout the desert. As one could imagine, the walls of the Mishkan, the Ark, the table, etc., were very heavy, made of gold and wood and silver.
However, Moses doesn’t know what to do when the 12 leaders bring these gifts, because he was not told by the Creator that they were necessary or important, and therefore, initially says, “I didn’t ask you for this, God didn’t ask you for this, I can’t accept it.” But in the next verse, suddenly Moses gets a revelation from the Creator. The Creator tells Moses to accept the six chariots and twelve oxen, but with a caveat. He says there are three groups of Levites, three parts of the tribe – the lineage that comes from Gershon, Kohath, and Merari, and all of them together are meant to carry different pieces of the Mishkan as they travel through the desert.
So, Moses takes the six chariots and twelve oxen and divides them amongst the Levites as follows: two chariots and four oxen are given to the Gershonites to carry a piece of the Mishkan, and the remaining four chariots and eight oxen are given to the other group. And this is maybe the most important part in this section; Moses, it seems, directed by the Creator, says the group of Gershon and the group of people carrying the external parts of the Mishkan can have the chariots and their jobs can be easier. But to the 3rd group, the group of Kohath, who carry the Ark that holds the Tablets, the table, and the inner pieces of the Mishkan, He says they are not getting oxen or chariots and that their job is to remain hard. The words He says to explain why that is literally mean, “Because the holy work is upon them, they must carry it on their shoulders.”
Therefore, we want to understand the secret of the chariots and the secret of what it means to carry the Ark on their shoulders. The kabbalists explain that the chariots are covered, and represent a specific type of Light, blessings, and miracles. It is the kind of miracle that occurs within the realm of nature. Even though it wouldn’t actually be physically possible for the oxen and chariots to have the strength to carry the pieces of the Mishkan, people could still look at that miracle and say it makes relative sense.
These kinds of miracles – this specific type of Light and blessing that exist within the confines of nature – are where most of us live. Yes, we understand the Light of the Creator, yes we understand the importance of the spiritual work, but we ask for it to manifest in ways that are natural, and that’s the secret of the consciousness of the chariots.
But what is the second consciousness, that of the Kohathites? The Ark represents the higher level of consciousness. There is no possible way that humans could lift the weight of the Ark, the table, or the candelabra, which are those aspects of the Mishkan that represent the most direct connection to the Light of the Creator. But as it says in the Zohar, and in the writings of the kabbalists, they would put it on their shoulders and suddenly those things got lighter. And while it looked from the outside like they were carrying it, it was actually lifting them off the ground; they were flying through the desert with the Ark. That is the consciousness of the Ark. It represents a consciousness of miracles not within the confines of nature.
The group of Kohath had to be of such an elevated level where they knew they couldn’t ask for the assistance to draw in a miracle, because this was not even a miracle. It was beyond miracles. It was something the likes of which they could not even fathom. The Kohath lived in a realm not confined by nature. Most of the Israelites in the desert were not of that consciousness of possibility, and one could understand why. This consciousness isn’t just one of a desire for something to happen. This consciousness is something we don’t have; if we had it, we’d be flying.
So, what do we need to do to get that consciousness? Nothing. There is nothing a person can do to get it. Most of the Israelites at the time, even those who were spiritual, studying, doing the work, and transforming, were still only elevating to that level where, yes, I can get a miracle, but it’s still going to be in the confines of nature. The consciousness of the Kohathites was something that only a tiny group of Israelites had. And what we have to understand is that really the purpose of our life, the reason we came into this world, is to get to that level of consciousness.
It says when we are in the womb, before we enter into this world, we’re taught wisdom. And the Talmud tells us that as we are about to leave the womb to enter the world, we are touched on the lip, and everything that we learned is forgotten. So, if we’re going to forget everything, what is the purpose of studying in the first place? Different answers are given, but now we understand it in a different way. The wisdom and consciousness that is infused within us becomes dormant as we enter into this world. Because that consciousness is not something that can be earned or achieved; if we did the spiritual work for a million years, we would never get to that consciousness or level of not seeing the confines of nature at all. Yes, we’d be able to draw great miracles and Light in the confines of nature, but that ultimate state where we do not see walls or physicality is not possible to be achieved in this world.
This program is inserted into our mind and consciousness before we come into this world, but it can’t be achieved in this world. That’s why when we come out of the womb it becomes dormant. So, what do we do to awaken it?
There’s a commentator on the Torah who says something amazing. Why was it important for the children of Kohath to carry the Ark on their shoulders? Because wisdom and consciousness actually enter from the back of the head. So as they are carrying the Ark, the Ark and the Tablets within it are transmitting this elevated consciousness to them. With every step, they have to be aware of this, and desire it. With every step, they have to ask, as they fly through the desert, that the Ark transmit to them and re-awaken within them their dormant consciousness of living outside the confines of nature.
Therefore, when it says that the most elevated work is theirs and they must carry it on their shoulders, it means they have to be asking, begging, and receiving the transmission from the Ark into the back of their mind, elevating to the state that does not see nature, elevating to the state that does not see the confines of this world, and then they can fly. That consciousness, which is not of this world, is on their shoulders. It is an amazing understanding.