Kabbalistic Concepts

Diminishing the Strength of the Negative Side

We have talked previously about the story of the spies in the portion Shlach Lecha, and how their failure to be able to see only goodness and Light where everybody else saw death, destruction, and chaos caused great damage. Because they were not able to maintain that consciousness, the Light of the Creator could not be revealed and the Israelites could not enter into the Land of Israel. 

The spies walked for 40 days, and they failed throughout those 40 days to see through the illusion of this world. The work to correct that failure manifested as 40 more years. So, what is the correlation between 40 days and 40 years? The Ramchal, the great kabbalist, reveals the secret of the spies in Kinat Hashem Tzevaot, one of his lesser-known books.

To start, we need to understand that the number which quantifies the levels of Tumah, the levels of negativity, is 400; 400 is the total number of negative forces that exist. Therefore, the Israelites needed to be in Egypt for 400 years with the purpose of breaking the stronghold the Negative Side had over them, and the world.  And when the Israelites left Egypt thousands of years ago during Pesach, they broke the greater strength of the Negative Side, which is revealed by the number 400, in a way that would never be repaired. From that time on, the Negative Side, the Sitra Achra, never came back to its original strength of 400; rather, it was diminished to a strength that is called 40 Years.

So, the diminishment of the Negative Side by the Israelites’ going out of Egypt took it from the force of 400 years to the force of 40 years. And the job of the spies was to go in for 40 days, and if in every single day they were able to see only the Light in all the darkness and destruction, they would have broken the force of the Negative Side down from the strength of 40 years to the strength of 40 days; that diminishment of the negative forces is the purpose of Shabbat Shlach Lecha, and was the purpose of sending the spies.

However, as we know, the spies fell. Falling, as we understand it, is a failure of consciousness to see through the illusion of this world. But, the Ramchal wants to explain how the spies fell, in an even deeper way. He tells us that the seed of their failure was their rational thinking and the words that came out of their mouth. When the spies came back with their report, they said, "Amalek, the force of death and destruction, is a real thing. The Sitra Achra exists.” Those words gave strength to the Sitra Achra. If the spies did not think, see, or speak in this way, they could have diminished the strength of the Negative Side from the level of 40 years down to 40 days, and the Ramchal tells us that the Creator would have then done the rest.

Now we understand the correlation between the 40 days and the 40 years, because the 40 days of spiritual work of the spies was meant to finish off the 40 years of strength of the Negative Side. But because as opposed to maintaining consciousness, the spies lost consciousness, they gave back the strength of 40 years to the Negative Side. It is important for us to know, therefore, that when we fall to the illusion of this world, and see the darkness, pain, and suffering, and think it is real and has an essence that may last forever, it’s not just that we are not elevated or connected in the moment; we are actually giving strength to the Negative Side.

What is the purpose of all our spiritual work? To weaken Amalek, to weaken the Negative Side, to weaken the forces of chaos, death, and destruction in this world. And we do that the same way we give it strength. To the degree that we see pain and suffering in the world or in ourselves and say that it is real and will remain, is to the degree that we give strength to the negative forces. This does not mean we are not realistic in what we see.  But what it does mean is that we see beyond it and say, "Yes, I see terrible darkness; however, it is not real, and it is not staying. I do not believe it. I do not accept it. I do not give it strength.” That is our job: to weaken the Sitra Achra. The only thing that is real is the Light of the Creator, and when we awaken that thought, consciousness, and way of seeing, we diminish the strength of the Negative Side. 

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