The phrase uvi’arta harah mikirbecha, which translates as, “…and you will extinguish negativity from within you,” repeats itself many times in the portions Ki Tetze and its previous portion, Shoftim. But, what does that mean?
When the Israelites received the Light at Sinai, the Zohar tells us, they achieved the level of Bila HaMavet LaNetzach, the level of Immortality. However, although the Israelites did achieve that level of connection, revelation, and separation from the forces of darkness, they fell afterwards into a certain level of Desire to Receive for the Self Alone, and lost the dominion over death. And so, we come to learn that there are two ways of removing ourselves from darkness; one is complete and one is not complete.
Achieving the level of Bila HaMavet LaNetzach at Sinai, the Israelites went through a process of completely separating from the forces of ego and darkness; however, the forces themselves remained. They completed the first part of the process, which was separating themselves from darkness, but did not complete the second part, which was extinguishing those forces of darkness. And because those forces still existed, they were able to fall again. To explain this concept with an example, it’s like on one level a person who has an issue with anger can go through the spiritual work of separating himself from anger, but in reality, as long as he has only separated himself from that anger and not completely removed the root of it, then he can always fall to it.
Every one of us has our own tikkune, our own host of manifestations of Desire to Receive for the Self Alone, and often what we do in our spiritual work is separate ourselves from those actions without extinguishing their source. We need to extinguish their source, otherwise we can always fall to them again. So, how do we not only separate ourselves from those forces of negativity, but actually extinguish them? It’s all about consciousness. It’s all about what we are thinking as we are doing these battles.
Continuing to use anger as an example, because it’s an easy one to speak of, a person comes to the realization that his battle, or at least one of his battles, is with anger. He has the opportunity to become angry, and he knows that in order for him to achieve his correction, he has to fight that tendency. The question is, however, what is his consciousness as this opportunity arises and he fights that battle? For most people, it’s something like, “This is one thing that I need to fight against; I’m going to fight the tendency to become angry, or hurt another person,” but we don’t take it further in our consciousness. And that’s what the portion and Shabbat of Ki Tetze really give us the ability to have: the consciousness of removing the sources of darkness and negativity… and removing it really is as simple as consciousness.
So, we need to take it beyond just saying to ourselves, “This is what I have to fight against in order to connect to the Light of the Creator and receive the blessings that I am meant to receive.” We have to say, “I’m not only doing this to win the battle, but also to remove its spiritual source, the source of darkness that pushes me.” Because the truth is that even if we win the battle today and don’t get angry, tomorrow we will still have the opportunity to become angry. We want our consciousness, therefore, to be: “I don’t want to simply win this battle; I want to go to the spiritual source of this anger and remove a part of it, so that tomorrow, even though I’ll have another challenge that I can defeat, the spiritual source of this anger will be diminished.”
And to take it one step further, if the individual not only thinks about himself and the current battle, but is also thinking that what he is doing is extinguishing a spiritual source of this darkness, then he, over time, will be able to remove that negativity at its source, and therefore, from the world. When a person fights his battle against his own individual Desire to Receive for the Self Alone in whatever way it manifests in his life, and is always conscious of the fact that as he’s fighting that battle he wants to also extinguish it at its source, he is then serving humanity, because the source of anger is the same source of anger for everybody in the world. And this is true of jealousy, hatred for no reason, and every manifestation of Desire to Receive for the Self Alone.
When we have an awareness of how our individual battle influences the world, it gives us strength, knowing that if today we fall to our selfishness and become angry, we not only damage ourselves, but we’ve also strengthened the source of anger in the world, which results in anybody who is struggling with anger to become a little bit more challenged. Yet, on the positive side, knowing that if we win this battle and have the consciousness of wanting it not only to do good for ourselves, but also to diminish the source of anger in the world, then we have now assisted anyone in the world who is struggling with this same issue. And when we are going to do battle for the collective, we receive strength from the collective.
The purpose of humanity’s spiritual work is not to come back to the place where the Israelites were at Sinai, but to get to a place where not only are we separated from all those forces of darkness, but we also completely extinguish and remove them, such that they can never come back to this world. Through the portion and Shabbat of Ki Tetze, we have the opportunity to shift our consciousness and get closer to reaching that goal.