Kabbalistic Concepts

Kabbalistic Glossary: The Opponent

True fulfillment comes from the Light we receive when we transform our Desire to Receive for the Self Alone into the Desire to Receive for the Sake of Sharing. When we don’t feel any sense of having earned something, we fall into chaos, a concept the kabbalists call “Bread of Shame,” the empty feeling we have when something is given to us without any effort on our part. 

As an example, consider you are a football player and your goal is to win the Super Bowl. Now imagine that before you even play your first game of the season, they automatically hand you the trophy. Would the sense of fulfillment you feel be more or less than if you had played the full season, being challenged to grow to your best potential every step of the way? In order to receive true and lasting fulfillment, we have to overcome something. It is being victorious over an adversary that brings the fulfillment. And that is precisely why the Opponent exists.

Most people recognize the Opponent as its original name, the Satan. But this is not the devil with a pitchfork version of Satan so many may think of. The word “Satan” comes from a Greek word meaning “adversary,” or “other side,” and in the ancient language of Aramaic, the accent is on the second syllable, (suh-TÁHN). Satan, therefore, is our adversary, who often shows up as ego, instigating every form of reactive behavior. In the Kabbalah Centre, we know him as the Opponent.

The first secret to overcoming the Opponent is understanding that the Opponent is actually a positive force disguised as a negative one, here to help us see what we need to change, so that we transform our nature. Obstacles and difficulties are essential, because we wouldn’t be able to achieve our purpose of coming to this world – to transform our selfish nature into one of sharing and become like the Light – if we didn’t have something to overcome. We are programmed from birth to seek out instant gratification, and therefore, this voice inside us, also known as the ego, rules over us the majority of the time, if not always. It is this voice of the Opponent that:

  • Convinces us that we are the victim, to blame others, and not take responsibility
  • Justifies lying, cheating, or stealing
  • Tells us to eat all the ice cream now and start the diet tomorrow
  • Motivates us to act out of greed, jealousy, arrogance, or vindictiveness
  • Leads to our feelings of sadness, anxiety, uncertainty, fear, worry, or doubt, and then to act from those places
  • Encourages us to do something when we shouldn’t, or conversely, encourages us to give up on something that we shouldn’t
  • Inflates our ego so we think we’re better than everyone else, or conversely, tells us we are nothing and therefore less than everyone else
  • Blinds us to our own godly nature so that we don’t recognize our purpose in life
  • Creates division and separation

The Opponent is what talks us out of practicing restriction and overcoming our reactive behavior. As discussed in our Kabbalistic Glossary entry on the Proactive Method, it is not the situation or other person that is the opponent; it is our reaction to it. And it is through the transforming of our selfish reactions that we achieve our purpose for coming to this world. As such, we need the opportunity the Opponent gives us to choose to be proactive, practice restriction, and come from a place of sharing rather than selfishness.  But even more importantly, we would never be able to feel love, joy, peace, and happiness if we did not experience the opposite of those things, stemming from the Opponent.

The second secret to overcoming the Opponent is understanding that the Opponent is not us. At the most profound level, the truth of who we are is our soul. Being made of the same essence as the Creator, the soul has but one desire: to share. This is our most divine nature. It is the truth of who we are, and it is who we will always be, as the soul remains eternal. The Opponent is a force that exists outside of ourselves. It is up to us whether or not we allow this force to govern our reactions, emotions, and ultimately our lives.

How do we know whether the internal guidance we’re getting is coming from the Light or the Opponent? Typically, the Opponent’s voice is the one that is loudest, sounding reasonable and sensible when it convinces us that it’s ok to behave reactively, whereas a whisper or sudden moment of inspiration and intuition is coming from the Light. When hearing the two different frequencies, it is the Opponent’s voice that manifests as logic and ego, while the Light manifests as a calm, quiet sense of knowing coming from the back of our minds. Having clarity on which voice is which gives us the opportunity to choose not to act on the Opponent’s urging.

The Opponent serves to strengthen us and help us grow, and will always be a consistent part of everyone’s spiritual journey. Therefore, when we feel the Opponent’s presence in our life, we can now try to see it for what it is: a gift from the Light, giving us the choice to rise to our highest self.

In his book Taming Chaos, Rav Berg writes the snake that visited Eve in the Garden of Eden was not actually a snake, but rather a lost angel - the Satan, an angel in which all the world’s negative energy is rooted. As such, once the Satan whispered in Eve’s ear, the negative energy entered her being, and became a part of all human nature. 

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