Those who study Kabbalah learn that our purpose for our time on this planet is to transform completely. And when we transform ourselves we are a force of good in the world, leaving it with a little more Light and love than when we arrived. This is a beautiful idea, but how do we actually do that?
The trouble is, though most of us want to make the world a better place, we remain tied to burdens of the physical world: appointments, bills, family obligations, career goals, and so on. How do we live good and selfless lives when there is so much we have to do each day? The answer lies in how we connect to others—that is, how selflessly we care for others, how earnestly we help them, and how empathetic we are in sharing their pain.
In the biblical chapter, Noach, we learn that Noah was good and “just.” The Creator told him to build an ark and he did, following every rule and fulfilling every request. When he was warned, “everything that is on the earth shall perish,” Noah did not question the Creator’s requests and did as he was told. However, Michael Berg points out that Noah fell short of true righteousness. After the flood, Noah cried when he saw the destruction. The Creator responded:
“Now you are crying? Noah, I came to you before the flood to awaken in you the desire to beg for the world. When I told you I would bring destruction upon the world and instructed you to make the ark, that is when you should have wept and prayed and begged for mercy for the world. Yet, you did not.”
Noah may have been “good,” but that goodness did nothing to save the lives of others in his community. The lesson of this story prompts us to ask ourselves, if put in Noah’s position, what would we do? When faced with a situation that can negatively impact the lives of others, how do we respond? How well do we live up to our true purpose is often a matter of thinking outside of our own needs and considering the needs of others. Are you the kind of neighbor who hears about impending danger and warns the community? Or after such news, would you start building an ark for yourself and your family without saying a word?
Great shifts in our global consciousness occur when individuals take selfless and righteous action. According to Rav Berg, “We are learning that it is important to have sympathy and empathy for our neighbor and our family—to feel for them, to feel what they feel. The spiritual, the human dignity, has been lost to the materialism that we all strive for.”
One can live a good and peaceful life, never breaking a law or harming anyone. But from a kabbalistic point of view, such a person does not fulfill their true purpose in life, and does nothing to make the world a better place. It is our spiritual responsibility to connect with, share with, and help others. Only then can we strengthen our connection to the Light.
There is a story kabbalists share that explains this idea further:
Two men arrive at a house of prayer—a spiritual space where others are gathered. As they approach the front door, however, one man says to his friend, “I cannot enter this place.”
“Why not?” his friend asks.
“It’s too full,” The first man replies. “It’s full of prayer, tears, and desires. The atmosphere is too full for me to go inside.”
Confused, the friend presses on, “But isn’t that what’s supposed to happen in a place like this? It is a place of prayer, right? So, shouldn’t it be full of prayers?”
The man responds gently, “No, it’s not supposed to be so full. All of those prayers and all of that desire should have been elevated. The fact that it wasn’t means there is a lack of love within. For prayers can only rise from the physical world to the spiritual world where there is unity, sharing, and love between people. When there is no community, our prayers and the positive energy we create through them get stuck.”
When we are there for others to assist them and share all we have, we do more than simply support them through challenging times. We also set a very powerful force into motion. Like attracts like. The positive energy we share is the positive energy we invite back into our lives. But the onus is on us to find ways to reach out, connect with, and share with others. “Anytime we enter into an argument or a discussion, or even a war,” says Rav Berg, “we need to understand that it is not only to rid the world of chaos, but also to teach ourselves a lesson—that what brought about the chaos in the first place is the lack of human dignity toward others.” The wellbeing of our families, communities, and the world rests in our hands.