In the story of Vayigash, Yehuda awakens within himself the understanding that it is not his father, Jacob, or his other brothers who need to be protectors; rather, it is he, himself. As such, the unique Light that is being awakened for us from this portion is to also begin viewing ourselves as protectors.
There is an interesting section in the Zohar, in Vayechi, which talks about souls - how they elevate, their different parts, and how we can connect to them. And then, in the middle of that discussion, Rav Shimon bar Yochai goes on to speak of something that when we read it initially sounds a bit scary, but when we understand the purpose of it, see that it awakens us to a new level of responsibility.
Rav Shimon bar Yochai, who lived and taught in the land of Israel, says, "When I am surrounded by and teach those students from Babylon, I can reveal secrets to them. And when these people who live outside of the land of Israel and in Babylon receive the secrets from me, they seal them with a metal seal and keep them concealed. Whatever Light and secrets that I reveal to them they keep concealed."
Then he goes on to say, “These students from Babylon are scared to repeat the secrets they heard from me. When they speak amongst themselves and repeat, or try to repeat, the secrets that I taught them, they are like a person who stutters. When they receive the secrets, there is something missing, and they are not able to retain it or to repeat it. When they try to repeat the secrets and the Light that I give over to them, they sound like stutterers."
However, even though they don't have a way to hold onto the Light and secrets he has given over to them, Rav Shimon still judges them positively. Why? “The Holy Air and the Holy Spirit,” he says, “has left them, because they live outside the physical land of Israel.” The Zohar is not simply referring to the physical land of Israel, but to a spiritual state; even if a person lives outside of the land of Israel, he can be connected to the spiritual and elevated state called the land of Israel. So, it's referring here not only to who is or is not actually in the physical land, but to a certain spiritual level.
The reason Rav Shimon does not judge them harshly for losing the secrets that he gives them is because they don’t have this “Holy Air” or “Holy Spirit;” meaning, they receive their sustenance of air and spirit from a place other than the Light of the Creator. But Rav Shimon bar Yochai goes on to say, "These people,” referring not just to the Babylonians, but to our generation, as well, “are of such a low spiritual level that they cannot stop judgment from coming into this world.” However, there is a saving grace for them, and us. Although they are not of any elevated spiritual state and cannot draw or hold onto Light, or draw and repeat wisdom, what saves them, Rav Shimon says, is that “I, the soul and body of Rav Shimon bar Yochai, exist in this world."
Here are the important words Rav Shimon bar Yochai says: "I am the foundation, the sustainer, and the protector of this world. In my lifetime, my Light is so great that the world will not be in pain, will not be in suffering. The supernal judgments can't come down into this world as long as I reside in it. This is what still gives protection to the Babylonians and to those who are not connecting as they should… [But] after me, there won’t be a single soul, or another generation, with a soul as great as mine that can protect and remove judgment from the world."
So, does that mean we're doomed?
The answer is no. Because what Rav Shimon bar Yochai is saying is that we cannot expect a single soul to be a protector like he was in his time, but rather, that it is our responsibility to become little protectors today. None of us are going to be Rav Shimon bar Yochai who can say, "Because of me there can't be great pain in this world;” our spiritual work alone will probably not be able to, as Rav Shimon bar Yochai's did, protect the entire world. But, we still have to start looking at ourselves as a protector of the world.
As we know, and as my father, Rav Berg, always said, consciousness is everything. Therefore, how do we view ourselves? Do we see ourselves as protectors of this world? One of the most important awakenings that we can draw from the pain and tragedies we see all around us in this world is to push ourselves harder than we ever have before to become greater protectors. We have to look at our life, what we do, and the connections we make, and ask ourselves: what can I not allow myself to do, or in what ways do I have to push myself to become a stronger protector of our world? That has to be a significant consciousness and thought every single one of us needs to have about ourselves.
Rav Shimon bar Yochai makes it very clear: in our time, there will not be a single soul who will be the protector of this world. The responsibility, therefore, then gets diffused to all of us. When enough of us see ourselves as protectors of the world, when enough of us take that responsibility, have that consciousness, and do whatever changes are necessary and push ourselves in this direction enough, then we can bring true protection to this world. And on the Shabbat of Vayigash, we have the opportunity to become awakened to it.