Holidays & Time Zones

Taking Us Out of Darkness

We are in the middle of the seven days of Sukkot. The first day, the kabbalists tell us, was the day of Abraham. It says about Abraham that he was in the place where a lot of us are - still within the confines of limited physical consciousness, where we become fearful of things of this world, seeing them as problems or darkness; unfortunately, seeing them as such is what makes them exist for us. So, it says the Creator, “Took Abraham out,” meaning the Creator took Abraham out of that consciousness of falling to darkness he saw. This same gift, therefore, is available for us during Sukkot.

There’s a story which is a little bit funny, but beautifully demonstrates this powerful concept:

There was a woodchopper who lived a few hundred years ago in the forest of the Ukraine. One day while he was chopping wood, he found a beautiful diamond. He knew nothing about diamonds, but it seemed to him that it must be worth something. So, he went into town and showed it to the local dealer, who said, “I have no idea how much this is worth. This is way beyond my level of knowledge, but it must be worth quite a lot of money. You have to go to Moscow where there are experts who will be able to assess it.”

The woodchopper was very excited. He had been poor his entire life and finally found something that was more expensive than anybody in his entire village had ever seen. He still, however, did not have a penny in his pocket and he needed to get to Moscow. He could not pay, but showed the carriage driver the stone. The carriage driver could appreciate that it was worth quite a lot of money, and told him, “I’ll take you for free. I know you will pay me when you get back.”

They drove to Moscow, and the woodchopper went to the great diamond dealer there who looked at it and said, “I have never seen anything like this. The truth is it must be worth a lot of money, but I do not know anybody here in Moscow who can truly assess how much it is. You have to go to London, where the biggest diamond dealers are, and they will be able to assess its worth.”

To get from Moscow to London the woodchopper needed to take a boat, but still did not have money to pay for it. So, he went to the captain of the ship and showed him the diamond. The captain knew from looking at it that it must be worth a lot of money, and said “I trust you. With the money you are going to make from this diamond, you will definitely be able to pay me back.”

Every day on the boat this simple woodchopper looked at the diamond and knew it was going to completely change his life, that everything he had ever hoped for was now going to happen. And every day as he ate his breakfast, he put the diamond on the table, just to look at it, and simply enjoy it; enjoy all the things he was going to be able to do for himself, his family, and the world from it. On the second or third day, he put it on the table and somehow forgot it after he finished breakfast. The waiter came to his room to clean up, and he took the tablecloth, which the diamond was on, and cleared it outside the window.

The woodchopper realized he forgot to pick up his diamond after breakfast, and saw that the waiter had cleared it into the water. He thought it was all over; not only did he now not have what he once had, but also, all the dreams he had were never going to come true. But then he remembered that during one day of Sukkot, when he went to the sukkah, the kabbalists of his village gave this lesson: the gift of Sukkot is that even if you see darkness, you do not need to fall into that darkness. It does not have to exist for you.”

Rememebring this lesson, he did not act on his first instinct, which was to tell everybody to jump into the water and help him find his diamond. Then, a few minutes later when the captain of the ship came to his room, his first instinct was to tell the captain about this terrible darkness that existed for him now. However, the woodchopper again paused, saying to himself, “No, I am not going to fall into it.”

And then the captain told the man a secret he had never felt comfortable sharing with anybody before. “Before I was the captain of a ship,” he said, “I was a pirate. I used to steal from people. And in all the years since, I have been worried that if I ever tried to sell what I had stolen I would be found out. But I can trust you - you who are clearly going to have so much money - to hold on to all of my amazing treasures. So, a few days after you have your money from your diamond, I will come and collect my treasures. And together, we will find a way to sell my treasures.” The captain left, and the man said to himself, “Ok, this is not my money, but at least I will be able to hold onto it, so I will be able to survive a day or two in London. Then we will see.”

The woodchopper went to the hotel in London, which, again, he could not pay for. But he showed them the treasures he had, and they knew he would be able to pay them once the treasures were sold. A week went by and the captain did not come. Finally, one of the ship workers came to the woodchopper and told him that their captain had died. Nobody was going to claim the treasures, the woodchopper realized, and everything that was once the captain’s was now his.

When the kabbalists tell this story they explain that the diamond and all the money it was worth was never actually the woodchopper’s. Why? Because the singular purpose of the diamond was to take him to the place on that boat where what was truly his and meant to come to him - those treasures from the captain - could. The only way that he would be able to receive those blessings, however, was if when he lost what was not his, he did not fall to that problem or darkness. Had he fallen to it and told the captain he had lost everything, the captain would not have trusted him and given him the treasures; as such, the woodchopper would never have received what was truly his.

From this, we learn two powerful lessons. First, is that we often think something is our blessing, but we do not really know; while it could be our blessing, it might not be. It might be the next thing that is our blessing, or that what we think is our blessing only exists for the purpose of taking us to our true blessing. And second is that if we fall into the consciousness of problems and darkness, we create that problem and darkness, closing ourselves off from all the blessings that are meant to come to us.

What we learn from the story, and what we want to receive during Sukkot, is to leave that darkness behind. Throughout this year, when we have a moment that looks like a small or great darkness, we need to remember this story, and remember Abraham and what the Creator did for him and for us on Sukkot: give us the strength to take ourselves out of the consciousness of darkness, the consciousness of a problem. Because if we do not live in the consciousness of darkness, it will not exist for us.

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