Growing Closer to the Light
There is a story about a great kabbalist named the Baal Shem Tov. Each time he walked into the place of prayer, he’d go over to a group of people there and greet them with a special greeting, one that was used to address someone who had been away for three or more days.
After weeks and weeks of hearing this unique salutation, one of the men asked, “Teacher, I haven’t left the city. I see you every day. Why is it that every time you see me, you always greet me like this?”
The Baal Shem Tov responded, “While you are praying, where are you? Are you thinking about spiritual things? Or are you thinking about the vacation you want to take, or perhaps of all the things you need to do during the day? That is why I always greet you as if you have been away—because you are not here in your mind, you are not here in your consciousness.”
What does this story mean for us? Basically, when we pray, read a holy book, meditate, or use any of the spiritual tools to try to generate energy for ourselves, we need to ask ourselves: Where is my consciousness? Am I in tune with the action I am doing right now? Am I thinking and meditating on how I can extend myself to others? Perhaps even more importantly, are we present with ourselves and the people around us as we move through the day?
This week, we need to accept that we ourselves are the only ones who can bring about our spiritual level. Growing our consciousness is the only way to move closer to the Light. To rise above the limitations of the physical world, we need to choose to act proactively to share, learn, and transform. By not moving forward with our spiritual work, by just going along with our life as is and by doing what our ego wants, we create a circuitry that is not connected to the Light.
And what happens then is that we actually diminish the spiritual Light in our life so that it becomes more and more difficult for us to recognize when we do a negative action until eventually, we may, God forbid, reach a state of consciousness where we cannot recognize negativity.
Why am I telling you all this right now? Well, this week’s Bible reading discusses the whole idea of the kohen, which in English means “the priest.”We read this week what a kohen can and cannot do and whom they can and cannot associate with. There are many specific important details given in this reading, but what I would like to focus on here is how this idea of the kohen applies to our lives today.
Basically, what we need to realize is that on a certain level, each of us is like a kohen.
We are all pure. We are all God’s people. I don’t mean “pure” in terms of not doing things that are terrible. We all do such things. That’s why we’re alive. We say the wrong things. We eat the wrong things. We act the wrong way. And God knows what we do or don’t do in the privacy of our own home.
But all this doesn’t matter.
What does matter is that each and every one of us has been endowed with a spark of the Creator. It is our job to act like kohens: To be the salvation for somebody who needs us, to be the voice for somebody who needs that one moment of care, to be the wisdom for the friend who needs our help in the middle of the night. But to do this, we need to be both an active participant in our own life as well as present for the people around us.
We are all part of the Light. It is easy to take care of any reparation between ourselves and the Creator. But the things that we do to hurt each other—those are the things that we will pay for Upstairs. You and I and everybody else in the world are linked together in a huge chain of humanity, and being part of this chain is our greatest strength.
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