We are in the portion of Bo, which precedes what's called the Redemption, the Israelites going out of Egypt. Therefore, this portion has within it the Light and understanding for every single one of us to be able to take ourselves out of any negativity or darkness that we experience. The teaching I’d like to share about this portion has to do with what we need to change and what we need to do consistently in order to enable the Light of Redemption, the Light that can take us out of all forms of negativity.
There is a section in Sanhedrin, in the Talmud, which deals with the Redemption. It says: “The Redemption cannot come until those with ego no longer exist.” Either they are not in the world, or they are still in the world but their ego doesn’t exist. So, kabbalists ask why ego is the only thing that’s stopping the Redemption… there are a lot of worse things that happen in this world, right? If you ask a regular person in the street who is creating more darkness in the world - a murderer or a guy with ego, obviously, he would say the murderer. However, there is something so unique about the ego that it stops the Redemption. What is it?
I want to share a very important section from the Ari. I know that we speak about the ego often, and we all know ego is bad, yet still we all unfortunately maintain our ego. Therefore, I hope this teaching from the Ari will push us enough to do everything we can to remove our ego.
Why is the Talmud so adamant that there is nothing worse that is stopping the Light of the Redemption than the ego? The kabbalists explain this is what the beginning of the portion of Bo is; Moses telling the Israelites they have to kill the ego. What is so terrible that separates ego from all kinds of other negativity that we might do? The Ari says that you have to understand spiritually what damage the ego does and where the darkness or negativity created by the thoughts, words, and actions of ego go.
The Tetragrammaton is four letters; the Yud Hei which represents the higher realm, and the Vav Hei which represents the lower realm. All of the negative actions that we do in this world – except one – only do damage in the lower Vav Hei. The only negative action that actually elevates and creates darkness in the higher realm of Yud Hei is an action of ego. What does ego mean? It means that the individual thinks they are more elevated than they are, and that elevation allows them to think about, speak to, or act towards others in a certain way; that person is elevating him or herself beyond who they really are, and allowing themselves to look down on and act in negative ways towards others.
Usually the negative forces are only allowed to attack the Vav Hei, the lower levels. But when a person acts with ego, he causes the negativity to attach itself to a higher place of the Yud Hei. It's important to understand the details of this. Every thought, word, and action of ego, the Ari explains, not only elevates and damages the Yud Hei, but actually does double damage.
Why does it do double damage? The Yud Hei, the first two letters of the Tetragrammaton, have the same numerical value as ga'avah, ego. So when a person has ego, the ga'avah does damage to those two letters. In kabbalistic understanding, the Yud Hei is spelled out, and when it's spelled out the Light is more revealed. Ga'avah, which represents ego, is the numerical value of 15, and the first two letters Yud Hei when spelled out, also have the numerical value of 15. As such, damage that is done through every thought, word, and action of ego in the upper realm, called the Yud Hei, damages it twice.
This is why it says ego is the one barrier to the coming of Mashiach, the one barrier to the end of pain, suffering, and death in this world. Which means that even though it's crazy to say, if you had an ability to do something negative and you have to choose between stealing from somebody or acting towards somebody with ego, the kabbalists say that the action of the ego is what will prevent the end of pain suffering and death in our world. Why? Because even though anything we do in this physical world of a negative nature damages the Vav Hei, the lower worlds, the ego elevates damage to the Yud Hei… and that's why Yud Hei has the numerical value of ga'avah, or ego.
Therefore, it says in the Talmud, in Sanhedrin, that Mashiach, the end of pain, suffering, and death, cannot come until there are enough people who have removed their ego.
On this Shabbat, the Creator comes to Moses, and Moses comes to the Israelites, and says, "Elevate yourselves." Where? To the Yud Hei. Because what the Israelites have done, and what we have done, is prevent the Light of the Creator from being revealed in this world by allowing Pharaoh, which represents the forces of darkness and negativity, to elevate and do damage to the Yud Hei, to the higher realm. Therefore, Moses tells the Israelites, and us, they need to elevate to the higher realm and remove the damage done there by ego.
The Creator says, “Come to Pharaoh,” meaning tell the Israelites they have to realize if they want to remove the negative forces that surround the Yud Hei, the higher realm, they have to break away their own ego. The Ari ends this by telling us that this is the secret of what happened and the reason why Pharaoh had the power then - and now - to still do damage; because of the actions, words, and thoughts of ego that gave him strength to control and hold onto the Yud Hei.
Even though we speak about ego all the time, I hope this new teaching from the Ari will push us enough to really do the work of destroying our ego. And part of our work, certainly, is to stop creating this darkness around the Yud Hei, that upper realm that needs to give us Light. But the other part to this is we need to change the ways in which we can diminish our thoughts, words, and actions that are done from ego. The Ari says to fix the damage, any time you feel your ego becoming awakened, you have to meditate to remove this force, this Light that you have given over to the negative side, and to take that Light back and give it to the Creator.
Again, it says that Mashiach cannot come unless each one of us individually removes ego, because, as the Ari says, there is no other negative action that elevates as high as one done by a person who thinks, speaks, or acts with ego. On this Shabbat, I hope we are truly awakened to understanding the damage done by ego; that damage is one of the very few things that are hindering and stopping the Gemar HaTikun, the End of the Correction.