In the portion Ekev, it says that the Creator is a trustworthy holder of our Light. But what does that mean? What are the secret, the understanding, and consciousness of those words? To answer that question, the kabbalists in the Midrash bring a story about Rav Shimon bar Yochai’s father-in-law, a great sage named Rav Pinchas, the son of Yair, who lived in a city in the south of Israel.
The story goes that a group of merchants came to do business in that city where Rav Pinchas ben Yair lived. They had a certain amount of seeds of barley, and since they were going to be traveling around doing business, they asked Rav Pinchas ben Yair to hold the seeds for them. However, the merchants finished doing their business and went back home, forgetting about the barley seeds.
So, every year, Rav Pinchas ben Yair planted the barley for them, and whatever grew, he stored. Every year, he took whatever had grown the previous year and planted it again, which then yielded a larger amount. He harvested it, and built bigger and bigger storage spaces for it. After seven years, the merchants came back to Rav Pinchas ben Yair and told him they wanted their barley back. He took them to see the storage upon storage full of barley and told them all of it is theirs, because from the small amount of barley they gave him to hold on to seven years ago, it had grown into all of that.
The kabbalists teach that this story is telling us there’s a way in which every action that we do, every amount of Light that we reveal, can expand ten-fold, a hundred-fold, or a thousand-fold. How? How does our Light produce more Light? In telling the story, the kabbalists use a very important statement. They say that the merchants “forgot their barley;” this is teaching us that the only way to make whatever amount of Light we reveal become an endless creator of even more Light is to forget about what we’ve done. We have to forget about what we have accomplished.
Most of us, unfortunately, forget the bad things we do, but not the good. Our ego makes sure that we hold onto the good stuff - I did this for that person, I did this great spiritual action, etc. We see this when we are upset at somebody, and say to ourselves - consciously or subconsciously – “Being who I am, with all that I’ve done, how can he do that to me!? How can this person treat me like that!?” We have a very good accounting of all the Light that we have revealed and all the good we’ve done; we hold onto that and don’t forget. But the Creator is teaching us on Shabbat Ekev that if we hold onto what we have done, if we hold onto what we have revealed, it will not bear fruit. It will not grow or ever produce more.
So, that’s one understanding: every aspect, every spark of Light that we reveal, can and is meant to expand exponentially, but only if we let it go. Only if we forget about it. That’s one level of understanding. Now, it’s important to understand the spiritual concept behind it.
Rav Ashlag teaches that any Light revealed in any world and to any person has to come from the Endless World, which means that if we are enjoying drinking water, for example, that enjoyment is coming from the spark of Light that is within that water. And that spark of Light we are connecting to comes from the Endless World. This means that every spark of Light we connect to - every sense of joy, fulfillment, and happiness -flows down from the Endless World into the experience that we are having right in that moment. That’s the first spiritual rule: every Light that we experience has its source in, and comes from, the Endless World.
The second spiritual rule that Rav Ashlag teaches is that there is no disappearance in Light or in spiritual matters. What does this mean? For the sake of this discussion, let’s say that there are a million stages between where we exist and the Endless World (although there are more). When a person experiences, or reveals, a tiny drop of Light, that drop came all the way from the Endless World and went through a million worlds to come to this world, and that spark of Light leaves the same amount of Light in every world it flowed through. It leaves and flows, but never disappears from the stage that it was in.
So, when we understand that every drop of Light that we have ever revealed has actually revealed at least a million drops of Light, we begin to understand this concept of our actions and our connections bearing fruit and expanding exponentially. As we know, there’s what’s called Direct Light and Returning Light. The Light is never still; it is always coming to this world and going back into the Upper Worlds. If we, as we just spoke about, release our actions, then our world, like in the story of Rav Pinchas ben Yair, receives more and more Light from those actions. Therefore, if our ego does not hold onto every action we do, it creates an unbelievable amount of storage of Light.
It’s very important that we understand this, because there’s no such thing as a small action. If a person opens up the Zohar today and reads one word, and lets go of that action, then a week from now there will be ten or twenty times more Light than whatever Light was revealed in the initial action of opening the Zohar. And imagine in a month from now, in a year from now, that tiniest of actions will have created an unbelievable storage of Light.
It is important to understand this concept: if we let go of our actions, our Light can bear fruit, and we can create an endless amount of Light. Since we know that consciousness is everything, the greater our awareness of this spiritual rule, the greater the effect it will have, and therefore, the greater the Light that we can create, exponentially. It is a tremendous gift of consciousness that we receive on Shabbat Ekev.