The Secret of the Vineyard

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The Secret of the Vineyard

Michael Berg
October 21, 2020
Like 8 Comments 2 Share

There's a book, a commentary, by the Italian kabbalist Rav Menachem Recanati, who was one of the first to bring wisdom from the Zohar and other writings of the kabbalists. He focuses here on the time after the Flood. It says that Noah began planting a vineyard, and both here and in the Zohar, it becomes clear that something went wrong at this point in Noah's spiritual life. He's called the man of the land, which seems to indicate a lowering of a spiritual state. He became more of the physical, and less of the spiritual. The Recanati says the literal explanation is that Noah decided to plant a vineyard, and was very invested in the physicality.

However, within these words, portion, and story, he says there is a great secret. We find many different places in writings where the Light of the Creator was called the Shechinah, and referred to as the vineyard. Therefore, the Recanati is saying in this portion, when there's a discussion about creating a vineyard, it means that he was in some way desiring to connect to the Shechinah. Noah was trying to create for himself a connection to what's called the positive wine, the positive vineyard, the connection to the Light of the Creator that's true. And it's important to understand that in the vineyard, in the spiritual connection, there are negativity and shells that are always there trying to attach themselves to every one of our spiritual paths and spiritual connections.

So, within this vineyard, which means within the spiritual work, within the spiritual connection, there are two types of connection. And often, one is not aware of which wine he's drinking, to which one he's connecting. And here's the secret: one of them is the protected and concealed wine, which comes from Right Column and brings with it blessings, and is called the cup of salvation. It is the pathway or the connection that brings great Light to the individual. But the other, from the same venue, from the same spiritual path, from the same spiritual connection to the Shechinah, is also another type of path that is awakened, and is considered the wine of negativity, the wine that brings with it darkness. Therefore, even within the spiritual connection, one could be either connecting to what’s called the good wine that brings blessings, salvation, or elevation with it, or connecting to the wine or the path that brings with it darkness, and ultimately, even death.

Noah had come to a point where he realized that simply desiring spiritual connections, simply desiring to do the spiritual work and be connected to the Light of the Creator, which is the secret of the vineyard, is not enough. One has to make sure that there is a positive connection within the spiritual work. Most of us make a distinction between our connection and disconnection; I do something positive that's part of what I see as my spiritual path, and that's a connection with the Light of the Creator. And then there are things we do that we know are negative. But what we're not clear about is that within the path of connection that we believe we have, there is also the potential, and probably already exist, parts of the connection that take us off the path.

If we don't take the time to really delve in, as Noah tried to do here, and see what aspects in our path are not pure and not only of the Light of the Creator, then we will stay on the spiritual path, but it will have elements of darkness and negativity within it. A big part of it has to do with the external aspect of our spiritual work, which means that real spiritual connection needs to be internal. Real spiritual connection needs to be concealed. Most of the revealed parts of our spiritual work have become attached to what's called the negative path, the negative wine. And this is why Noah fell; not because he wasn't trying to do the right thing, not because he wasn't trying to be on the spiritual path, but because he wasn't always delving into this path and saying, “I have to take this part out, I have to take that part out, because all of that has to do with external.”

This is one of the important understandings from the Recanati: all the parts of our spiritual work that are external and aren't purely internal to us and our connection with the Light of the Creator probably have aspects attached to them that can lead a person too much in their own minds to be and stay spiritual, but are really being led off the direct path of the connection to the Light of the Creator.

Noah was not cleansing his pure path. We think as long as we're on the path, all we have to do is make sure we limit the amount of negative things we do. But what we're not always clear about is the need to constantly cleanse our own spiritual path. Noah didn't do that. And therefore, he lost a tremendous amount of Light and blessings that he was meant to have in his life.

Because of this, as Rav Ashlag reminds us all the time, very few people who enter finish on the correct path. As an individual, if we are not constantly delving into the details of our connection, if we're not constantly cleansing our positive path, the chance of completing the purpose for which our soul came into this world is very small. This was the fall of Adam and of Noah. It’s not that they weren't spiritual, it’s not that they did not continue on the spiritual path; it’s that they were not constantly cleansing, asking, “What part of my spiritual connection is internal and only my own? And what part of it is external?”

The great Light revealed in this Shabbat is the need to cleanse our positive path. And I would start with this question about how external it is, asking ourselves if it is important to us what others see or think about our path; is it something that is not pure and internal only to ourselves? Because to the degree that it’s external is to the degree that we are not cleansing it. Noah did not do that, and, as such, all the Light and blessings that his soul was meant to reveal in this world did not come to fruition. It is a great gift, therefore, that we want to draw on this Shabbat: to work at both concealing and purifying our own spiritual connection.

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