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We are currently in what are known as the Ten Days of Repentance, which began on the first day of Rosh Hashanah and end with Yom Kippur. As the kabbalists explain, this time is like the cleansing of the vessel, making it possible that the Light we connected to on Rosh Hashanah can come and manifest in our lives. Therefore, the Shabbat that falls within that time, this Shabbat, Shabbat Shuva, or the Shabbat of Returning, is an extremely important and special one.
"No matter where we've been or how far we've fallen, on this Shabbat, that elevation is available."
On Rosh Hashanah, we connected to what's called the sixth day of creation, the day when man, Adam and Eve, were created. Right after this, they fell into the Desire to Receive for the Self Alone, eating from what’s called the Tree of Knowledge, Good and Evil. In so doing, they lost their certainty and were thrown out of the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve then began the process of correction. And although we still continue the perfection of that correction, they achieved their first stage of it on the following Shabbat, the Shabbat after the creation of man, this Shabbat. On Shabbat Shuva, therefore, the Light needed to elevate after a fall was opened up for all of us; no matter where we've been or how far we've fallen, on this Shabbat, that elevation is available.
The reason such elevation is so important on this Shabbat is because the Light and blessings we received on Rosh Hashanah are only there in potential right now, and we need to create the vessel into which that Light can come; that is the purpose of this Shabbat, and the ultimate purpose of Yom Kippur. An individual who makes the perfect connection on Rosh Hashanah, but does not avail him or her self to the great Light and elevation of this Shabbat and of Yom Kippur remains with all that Light and potential, and is unable to manifest it and bring it into their vessel. That is why Yom Kippur comes after Rosh Hashanah, and why we have this Shabbat: so that all the tremendous Light of potential we awakened has a purified, elevated, and connected vessel into which that Light can come.
So, that's where we begin the understanding of Shabbat Shuva; it is the Shabbat in which we have to elevate. It is the Shabbat in which we have to begin, or are in the middle of, the process of purification. And the greatest focus during this Shabbat needs to be not only on elevation, but also on another idea that is, in reality, connected to it. We speak often about how the ultimate purpose of spiritual work, as Rav Ashlag explains, is on the one hand to come to a state of constant and growing certainty in the Light of the Creator, while on the other, is to elevate out of the Desire to Receive for the Self Alone into a greater Desire to Share. What's the correlation between those two concepts?
"Certainty is given to an individual based on his work of removing the Desire to Receive for the Self Alone."
The answer is that these two things work together, and are actually one and the same. Which means that an individual who is not constantly focused on transforming and elevating the Desire to Receive for the Self Alone into the Desire to Share cannot achieve certainty. And a person who thinks that the sole purpose of spiritual work is to focus on elevating every situation of challenge or darkness into certainty will never be able to do so, because it is only the constant work on transforming the Desire to Receive into the Desire to Share that will enable certainty.
It is an important understanding: certainty is given to an individual based on his work of removing the Desire to Receive for the Self Alone. The degree of one’s lack of certainty is exactly correlated to the degree of selfishness the individual still maintains. Therefore, the only way to grow in certainty is to grow in our transformation; conversely, as we grow in our transformation, we will come to see that we are able to have greater certainty. And if we're not doing the work of removing selfishness, no matter how much we try, we will still lack certainty and be in doubt and fear, because certainty is a manifestation of the work of the removal of selfishness.
And so, this Shabbat, we now understand, is not only a Shabbat of elevation, but also, one of certainty, because they are intertwined. We receive the double and unified gift on Shabbat Shuva of being able to go forward with the consciousness that the transformation of our selfishness is also an elevation of our certainty, and also, more importantly, we receive the assistance to be able to do it.