Yakov Saacks
Yakov Saacks

A spiritual vaccine — a Kabbalistic insight

The world has been turned upside down this past year by the Covid-19 virus causing a global pandemic. There is hope that things will be getting back to semi-normal, as more and more vaccines are getting to the market. In the United States, there are three vaccines out there and if AstraZeneca is approved, there will be a fourth. I looked up the definition of vaccine in Google, and it stated the following: “a substance used to stimulate the production of antibodies and provide immunity against one or several diseases.”


As a student of Chassidic and Kabbalistic philosophy, I have always studied that whatever exists in the physical realm/world must exist in the spiritual realm. In fact, the exact teaching is that because it exists in the spiritual it, therefore, finds its way down and manifests in some way on terra firma.

Having been taught the above as fundamental teaching, one has to ask, what would be considered a spiritual inoculation from contaminants that could possibly have a deleterious effect on one’s soul/energy?


Before we get to the vaccine, we need to know the potential sickness so that we can develop the proper ingredients to counter the spiritual virus. What is considered spiritual struggles anyway? The top few that I can think of are apathy, despair, selfishness and arrogance. We will dissect them shortly, but these aforementioned are killers of the soul and need to be avoided at all costs.


The Kabbalah teaches us that the one who is apathetic toward something positive is much worse than the one who is passionate about something negative. The explanation is such. Passion is synonymous with being alive. Therefore, if a person is passionate, even though it is toward something negative, this passion can be channeled and re-directed toward good. Apathy, however, is not directable. It just is. Interesting to note, the beginning of most marriage breakups is because one spouse has become apathetic about the marriage.


Another spiritual failing is despair. It accomplishes nothing but harms everything. It must be avoided at all costs. Even when someone feels that all hope is lost, it must not lead to despair. The synonyms for this word say it all: anguish, desolation and gloom. What good does it do to dwell on anguish and gloom? The Kabbalah implores us to dig deep and find something — anything in your life — to be joyous about. The antidote to despair, states the Kabbalah, is not simply to not despair but be actively joyous. Take a look at the antonym for despair, it will state joy. Admittedly, easier said than done.


For a person to only be their own focal point in their life is inconceivable. There need to be others to care about. It is tried and proven that when a person lives alone for many years, that individual does not care about anyone else and is usually a curmudgeon. It is also equally proven that when a person has a spouse and/or kids, they tend to be more giving, compassionate and selfless. It is important to have someone to care for and be cared for.

There is a great quote from the illustrious Rabbi Hillel. ”If I am only for myself, who am I.” Rabbi Hillel is essentially saying that if my concentric circle revolves around I, then what type of person are you? I was told that the previous Lubavitch Rebbe commented upon emigrating to the USA, that he finds it strange that when the I is written alone it is capitalized, but when it is together with other letters, it is less obtrusive and lowercase.

We need to care about others as it is the best thing for you.


The worst of the worst is arrogance. It leads to anger, hatred, bitterness and antagonism. It is such a bad spiritual failing the Talmud equates it with idol worship as it worships the self and not God. This is worse than just simply being selfish, in fact, selfishness on steroids. A selfish person just focuses on themself and gets irritated when having to include someone else. An arrogant individual is a home breaker, ruins friendships and hurts people due to their holier than thou attitude.


So, what is inoculation? Where do we find the vaccine to help us not fall into the spiritual abyss? Interestingly, in my continued Google search of the definition of vaccine, Google adds additional few words aside from what we already quoted. It reads “prepared from the causative agent of a disease.”

I told you that everything in this world exists because it is located in the upper world. Google has no idea how in sync it is with spirituality.

The solution, the vaccine lies in the disease itself. Take all the above negative qualities that you possess and use them to overcome these spiritual failings.


Be apathetic to apathy. Don’t allow yourself to go down that rabbit hole. Force yourself to use and abuse your apathetic tendencies for the good. Be uninterested in gossip. Be indifferent to political garbage that takes off hours of one’s life. Be unresponsive if someone is goading to you. You get the idea.


Despair when you see despair. Translate the hopelessness into action. Take away someone’s despair by giving them hope, love and care. Use the despair that you see in someone to make you do something about it to end the misery and pain. There is a Chassidic adage that goes something like this, “Sighing alone will not bring us salvation. Sighing is a doorknob that unlocks the heart and opens the eyes, so that one will not sit idly with folded arms.”


Be selfish but not for yourself but for others. Think about what you would like to do today to treat and pamper yourself, and instead give it to someone else as a gift. By doing this you are using and abusing your selfish tendencies to help someone. Taking the negative and inoculating yourself against it. The irony here is that by doing something for someone, YOU will feel good.


Use your ego to be a leader or an activist to help in some good cause. Practice your arrogance to demand an end to racism and sexism. We often see the young Chabad Yeshiva boys on street corners of New York City asking someone if they are Jewish and then urging them to do a Mitzvah. This takes audacity, chutzpah and boldness (trust me). The Code of Jewish Law teaches us to be bold as a leopard and courageous as a lion to do the will of God.

Use your spiritual vaccine for good.

Please feel free to share.

About the Author
Rabbi Yakov Saacks is the founder and director of The Chai Center, Dix Hills, NY. The Chai Center has been nicknamed by some as New York's most Unorthodox Orthodox Center.
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