Robin Diamond
Robin Diamond

Sefira and the Redemption: Part 1, Rabbi Mendel Kessin

This lecture takes place in the midst of counting the omer, leading up to the holiday of Shavuot when the nation received the Torah at Sinai. The counting of the sefirot—the Divine emanations is explained as part of the rabbi’s objective to clarify the significance of this special time within the context of the geula-Redemption.

There is a pasuk–verse in parashat—Biblical chapter “Netzavim” which says that the time will come for G-d to return with the Jews and gather them from among all the nations where G-d had dispersed them. The implication is that G-d accompanied the Jews into exile and returns with them. It further says that G-d will have mercy upon them. This stunning supplement implies that, without such mercy, the Jews would be irredeemable. They are undeserving. As the rabbi has mentioned in previous lectures, the Jews are currently at a degraded level, at the 49th level of defilement. Such a level accounts for the current environment wherein suffering is pronounced due to the many kitrugim—prosecutions being brought against the Jews by G-d’s premier Heavenly prosecuting attorney, the Satan. The environment of ever-encroaching Darkness and consequential suffering serves the demands of justice and helps to bring about atonement. And yet, there must be mercy to alleviate the suffering which would be, if truly commensurate with the extent of sin, unbearable. Such is the recipe for rehabilitation without which Redemption could not occur.

Another verse states that even if the Jewish people are at the “ends of Heaven,” even from there, G-d will gather them. It tells us that G-d will not just gather the Jewish people from considerable distances, but will go Himself “into the pit,” so to speak. What is this “pit”? It is the tumah—defilement itself. It can also be regarded as the klippa, that husk, that impediment, that conceals G-d from humanity in this lowest of all possible worlds. This is an awesome gesture of G-d’s compassion, to enter into the sitra achra, a sort of “haven of the Satan” to rescue us.

The language of these actions G-d takes requires further analysis. First, G-d’s actions are described as “yekabetzcha”–will gather you and “yikachecha”–will take you, signifying two phases of the rescue/redemptive process. Then, the verse says “yehaviacha”–bring you (to the Land of Israel to possess it, permanently), “v’hetivcha”–do good for you i.e.make you more numerous than your progenitors, cease further persecutions that diminish Jewish population. Also, G-d will “circumcise your heart and the heart of your children” that there be no further obstacles to knowing Him and cleaving to Him.

These statements are “clearly messianic.” They actually describe the stages of Redemption just as occurred in Egypt and, through analyzing them as prototypes, we can gauge the stage we are currently in and what we can expect to happen. The verse that includes the phrase, “When all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse…” helps us recognize the nature of this time with all its suffering and inherent rescue. The former spurs the latter.

The focus of this lecture is, as mentioned, the dual terms of “to gather” and “to take.” Since this “gathering” takes place within the environment of defilement, it begins in America and Europe, wherever the Jews are, and then we are returned to Eretz Yisroel. The process begins within the exile itself because only G-d can facilitate such a rescue from such degradation. This indicates “how low the Jews have sunk.” Only the power of Divine intervention can do this– enter the tumah—the defilement, to “bring us back. The good news is that we don’t have to figure it out and emigrate and there we will meet Him. It happens in the klippa,” in those environments where most impediments are: America, Europe, everywhere actually, and in Israel today presided over by the Eirev Rav, those Jews who hold sway over the country and discourage Torah. There is no nation as dispersed as the Jewish nation. It is into this vast expanse, “from the farthest reaches of Heaven,” dispersed geographically and spiritually, that G-d enters to rescue us.

Why are Jews so dispersed? It has been the Jewish mission to “take out the kedusha–the sparks of holiness that have also been dispersed among the nations due to the negligence and laxity of Jewish observance. How are those sparks reclaimed?—observance and/or suffering.

What “Kibbutz”—gather Means

Kibbutz—gather means that G-d has to separate us from the nations, dislodge us from our assimilated selves. Jews in America, for example, see themselves first as Americans. So, the first step is to impart a sense of distinction of being Jewish. Secondly, we must be gathered for the serious attempt of removal—spiritually and geographically.

Kicha—take indicates the period of ascertaining holiness. Something will happen indicating we are changing, while still in exile, prompting us to return to the Land of our forefathers. The environment in the Land will be such that it will be regarded as home: free of danger, risk, detriment.

V’hatava—doing good includes bringing those curses upon our enemies that we, ourselves have endured through history. It is both a redemption for us and “payback” to the gentile nations. But the essence of “doing good for us” is that we are brought back to Him.

Different Stages of Reality, Process of Tikkun—Essence of the Journey of the Jew

The first “reality” is that of G-d. That He created the second reality, the neshama—the soul, a zuluso, an “other,” means that something other than G-d is the second reality. This second reality of the soul is the greatest creation, not the angels. The “instruments” of Creation are the sefirot—Divine emanation, spiritual forces, but these are instruments, not the final, grandiose product—the soul. The third reality is the world of spirituality which is the “interface” between Him and the soul. The angels too are intermediaries. G-d “enclosed these in physicality to task us, to enable us to be tested.” This task is to see beyond the veil of geshem–physicality and see the spiritual world. Our physicality is our “garb,” a “costume.” Eventually, we can transform the physical into the spiritual and, ultimately, into that of “primordial man,” a reality which transcends even that of the spiritual realms, what is referred to as olam ha’ba—Future World where humanity’s soul is one with G-d.

Here comes the problem: this is what Adam, primordial man, was to have done: transform the physical into the spiritual and beyond. Instead, he “actualized a new reality” which was there in potential, that of the Satan, the tumah, the realm of the anti-G-d, where one believes that existence is independent of G-d. This is the “essential conflict: ”It is between the self with its belief that one can do whatever one wants, versus the reality that G-d is the only true existence. Originally, Adam’s task was to see beyond the veil of physicality but, due to the sin, he created a force, the Satan, a new obstacle to seeing the spiritual world. That obstacle is the force of zoama, that which enables the Satan to manipulate—with G-d’s sanction of course—the physical universe and interact with it for the sake of justice. This force causes entropy, degradation, degeneration, decay. Now, the “job of a mitaken”—rectifier is to restore the world to its “pre-zoamo state.” It had been mankind’s task but, since the time of Avraham, solely the task of the Jew, to “clean up the filth.” The predominant being to rectify Creation is Mashiach ben Yosef followed by Mashiach ben David. The transformative process is to be completed by the year 6,000, or 2240 on the Gregorian Calendar.

To understand the stages of this transformation, we can examine the events culminating in the Exodus from Egypt. The “tikkun program” is seen there, a prototype in seven stages:

1- Creation of a People: The failure of mankind to achieve the rectification by Avraham’s lifetime resulted in the Flood and the task being given, specifically, to Avraham and his descendants. They lived somewhat removed from the nations around them, the Canaanites principally, and cultivated and refined their service to G-d.
2- Go Down to Egypt: Once fortified for the task, they must reclaim the holiness lost to the Satan by going into the nation of the Satan’s “major agents.”
3- Resist the Temptations of the Surrounding Culture: No longer isolated, they must enter an alien culture, continue to observe G-d’s commandments in a foreign and hostile environment fraught with temptation.
4- Suffer and be Dominated: Failure to resist the alien culture’s immorality, depravity, the tendency to assimilate and become enculturated by them, is paid for in suffering and enslavement which brings atonement. This “bankrupts the Satan” of the kedusha—holiness he gleaned through our assimilation.
5- Redemption (the kibbutz and the kicha): The sparks having been successfully extricated from Egypt, the Jews can be rescued and enjoy the “fruits of redemption.” The gematria of the Hebrew phrase that translates to “leaving with the wealth” is equal to the numerical value of “sparks of holiness.” The redemptive stage is also, as mentioned earlier, referred to as gathering/separating, taking, and being the recipients of G-d’s goodness. In Egypt, the “gathering” was done with the “instrument” of the Torah. It is the only instrument that can be used to convey the purpose of Creation, the concept of a spiritual universe.

What was the “Torah” they we given while still in Egypt to facilitate gathering and separation? It was the ten plagues which were analogues of the sefirot—spiritual forces. Beyond being punishment to Egypt, these were Divine revelations to the Jews. We see this in the plague of Darkness when the Hebrews experienced Light, but not photonic light. Each plague brought its own insight into the nature of G-d. “This was the Torah to wake them up.” This is borne out in the statement about a simple handmaiden enabled to have greater prophetic vision than Yechezkel the prophet.

The kicha was the infusion of holiness marked by the counting of the omer, the 49 days of prophetic insight, the extent of which is beyond what we can imagine. This culminated in visions including and beyond witnessing the splitting of the Reed Sea. This is borne out in the fact that millions of individuals sang, in unison, the Song of the Sea.

6- Matan Torah–Giving of the Torah: G-d appears in His full glory. Other than primordial Adam, no man has ever experienced, solely or collectively, such revelation of G-d Himself. This is equivalent to the transport of the nation to the Land.
7- Messianic Era: Whereas the reception of the Torah at Sinai should have ushered in the messianic era at that time, it didn’t due to the Sin of the Golden Calf. But the stages of that prototype will be repeated. This time, the transformation to that era of profound revelation will encompass the entire world for all mankind.

The replication of these stages will be explained further in the rabbi’s next lecture. “We have already completed stages: 1, 2, 3, and 4…We are heading into stage 5 where all the fun begins… We are about to enter kibbutz; this is where we are holding; the worst is ending. The Darkness is ending and the kibbutz reverses it. It was dark in Egypt and it is dark by us…The makos bechoros was the last straw; it destroyed them all. They no longer had the capacity to do anything…There was no house that didn’t have a dead body.” That plague was, for the Jews, the kibbutz, the revelation. We are now at the point of Moses at the Burning Bush receiving his assignment to be the messiah.

About the Author
Robin is a retired Language Arts high school teacher who taught in the Los Angeles Unified District for 25 years. After retiring in 2010, she hurriedly made aliyah in 2011.
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