I remember how everyone looked at me 50 years ago in Belarus when I said that I had to leave there and go to Israel, that I had no other choice and wanted nothing else in life other than to come there, to Israel. People pressured me from all directions, “Don’t leave!” “What will you do there?” “They might put you in jail!” and many other warnings. But I could not listen; I knew I had to go, that that was my way.
After I submitted my application to the Soviet authorities to emigrate to Israel, I became a refusenik for several years. Refuseniks were people who applied for an emigration permit from the former Soviet Union to Israel, but the authorities rejected their application. Eventually, however, I received the permit and made Aliyah (lit. “ascent,” a term that designates emigration to Israel).
But when I arrived in Israel, the story repeated itself. I started asking questions, looking for someone to explain to me why we live, what is the purpose of life. Again, people looked at me awkwardly. “Why? What is it you need?” they asked me. I had to get answers to the questions about the universe and existence, and I knew that here, in Israel, the answer must be found.
In this way, I was led from above to the land of Israel, where, after a long search, on a rainy winter night, I was led to my wise and kind teacher, RABASH. He opened the books of Kabbalah to me and showed me the inner meaning of the teachings of Israel. He answered my questions one at a time, with scientific logic and in perfect order, questions that had been haunting me since childhood.
Like RABASH’s father, the great kabbalist Baal HaSulam, my teacher lived and taught within the Jewish Orthodox community. My calling was to be a cornerstone in bringing the wisdom of Kabbalah to the general public, to secular people. When I began teaching, people had no need for it. “What is it, philosophy?” they asked, “Is it some kind of psychology?” “Why do I need it? Isn’t it a religion?” “Do I have to pray three times a day?” Very gradually, I learned to explain the wisdom, and people began to understand what it is really about.
In part, my own efforts contributed to this process. I was willing to do literally anything to make Israelis realize what a treasure they have. In time, nature took its course and an inner urge to know the wisdom began to emerge in people, a craving to understand where we come from and where we are going.
Today we are approaching the same state that I felt in Russia and in Israel, a state that until today came only to a few. It will become a torrent that will push us into the straits, because if previously, we could settle for an apartment that we bought with great efforts, a good salary, a guaranteed pension, and even occasional trips abroad, soon these satisfactions will no longer motivate us to get up in the morning. We will feel that we cannot go on living like this; material satisfactions will no longer satisfy us.
The worsening situation in Israel will add to the heaviness, and we will feel that we are suffocating, that we are cornered and have nowhere to run, that we must break out, out of the dark and narrow dungeon and into the daylight, to a place where there is spirit!
This narrow place is our life, where we feel alone and our eyes are always looking for fleeting corporeal pleasures. We feel the spirit of life only when we break out from the straits into the feeling of others, when we include our brothers in us, care for them, and unite with them as one.
This duty is hidden in the teachings of Israel, in the wisdom of Kabbalah. It is the method to break out of our own boundaries into the hearts of our friends, and from there to include the whole world, all the people, and even animals, plants, and minerals. Kabbalah is the teaching that leads us into connection with the upper force that creates everything and sustains everything, and includes everything and everyone within it.