“The meaning of life is to fix ourselves, and the world, so we can open ourselves up to others and become vessels to receive God’s endless love”
~Rabbi David Aaron
What is life about? The Kabbalah teaches that the essence of life — the very theme of life — is love.
What is the motivating drive in the world? What is driving us all, pushing us through? It is love. Ultimately, all people want to love and be loved. The funny thing is some of those popular songs are right –“Without love I am nothing, nothing at all” is actually true. And “All you need is love, love, love” is also true.
But it’s not so easy. It’s a lot of work. Just how the Torah and Kabbalah teach us to do this is what we will examine in this and upcoming articles. To start off we need to understand how you and I came to be – the very dynamics of our creation.
The Kabbalah teaches that in the beginning, all of existence was the simple light of the Endless One (God). When the Endless One wanted to create the world, He caused the withdrawal of the light from the center, creating a spherical vacuum, creating space.
Within this space, God created vessels. Unlike the Endless One, the vessels were finite. And while the vessels were created by and of the Endless One, they were also different from Him.
Being vessels or containers they were designed to receive, in contrast to the Light, which gives. Then the Endless One projected a thin ray of endless light into the vessels. But each vessel was unable to independently receive the light, and so they broke. And existence went into the state of chaos.
The Kabbalists tell us that life, the world and human beings are the broken vessels, and that what the goal of life is to mend ourselves and the world so that someday we may be able to receive the light without breaking. The Kabbalists call this notion tikkun – meaning mending or fixing.
The Kabbalistic story is essentially the story of love. Life is the love story. Consider the parallel in your life, in the modern world, today. In the beginning, there is just you. In order to love, you need to withdraw yourself from the center and create a space for another.
Love starts only when we move ourselves out of the way to make room for another person in our lives.
In other words, if you are self-centered you are not ready for love. If you are self-centered you can’t make enough space to nurture another. And true love is not only creating that space within your life for another, but also giving him or her that space and respecting and maintaining that space. It is being a part of another life and removed from that life at the same time.
Everybody needs space. I once had a friend who would speak too close to my face, and by the end of a conversation with him I would find myself pinned against the wall. All along I had been inadvertently backing away from him, but he would only step closer and closer. He lacked the sensitivity to see that he was invading my space.
Now, once we’re able to withdraw ourselves from the center and create space for another, we must develop the keen sensitivity for just how uniquely different our partners are. We tend to see what we have in common; we tend to overlook the differences.
This is what people mean when they say “love is blind.” But true love is not blind. True love is seeing — seeing the differences, the otherness, the good and the bad.
To See and Respect
True love is seeing and still loving. In Hebrew, the verb “to see” is related to the verb “to revere/ respect.” And that is what seeing with the eyes of true love means. True love requires that we see and accept and respect those we love for who they are, without projecting our dreams and fantasies upon them.
This is very hard; because we tend to want to fit those we love into our imaginary pictures of love. And if they don’t quite fit, we want to alter them to fit. But if we succeed in seeing not just what we have in common with those we love, but what makes us different, and if we appreciate and honor those differences, then we can take the next step toward giving of ourselves to that person.
At the same time, we must enable our partners to do the same for us, which means allowing them to make a space in their lives for us, allowing them to acknowledge our otherness, allowing them to give of themselves to us.
It’s like hugging. When you hug another person you create a space with your arms to include him or her. But, of course, it must be in a manner, which allows that person the freedom of opening his or her arms to include you. If that simultaneous giving and receiving doesn’t happen, the relationship can’t work. It is not love. It is something else, and the something else only creates friction and unhappiness, and eventually the relationship breaks up.
Love is giving of one’s self to another. That is what the Kabbalistic story is telling us. The endless light of God is endless love and creation was and continues to be an act of love.
The breaking of the vessels represents our inability to independently receive the light of love. And the mending of the vessels is the challenging process of rebuilding ourselves within relationships, so that together we can receive and enjoy the endless light of love.
The 4 habits of highly effective lovers are:
1. Making space (and time) in your life for others
2. Respecting their unique otherness
3. Giving of yourself to them
4. Letting them love you and do the same