A Kabbalistic Approach to Spiritual Growth

Kabbalistic Approach to Spiritual Growth: Part 9 – Planting and Nurturing


Another metaphor which parallels the relationship of initiation/inspiration and integration is that of planting a tree and then nurturing it to fruition. This fits particularly well with our earlier metaphor of entering and settling the Land of Israel, as the process of planting trees was the ultimate symbol of claiming the land. This also had to be a two-stage process as initially there was the actual planting, which was then followed by the tending of the trees so they would successfully mature and produce fruit.

To plant a tree in Israel, both literally and metaphorically, is different from doing so elsewhere. This is because the Land of Israel receives the constant attention of God's Providence, as Moses tells the Israelites in the Book of Deuteronomy:

"The land which you are coming to inherit is not like the land of Egypt from you departed, where you planted your seed and watered it on foot like a vegetable garden. The land where you are crossing to inherit is a land of mountains and plains–by the rain of the skies you will drink water. [This is] a land that God, your God, looks after. The eyes of God, your God, are always upon it, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year."

In Israel, God's involvement in the details of each moment and each life is tangible and palpable. Even natural phenomena, such as rain and wind, reveal themselves to be directly regulated by Him. Although God is the ultimate cause of all things everywhere, His influence outside the Land of Israel is concealed within many layers of reality.

The difference between God's relationship to Israel and to other places is like the difference between the direct light of the sun and the indirect light from a lamp–which is powered by electricity, that is derived from fuels, that arose from ancient plant material, that grew through photosynthesis, whose energy comes from the sun. Each intermediate step veils and dilutes the original radiance more and more. In the end, while the lamp does bring light to the world, it is only a trifling imitation of the sun's original glory.

To plant ourselves in God's land–whether literally to immigrate to Israel or metaphorically to enter a realm of God-consciousness–means to initiate an intense experience of feeling God's involvement in our lives. This has its price tag. While we reap the benefits of accelerated growth that comes from a more concentrated dosage of spiritual influence, the cost is that our imperfections are suddenly placed under a hot spotlight. Selfishness, self-indulgence, laziness, and neuroses stand out in their full ugliness and simply cannot be tolerated as they can elsewhere. The purging of these traits and the discomfort–and sometimes suffering–occasioned by that process are thus also intensified.

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