Becoming Part of the
Beyond our immediate goal of waiting for the Messiah, what, ultimately, are we waiting for? According to Isaiah, we wait for "that promise of the future which God has prepared for us"–the realization of the essence of God and the perfection of our souls, both individually and collectively–a reality which already exists in a spiritual dimension above time.
Yet, if this is so, it would seem that we are waiting for something that is impossible. The essence of God negates revelation. His ways can be known, but His essence cannot. The entire history of creation is based on this principle. According to Kabbalah, there is a level where God exists in a state of Endless Light (Or Ein Sof), where all is uniformly and absolutely saturated with His radiance. Relative existence–form and physicality–cannot exist there, being overwhelmed and annihilated by this power of illumination, in the same way that the individual lights of the stars are washed out by the more potent radiance of the sun. In order to create the physical universe, God needed first, from our perspective, to withdraw His Infinite Light from a particular area and to create a dark, womb-like vacuum. Into this "empty space" he radiated a thin ray of light–the unfolding and dissipation of which is the history and evolution of creation as we know it.
For us, to long for the essence of God, for His Infinite Light, is to desire that which cannot be contained or apprehended by a created being, to seek that which will consume our very existence. Nevertheless, nothing else will satisfy this passion. By exertion of faith and effort below, we hope to arouse the gift of light and insight from above, to draw that which is prepared yet concealed into revelation in the here and now. Inspiration awakens this taste or passion to reveal and experience God, initiating us into the discipline of "waiting," while proper integration develops our selflessness.
When we are first inspired, we feel the exhilaration of experiencing an impression of God beyond what we have known before. At this point we are susceptible to delusions of grandeur as we reflect upon the wonder of what we have felt and learned. Kabbalah cautions us to counter this conceit by remembering the vanity of human effort and the insignificance of our accomplishments. After all this, "What (mah) do we really know? What (mah) has our quest unearthed?" This is the way of selflessness–to double and redouble the effort of purging the ego. In so doing, we actually become part of the Messianic consciousness for which we wait. For what (mah) are we if not our collective perfection that will become a living reality in the Messianic end of days?
The Messiah's delay is only the appearance from without, for the reality within is one of steady progress. So it is with us. Often change manifests itself in fits and starts. Efforts and struggles may seem to have no lasting effect for long periods of time and yet, invisibly, their impact is accumulating on subconscious levels. It looks like we have made no progress, yet at some critical point the balance tips and a major, quantum leap of growth and consciousness becomes apparent. This initiation into a still deeper level of knowing God must again be deflected from feeding the ego's sense of self-importance, and the spiral continues.
The initial task of the educator to inspire his students is an external, circumstantial one of exposing the students to a new taste in such a way as to arouse their interest. The educator baits the hook, sometimes with candy and sometimes with more sophisticated and subtle inducements–whatever will work to excite his students' curiosity. Then the educator pulls back, drawing the students into a more responsible role of actively pursuing their interest. This is the delicate balance of pushing and pulling that is the theme of education. The students learn that they must wait for each new layer of understanding by internalizing their already acquired knowledge of Torah and by contemplating more deeply those things that are already revealed.
Through these efforts, the students' longing becomes more poignant, more precise, and more potent. Finally, the educator reveals that the limiting factor pacing this process is not age or intelligence level, but rather the students' degree of selflessness and surrender to God.
With time, the students learn that each progressive revelation of truth is a gift of grace to those who find favor in the eyes of God through deep, sincere, submission of soul. When the ego is evicted, that "space" becomes immediately filled with the sweetness and light of God. In the midst of struggle, the task of dismantling the ego seems to demand excruciating self-sacrifice, yet when they finally taste the sweetness of success, the deepened sense of union with God more than compensates.