the loophole

The Baal Shem Tov shared something very deep with all of Judaism when he explained that everything we witness is a vision of Godliness and at the same time, everything we witness is a reflection of what is going on in our own spiritual progress.

For years I've been trying to internalize this, but its so hard to really look with eyes to see such things. Every time someone does something disturbing or inappropriate, to be able to look into myself and find where I am their confederate, their comrade in that particular failing, that's really painful. This is the first time I've ever found a teaching of the Baal Shem Tov to be depressing.

So, first of all, I have to correct myself in this habit. Tzaddikim can work on a level where they are looking at all the bad around them and working to purify that bad within themselves, until all around them all they see is good. If we were to try to attain such a level straight away, we would end up hermits, hiding ourselves from the world in the hope of not finding anything too revolting that might let us glimpse behind the curtain of ourselves. Instead, this task falls upon us in a different way. Instead of worrying about all the awful things we are being made to witness, we should be seeing every special moment and identifying within ourselves those same sparks of goodness. After all, everything we see is a reflection of what is going on within us.

Take this lesson along with the lesson of Rebbe Nachman (of Breslov) about finding the points of good within each of us, starting with ourselves. Now we see how finding the good in our every day experiences allows us to find the good within ourselves, which in turn brings us over to the side of totally good, until we will no longer have any dark spots left within us and we won't have to be made subject to any gruesome spectacles.

Ok, so once we are on our way there, aren't we eventually going to reach a point where we will have to start acknowledging the other (ie. not the good stuff) things to which we are made privy?

Nope. I just came across this teaching in Likkutei Moharan (I:55:7) of Rebbe Nachman where he explains that when one properly negates oneself, all that is left is The King, HaShem, and then anything at all that may seem revolting or upsetting is taking place in the presence of The King. The King created the whole world for His Honor, His Kavod. So, no matter what we may witness, it is our task, through negating ourselves, to seek out how it is that this seemingly repulsive experience is actually for the Honor of The King. We should seek out the King's honor everywhere.

I was so excited to find this way out of the conundrum. We never need to focus on the harsh things, when we are still working on perfecting ourselves, we can ignore them and focus on our good experiences. Finally, when we have overcome ourselves, when we see through ourselves to the glory of HaShem, then when we do see anything that might be upsetting or difficult to observe, we can rest assured that it has redeeming qualities and seek them out, maintaining our constant service of finding the sparks of good, the light of Godliness in every experience.


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