KosherTorah School for Biblical, Judaic & Spiritual Studies
Luria/Franklin, the Power in our Hands
by Ariel B Tzadok
Copyright © 2015 by Ariel Bar Tzadok. All rights reserved.
Who would have thought that the American founding father Benjamin Franklin would have had anything in common with Isaac Luria, one of the most revered Kabbalists of Judaism? Coming from totally different lifestyles, these two men, each in their own unique way discovered, and expressed a vital universal truth about God, and our human relationship to the Divine.
Franklin said, “God helps those who help themselves.” This is a simple,
straightforward statement whose meaning should be obvious to most. Many even
mistake this to be a quote from the Bible. Yet, centuries before Franklin, the
Kabbalist R. Hayim Vital recorded in his mystical writings a teaching that
revealed this very same truth.
reliance is common sense, and it is also an ancient Kabbalistic imperative.
Franklin spoke in simple words, common for the everyday man. R. Vital spoke in
the archaic poetic metaphors of the Zoharic Kabbalah. Without a proper
understanding of Kabbalistic terms, the Zohar and Vital's descriptions would
defy rational interpretation. Here then is a synopsis of what R. Vital taught,
along with the key to its decipherment.
R. Hayim taught that in these times of exile, the Partzuf (sefirotic Face) of Zeir Anpin (ZA) is concealed due to the sins of the people. Essentially, Zeir Anpin (ZA) is considered to be in a state of dormancy. Zeir Anpin (ZA) corresponds to the sefirat Tiferet. Tiferet is the spiritual conduit through which the upper spiritual radiance (the Divine shefa) of the Mohin (the sefirotic brains Keter, Hokhma and Binah) flow. All Divine emanation pouring forth from the Unknowable Ayn Sof pass through the Sefirotic Mohin (Keter, Hokhma, and Binah), and into ZA (Tiferet). If ZA (Tiferet) is concealed, or dormant, then the entire lower worlds would be cut off from the source of the Divine radiance (shefa). If this were to happen, everything would cease to exist in a moment. Therefore, this can never be!
In the period of exile, as ZA (Tiferet) lies dormant, God (the Ayn Sof) maintains creation by allowing the radiant flow from above to continue its flow below, but by bypassing ZA (Tiferet) altogether. The radiant sefirotic energy (shefa) flows around ZA, and directly into NOK (Malkhut, the world of form). NOK (Malkhut) receives the upper supernal energies (of the Mohin Keter, Hokhma, and Binah) directly, and not through ZA (Tiferet). Her direct reception of these extraordinary powers enables NOK (Malkhut) to build her own sefirotic Partzuf (face), and to become strong, and complete. The entire scenario of exile is thus part of the Divine plan to build up the NOK (Malkhut), and to complete her in all manners of completion. NOK (Malkhut) receives the supernal Mohin (of Keter, Hokhma, and Binah) directly, and it becomes her right, and responsibility to use them.
It is terribly unfortunate that many of those reading the teachings of the R. Hayim Vital misunderstand, and misinterpret them, considering them to be discussing external matters relating to the spiritual dimensions. The proper way to understand the teachings of the Lurianic Kabbalah (as taught by R. Vital), is as internalized revelations (however metaphorically, and mythically described) of archetypal transpersonal psychology. When understanding the teachings of the Lurianic school of Kabbalah in the light of psychology, we have revealed to us profound lessons about our collective, psychological human nature.
above teaching about the sefirotic Partzufim (Faces) of ZA (Tiferet), NOK (Malkhut),
and the reception of the Divine radiance (Mohin) by NOK (Malkhut) is R. Vital's
revelation of a profound psychological truth, about the reality of the
relationship between God, and humanity. This lesson was summed up two hundred
years (or so) later by Benjamin Franklin, when he said that God helps those who
In the Kabbalah's metaphorical language, NOK (Malkhut) is, among other things, the term used to describe the collective unconscious of the human race (Kenesset Yisrael). Therefore, NOK (Malkhut) refers to the collective soul of man. When R. Vital says that during the exile ZA is, as if, dormant, while NOK is receiving the supernal Divine radiance that would normally be channeled through him, what he means to say, simply put, is that in these times Divine energy is no longer revealed through the form of Biblical style miracles. Rather, Divine energy is placed into human hands, and that we, through human action, can accomplish the same deeds naturally, as were previously performed by Divine miracle (supernaturally).
In Biblical times, God acted directly, miraculously, to bring His plans to fruition. The Bible is full of stories that recount these miracles. Yet, as we all know, since Biblical times, there has been a significant drought of Biblical-style overt miracles. In these days, we declare every bit of good fortune to be a miracle. But the real big earth-shaking events, such as the birth of civil rights, and the discoveries of science have come about through human hands. Franklin would tell us to pat ourselves on the back, and to congratulate ourselves for our human ingenuity. R. Vital would tell us that this is the power of God working within us, and directing us.
I do not believe that Franklin and Vital differ here in any way. God is working within us. All we have to do is to let Him out. The power and wisdom of God is within us. All we have to do is unleash it. God helps those who help themselves. Whether it be Franklin or the Ari'zal, the message is clearly the same.
this message now clear, let us expand on it to cover some practical insights.
Let's face it! Life is definitely not fair! For most of us there are times when life really stinks! Even for religious individuals, there is no security that one's religion (faith or practice) can protect one from all the unfairness, and harm that can (and does) befall everyone. If one is a human being, then it is a fact, it is fate, and it is unavoidable, that one will suffer from things that all human beings experience. There is no cheating fate. Religion can never protect one from human inevitability.
Many turn to religion in the hope that one's faith or religious practices will somehow create a spiritual shield or cocoon, protecting one, and keeping one safe from all types of mishap, and harm. Reality has shown us, with countless examples, that this is simply not true. Those who turn to religion thinking that they are acquiring a magical spiritual protection are almost always sorely disappointed. While faith is a good thing, foolishness is a bad thing. Religion without reason is misguided faith. Misguided faith is both foolish, and bad. Religion without reason is both foolish, and bad.
Let me be blunt. It is not the way of God to swoop down from Heaven to rescue us from our problems. On the contrary, it is we that must save ourselves! This is the way God has ordained things to be. This, more than anything else, is the Divine Will. Although we are all God's children, even God does not want His children to be spoiled, whining brats. God does not endorse the entitlement mentality that is so common among us today. Many indeed do turn to God, and in a way demand from Him all the benefits and values of this world in return for their faith in Him. After all, they believe, why else be religious, if God is not going to provide?
life is unfair! Yes, there are times that life can really stink! But, our
response to these hard, and trying times should never be to complain, and curse
our misfortune. Rather, we should adopt the old saying, “When the going gets
tough, the tough get going.”
God has already given to each of us all the Divine blessings, and spiritual power that we will ever need. All we have to do is unleash this innate, internal power from within ourselves, and use it. Yet, even with all this potential power latent within us, there is no guarantee that our best efforts will result in accomplishing everything that we want, and seek. However, if we do not make the best efforts to accomplish what we want and seek, then we definitely will not accomplish it. God helps us, when we help ourselves. The opposite is also true. God does not help us when we do not help ourselves. This is clearly implied in the teachings of the Lurianic Kabbalah.
Life is not fair, and can certainly at times really stink! So, what should one do about it? One can sit back, weak and broken, and cry out to God to do something for one that one cannot do for oneself. Usually such prayers are left unanswered. It is not because God does not hear the prayers, or is cruel, and refuses to answer them. Rather, it is that God has already answered the prayers before they we even prayed.
God has already given one all the power, wisdom, and opportunity that one will need. All one needs to do is to figure out how to put these puzzle pieces together, and to make them fit in a way that accomplishes that which one wants, and seeks. This however, requires of us both thought, and effort. Many unfortunately are too lazy to make the necessary efforts. For them life is even more unfair. But this is not God's fault. God gave these individuals tools, and the opportunities to use them. If for whatever reasons they are left unused, then this is not God's fault. The fault lies with the individual.
God wants us to prosper. He has given us everything that we need in order to do so. Granted, some walk paths that are easier than others. Some things come easier to some more than to others. Is all this by Divine design, or does human choice play into this? The answer should be clear. Human personality plays a great deal in human accomplishments. Another old saying is, “In accordance to the effort is the reward.” In other words, “What one sows, one reaps.” This is all by Divine design, and is God's plan to teach us human beings how to take responsibility for ourselves, and to work hard to make our world a better place in which to live.
When religion is understood, and taught properly, then this message of self reliance is taught as the way of God. When, however, religion is taught wrong, people are taught to lie back, do nothing, and have faith that God will do it all. This is false faith, and a lie. This false faith contradicts Scripture, the Sages, Kabbalah, and common sense.
Religion has to be taught correctly in order for it to be the transforming, uplifting experience that it is supposed to be. Any religious teaching that perverts this message of self reliance should be summarily rejected. Yes, we rely on God, always! But God is also relying on us!
have to do our share as human beings to think with common sense, and to behave
with common decency. This is the way that we manifest the Mohin of the Sefirotic
Brains in the body of NOK. Don't turn the Kabbalah's words into myths and
legends. Understand them for what they meant psychologically, and thus how they
apply universally. Recognize their universal meaning when echoed in the words of
others. Embrace the message. Walk the path.
There is no promise that life will ever be fair. But there is the promise, and the hope that we can make the best of a situation, no matter how bad that situation ever gets. Instead of looking down and accepting defeat, we must always look up, and struggle for personal victory. This is the way and path of God.
Personal fulfillment is different for each and every one of us. But when we follow common sense, and common morality, then we survive adversity, and seek to thrive. We transform hard times into good times. We remember the adversities of the past, and recognize how we are all graduates of “the school of hard knocks.”
We can, and we do overcome. But it is we who have to do it. We do not sit around waiting for God to act. God is waiting for us! Common sense, and common morals, these are the gifts of God. They are tools in our hands, to make ourselves, and our world a better place.
Please remember, KosherTorah is supported by
your generous contributions.
Thank you for your support, and your interest in our works.
Become a monthly supporter.