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A Shattered Cistern

In college, I took one class in Kabbalah. It’ll be fun! I thought. It was very interesting subject matter after all. It turns out that the Professor didn’t read the papers we wrote and graded only how padded our bibliographies were. It was the only ‘C’ I ever got. I got a failing grade on both papers with each bearing only one comment each “bibliography incomplete.” After discussing this with the department chair, he’s no longer teaching there. It wasn’t an isolated complaint. That aside, I did find the subject very interesting. The story of the shattered vessels is one that I think about often. It’s a creation story and it goes like this:

“At the beginning of time, God’s presence filled the universe. When God decided to bring this world into being, to make room for creation, He first drew in His breath, contracting Himself. From that contraction darkness was created. And when God said, “Let there be light” (Gen. 1:3), the light that came into being filled the darkness, and ten holy vessels came forth, [the ten sefirot, or tree of life] each filled with primordial light.vase-shattering

In this way God sent forth those ten vessels, like a fleet of ships, each carrying its cargo of light. Had they all arrived intact, the world would have been perfect. But the vessels were too fragile to contain such a powerful, divine light. They broke open, split asunder, and all the holy sparks were scattered like sand, like seeds, like stars. That is why we were created — to gather the sparks, no matter where they are hidden.

And when enough holy sparks have been gathered, the broken vessels will be restored, and tikkun olam, the repair of the world, awaited so long, will finally be complete. Therefore it should be the aim of everyone to raise these sparks from wherever they are imprisoned and to elevate them to holiness by the power of their soul.”
How Ari Created a Myth that Transformed Judaism by Howard Schwartz

This on my mind, I have been processing a contraction of my own. Feeling a pulling back in my own life, even if it’s for a good reason, causes darkness. Those ten sefirot, perfectly balanced in theory, shattered and scattered. The beauty, the spark, was flung into the universe all over the place and so it has lost it’s power.

You think perhaps you’ll heal, restore this broken vessel. Perhaps that you could make it whole once more, save the world, but here’s the deal. You just can’t do it overnight, not in an hour or two. You can’t slap some glue on this shattered cistern and immediately throw it in a bag, expect it to hold up to a long journey. It’s just not going to work like that. It’s going to take an exile or many, many exiles. You’re going to have to stay long enough to pick up every piece and then painstakingly glue them together put your arms gently around this vessel and hold each piece in place until it’s whole. That is how it has to work if you want the vessel to be healed again. The sparks are calling out to you and call they will until the world is put right. That is the only way to put the world right. Sit with the cistern while the glue dries, hold the pieces together until dawn, maybe even the next day. That will restore the divine spark, it is the only way.

Hazy by Rosi Golan

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