Monday, April 28, 2008

Kabbalah: Not Your Regular Metaphor

By: Bnei Baruch

Famed literary works are filled with beautiful metaphors which take readers to the height of imagination by comparing or contrasting notable images. American poet, Robert Frost, for example, used a metaphor of "the road less traveled," comparing one’s life to two roads in the classic poem The Road Not Taken. The metaphor, "all the world is a stage" from the classic Shakespearean play As You Like It, portrays many details about the world through the comparative use of a stage and other theatrical expressions.

Hence, the metaphor is a powerful tool writers use to enrich and convey their thoughts to us—so much so that we are a bit disenchanted when the story eventually ends, wishing that we could just remain in it, living out all the wonderful metaphors. Of course, in the next moment we remember that it’s only a story and there is no such thing. Or is there?

With the literature of Kabbalah, there is indeed an entire world concealed behind the words one reads. In fact, what may seem like a metaphor in Kabbalah actually conveys a real-life phenomenon—a spiritual phenomenon. This means that the text describes only things that we experience and live out with our full, independent participation, and not just in our imagination.

For example, in a book called Pri Hacham (Fruit of the Sage), Kabbalist Yehuda Ashlag (a.k.a. Baal HaSulam), clarifies an ancient Kabbalistic verse that says: "Thou hast hemmed me in behind and before" (Psalms 139).

This Kabbalistic "metaphor" describes an experience that is utterly real: Concealment ("behind") or revelation ("before") of the Upper Force to a person. "Revelation" means that one feels the Upper Force's direct influence—one feels the Upper Force the way it actually is: kind and good. "Concealment" means that one feels the Upper Force's indirect influence; that is to say, one feels the Upper Force as a negative force.

A question arises: Why does the Upper Force express itself this way to a person? One who reads between the lines of the text will uncover the answer: It's because otherwise, we could never feel the Upper Force in any way. In fact, everything that we feel is based on a comparison or a contrast between two opposites. We can identify the feeling of pain for instance, only in that we know what pleasure feels like. Similarly, the feelings of hot from cold, or of hunger from satiation, are known through their opposite sensations. In the same way, we feel the Upper Force only based on two opposite sensations: concealment and revelation of this force.

Hence, the above quote, which may sound like a literary metaphor, is describing a person's sensations of the Upper Force—something completely tangible. In this way, a Kabbalistic metaphor is meant to be experienced, acquired and attained—not imagined as an ordinary literary metaphor.

Bnei Baruch is the largest group of Kabbalists in Israel, sharing the wisdom of Kabbalah with the entire world. Study materials in over 25 languages are based on authentic Kabbalah texts that were passed down from generation to generation.

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