Each of us is a piece in a puzzle that was once a single common soul. That soul was shattered into 7 billion pieces and now it is time for correction—to regroup the pieces
No one likes to be stuck in a traffic jam, to wander in crowded shopping malls or wait forever in line for the cashier at the supermarket. Sometimes we wonder why these crowds exist.
While we might agree to share the world with a few friends and kin, and perhaps with a few more dozens or hundreds of people, the need for the other seven billion is less clear. Indeed, why are there so many people in the world?
Brazilian Coffee and Swiss Watches
Common sense shows us that having relationships with other people is to our benefit. If we were alone in the world, eating even a slice of bread would require that we sowed the wheat, grew it, harvested, ground, kneaded, and baked it. We’d even have to build the oven. Instead, we can go to the nearest grocery store and buy it for a few dollars. And how much time do we work for it? Probably just a few minutes.
Presently, we work several hours a day and enjoy the products of the rest of humanity. We enjoy great Belgian chocolate, American fast food, Swiss watches, and Brazilian coffee. The Chinese make toy cars for our children, the Japanese make the real cars that we drive, and we make a living and benefit from all these.
But is this a good enough reason for so many people to exist? Here’s an interesting question: if there were one billion people fewer in the world, would we feel that something was missing?
In the Kingdom of Desire
Kabbalists tell us that we all come from one soul, called “the soul of Adam ha Rishon” (The First Man), which was created by the Creator. They also explain that the Creator’s nature is that of complete love and benevolence, and that He created the soul of Adam ha Rishon with an entirely opposite nature: a desire to receive delight and pleasure.
The task of the soul of Adam ha Rishon is to become similar to the nature of the Creator, becoming as loving and giving as Him. To the extent that the soul succeeds, it will be awarded the greatest pleasure in reality.
Pleasure before Contact
Kabbalists explain that when the soul of Adam ha Rishon was created, it was in contact with the Creator. But the pleasure it derived from this contact was restricted, since it did not come through the soul’s independent effort.
The Creator, on the other hand, wanted the soul of Adam ha Rishon to evolve on its own. For that purpose, in a premeditated act, he exposed it to greater pleasures. When the soul received these pleasures, it discovered how much it enjoyed them, actually preferring these pleasures to the contact with the Creator. In consequence, the attitude of this soul toward the Creator changed immediately and it lost contact with Him.
This experience can be compared to a person who is praying to win the lottery, and promises that if he wins, he will donate half of the win to charity. But once he wins the lottery, the pleasure he is exposed to overcomes him and his priorities change. He “forgets” his promise, and suddenly finds many avenues of investment that are much more appealing than donating the money to charity.
Fragments of Pleasure
As a result of the disconnection from the Creator, the soul of Adam ha Rishon was disconnected from the spiritual world and shattered into many fragments, called “particular souls” or “individual souls.” According to the wisdom of Kabbalah, this process is called “the breaking of the soul of Adam ha Rishon.”
The soul of Adam ha Rishon became fragmented into many particular souls because the burden of all the pleasures that appeared to it was too much for one soul to carry while maintaining contact with the Creator, the giver of the pleasure.
As the process continued, souls came down to this world and clothed themselves in human bodies. Similarly, if we want to move a weight of one ton, we cannot ask a single person to do it. But if we divided the ton into a thousand little weights of one kilogram, and gave a thousand people one piece each, we could easily move this weight.
In much the same way, after the breaking, each soul was awarded very small pleasures compared to the huge pleasure that the common soul had initially experienced. Now, each piece would gradually learn how to receive its intended pleasure while maintaining contact with the Creator.
There is a story by Baal HaSulam that concisely expresses the breaking process and its purpose: “There is an allegory about a king who wanted to send a large sum of gold coins to his son, who was overseas. Alas, all the people in his country were thieves and deceitful, and he had no loyal messengers. What did he do? He divided the coins into pennies and sent them with many messengers. Thus, the pleasure of stealing was not worth blemishing the king’s honor.”
--Baal HaSulam, Tree of Life
Ceasing to Reincarnate
Today we are already past the breaking stage. Each of us is a messenger of the king, and we are all carrying pennies from the Creator’s treasure. Our mission is to do what the king ordered, to resume contact with the Creator while we are still alive. Until we place the coin in its place, we will continue to come back into this world.
Kabbalists refer to this process as Tikkun (correction). The meaning of Tikkun is the ability to incorporate in our lives the awareness that we are all on the same journey, aspiring to the same goal.
The Tikkun unfolds in two primary stages. In the first stage, we repeatedly return to this world without knowing the purpose of our lives. The first stage prepares the ground for the next stage, when the desire awakens in us to know the purpose of our lives. Only after this awakening begins do we consciously embark upon the Tikkun.
However, we can accelerate the process. Kabbalists, those who have already traversed the correction process, can teach us how to correct our own pieces. When we do, we will climb to the top of the spiritual ladder and will no longer have to reincarnate into this world.
The Whole is (Much) More than the Sum of Its Parts
The purpose of studying the wisdom of Kabbalah is to help each of us, pieces of the soul of Adam ha Rishon, to restore our unity in the quickest possible way. When each of us corrects his or her share, we will thus realize the goal for which we came into this world and we will be awarded tremendous pleasures, since the whole is worth much more than the sum of its parts.
When the correction mission is completed, all the pieces will join into a single, great soul, the corrected soul of Adam ha Rishon. A wondrous light filled with love, the light that the Creator wanted to give while Adam’s soul was still whole, will shine in our souls. This (corrected) state is called Gmar Tikkun, or the “end of correction.”