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Jewish Thinking

Exile Is A Dream: How Can We Wake-Up?

Published on Monday June 17th, 2019

“A song of ascents. When the Lord returns the returnees to Zion, we shall be like dreamers.”[1]

This verse describes what our situation will be at the time of Geula (redemption), when G.d will gather the exiles back to Israel: in exile, up to now, we have been in a “dream”. Let us try to understand why exile is compared to a dream.

The Admur Hazaken, in Torah Ohr [2], explained that dream in its nature allows to bring opposites together. The most absurd situation may seem quite normal in a dream. The explanation is simple. During sleep, the “Sechel” (the intellect) is relegated to second place, then the “Koach Hamedame” (the imagination) dominates, enabling by definition to bring opposites together [3].

Therefore, this metaphor is perfectly relevant so as to explain the concept of exile. Indeed, during exile, the divine spark in the Jew's soul seems asleep and his “intellect” as well. What does it imply? In exile, the Jew can bring opposites together: he can be busy all day with his business, and never think of G.d, Torah or Mitzvot, whereas a few moments earlier, during prayer for example, he experienced a deep spiritual awakening and a willingness to become attached to G.d and His Torah.

These two contradictory situations are only possible in exile, when the intellect of the divine soul is on standby and does not have the capacity to objectively bring to light this absurd situation: how can we on the one hand have the will to attach ourselves to G.d and on the other hand, the moment after, be totally caught up in the vanity of this world?

Indeed, the Admur Hazaken underlined that the Torah enjoins us to take part in this world and to work. But ideally, it should also be considered a divine service. Yet, we see that for the overwhelming majority of people, this is not the case.

But the Lubavitcher Rebbe warned us: we should not let this depress us. Indeed, we may think that if exile is just a “dream”, then our thoughts of Teshuva and our spiritual awakenings may well be pure imagination. It is far from being the case. This duality, this propensity to live in this antagonism in exile is only the negative side of a divine revelation that encompasses an immeasurable intensity.

There are several modalities for divine revelation. In Kabbalistic jargon, one is called Yocher and the other Igulim.

Yocher is a limited contracted divine light. One could even say it has a hierarchical structure, shining out strong at the top and decreasing steadily as the spiritual level lowers.

On the contrary, Igulim is an unlimited light. At this level, there is no definition of top and bottom, no hierarchy. Everything is at the same level. As in a circle (Igul) that has no beginning or end. In this Igulim perspective, even two contrary things can coexist, as we say for example in Tehillim (Psalms) [4]: “Darkness is light [for you]”, or in a prayer we use to recite in the days of awe: “You put on the same level the big and the small”.

That is the level of the divine which will be revealed at the time of Redemption. Nevertheless, such spiritual intensity can not be integrated without appropriate preparation. That is what happens in Galut (exile). During this time, the Igulim level is present but G.d, hides it for our sakes, so that we will not be totally annihilated.

Exile therefore consists in a divine unveiling that appears to be even greater than the one we experienced when the Temple was still standing. However, the darkness of exile allows this divine light to spread unobtrusively up to the moment when we are ready to actually receive it at the revelation of the Mashiach.

Meanwhile, the consequence of these “Igulim”, this light that brings opposites together, is that in time of exile, we can, within the same day or even the same hour, have a deep awareness of what is truly important – Torah and Mitzvot – and the moment after, forget all that, as if it had never existed and be totally caught up in this material world, even up to sometimes go against the Will of G.d!

And still, the Admur Hazaken makes it clear: these spiritual awakenings are not fantasies or dreams. They are true and they originate from our divine soul. But the darkness of exile prevents us from prolonging these awakenings.

Therefore, we must pray for this dream – should we say nightmare? – of exile to come to an end and for us to enter reality: true and complete Redemption…

[1] Tehillim 126.1

[2] Parsha Vayeshev

[3] See Shemoneh Perakim of the Rambam, Chapter 1

[4] Tehillim 139.12

Rav Binyamin SAADA - © Torah-Box Account

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