Redemption is greater than a simple return to our point of origin: it is a spiraling return which takes us higher. The kabbalist captures this notion in the images of Tzimzum, Shvirah and Tikkun - contraction, shattering, and repair. The first stage – tzimzum, contraction - is the kabbalistic understanding of the idea of creation. In this primary experience of God’s emanation, vessels are created suffused with divine light.

     In the second stage, the vessels shatter, shvirah - they cannot hold the light. This stage parallels the exile from Eden, the Flood, and the breaking of the tablets of the law by Moses. All of these events are understood by the mystical tradition to be operating on two levels. They are on the one hand historical events, and at the same time they represent processes in the spiritual-existential life of every individual. It could be said that our experience of falling out of love is an echo of the first Fall from Eden. The third stage of repair is our attempt, both personally and historically, to return to Eden.

     The Talmud tells us that an angel teaches us all wisdom while we are still in the womb. But upon birth the same angel puts its finger to our lips, and we forget all that we have learned: the cleft above our upper lips is a reminder of all we have forgotten12. It follows that all we learn in our lives is a process of regaining the Torah we knew in the womb. The same three stages are apparent in this image. First, the gift of knowledge - arousal from above - absorbed in the idyllic learning environment of the womb. Then the Fall of birth - our painful and traumatic entry into an uncertain and insecure world where the early knowledge is completely lost. We begin the process of learning. The knowledge that we gain through living - even if identical in content to that which we studied in the womb - is qualitatively higher and is ours.

     This is the pattern of certainty and uncertainty.

     We need to begin by accepting the gift of our core certainties. We must acknowledge the arousal from above. This core certainty is of our essential value and worth. Whether or not this sense of personal value is conscious or even healthy, almost everyone possesses it. It may express itself in confidence, selfishness, or the primal feeling that my survival is worthwhile. For some this certainty is the gift of love from our parents; for others it is hidden in the raw desire to live. Yet for no one is the initial core certainty earned. This gift is a function of our being Homo imago dei: created in the divine image.

     From that gift of core certainty we move into uncertainty. We do not necessarily lose our initial certainty. Rather it fades from our active consciousness. It no longer seems to be enough. We then need to work very hard at re-embracing our simple core certainty of being valuable and dignified beings. This process of reclaiming that primal certainty is the way in which we make it ours - it is how we earn it. The core certainty regained is infinitely higher and deeper than the initial core certainty which faded. The content may be the same - ‘I am somebody’ - ‘I am valuable’ - ‘I am God’s child, lover and partner’. But once this consciousness comes as a result of our often painful effort, as a result of ‘arousal from below’, it is of an entirely different nature than when it is a gift from above. 

Path of Falling in Love