How the Kabbalah Understands Suffering 1

The General Nature of Suffering

In order to deal effectively with the reality of suffering, it is very important to get a clear perspective on what suffering actually is from a spiritual vantage point.

The true root of suffering is, in essence, a disruption of the soul’s ability to express itself fully and to live out its purpose in being present in life.

The main purpose of existence from the Kabbalah’s perspective is the evolution of the soul, which occurs through using our innate ability to manifest continually the infinite creativity each of us possesses as unique expressions of the Divine. This process can, however, be impeded, thereby creating suffering.

The soul is in a state of discomfort, anguish or pain, if its capacity to manifest fully in the world is disturbed, hindered or blocked. Moreover, the greater the disruption, the greater the distress one experiences and hence the more difficult the process is of living a fulfilling and joyful life.

The contention in Kabbalist thought is that the soul knows exactly what its life purpose is and is always intent on manifesting it through all aspects of life. The Kabbalah teaches that when we experience joy, satisfaction and contentment in whatever we are doing, we are in alignment with the soul, with the divine within ourselves.

However, because we as human beings are endowed with free will we can make positive choices or negative ones. This, in and of itself, is not a problem. Rather it is a gift. We learn and grow through the process of experiencing what works and what does not. We evolve as we come to understand and internalize what is truly beneficial and what is decidedly destructive. This learning is absolutely essential to soul growth.

So what engenders suffering?

The emergence of suffering arrives when we become fixated on the negative and begin giving it exaggerated significance. By overemphasizing our experiences and focusing on our subjective reactions, the effect is uniformly negative. We automatically impart a concentration of energy to our relationship with our life events that is disruptive, distorting and ultimately painful.

What is important to understand here is that a large part of our suffering in life is self-induced. Under such circumstances, we need to take responsibility and consciously take steps to either prevent or reverse such torment through conscious choice and mindful action.

When we are faced with suffering, the disruptions producing it take place on the lower three levels of our experience, the intellectual, emotional and physical planes, not on the spiritual per se. As incarnated beings, we are present in the world, though not “of the world”. The soul operates on the material plane via these three extensions of itself, through the three dimensions of our consciousness. That is, the soul experiences life and expresses itself through mind, emotion and physicality, which are extended modalities of spirit into the world.

Rabbi Steven Fisdel

What causes suffering at it root is distortion of the natural flow of our spiritual energy and the disruption of its ability therefore to manifest fully and effectively in our lives. So, if we become aware of how some of suffering’s primary causes commonly manifest, we are then in a position to rectify the problem and move forward with our lives purposefully and joyfully.

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