Reb Yakov Leib HaKohain, Founder & Spiritual Director
Even a stone, a plant and an animal possesses a Holy Spark, a fragment of God's shattered wholeness, trapped by increasingly inert layers of soul-stuff, and waiting -- suffering -- to be released by man and returned to the state of Grace from which it comes. It was a lack of this understanding, we submit, and a concentration on releasing the Holy Sparks from the Realms of Mankind -- to the virtual exclusion of those in the Realms of Nature -- that, among other things, resulted in the failure of the Others-Who-Came-To-Gather-Them -- including the so-called "Jesus," Isaac Luria, Sabbatai Sevi, and Jacob Frank -- to succeed in doing so, a failure to succeed in Repairing the Face of God and thereby bring about the redemption of the world.
But how do we know this? How do we know that even the stones, the plants, the animals of God's creation possess a Holy Spark, trapped within a Soul? Because Scripture, both Jewish and Christian, tells us so. For example, consider these passages concerning stones from the Old and "New" Testaments: (Please note that, as a Jew, I quote from the "New" Testament for its archetypal rather than "religious" validity.)
"Balaam's going kindled the wrath of Yahweh, and the angel of Yahweh took his stand on the road to bar his way. He was riding his donkey . . . . Now the donkey saw the angel of Yahweh standing on the road . . . . and she turned off the road and made off across the country. But Balaam beat her to turn her back on to the road. The angel of Yahweh then took his stand on a narrow
path among the vineyards with a wall to the right and a wall to the left. The donkey saw the angel of Yahweh and brushed against the wall, grazing Balaam's foot. Balaam beat her again. The angel of Yahweh moved and took up his stand in a place so narrow that there was no room to pass right or left. When the donkey saw the angel of Yahweh, she lay down under Balaam. Balaam flew into a rage and beat her with his stick.
"Then Yahweh opened the mouth of the donkey, who said to Balaam, 'What have I done to you? Why do you beat me three times?' . . . . Then Yahweh opened the eyes of Balaam. He saw the angel of Yahweh standing on the road, a drawn sword in his
hand; and he bowed down and fell prostrate on his face. And the angel of Yahweh said to him, 'Why did you beat your donkey three times like that? . . . . The donkey saw me and turned aside from me three times. You are lucky she did turn aside or I would have killed you by now, though I would have spared her.'" (Numbers 22:22)
"Then Yahweh opened the mouth of the donkey, who said to Balaam, 'What have I done to you? Why do you beat me three times?' . . . . Then Yahweh opened the eyes of Balaam. He saw the angel of Yahweh standing on the road, a drawn sword in his hand; and he bowed down and fell prostrate on his face. And the angel of Yahweh said to him, 'Why did you beat your donkey three times like that? . . . . The donkey saw me and turned aside from me three times. You are lucky she did turn aside or I would have killed you by now, though I would have spared her.'" (Numbers 22:22)
Here we see that Balaam's donkey, a dumb animal, could see the angel of Yahweh whereas Balaam himself could not and, intuitively understanding its intention, she surrendered to its will three times, out of what could only have been her soul's inherent knowledge of its creator. Now ask yourselves this: Who here has the "higher" soul? The man who cannot see the angel of the Lord, or the dumb animal who does?"
This kind of statement drives the inflated ego of some people crazy. How dare anyone, they assert, imply that an animal's soul -- in this case, that of a dumb ass -- is not only on a par with, but possibly higher than, that of a man? The answer, of course (whether they like it or not) is because that's precisely what the Bible story of Balaam's donkey is saying . . . . for anyone, that is, who has ears to hear it.
But just as Balaam's own bloated ego led him to whip his donkey three times out of his spiritual blindness, so too we dismiss and "whip" our animals out of ours -- never understanding that without their intercession on our behalf we, like Balaam, are threatened by Yahweh's punishment for being unable to see with our spiritual eyes what they can see so readily with theirs. (Numbers 22:22) As Scripture states: "The sparrow has found its home at last, the swallow a nest for its young, [both of which are] your altars, Yahweh Sabaoth, my king and my God." (Psalms 84:3)
This point is made even more forcefully in a Midrash (Oral Scripture) which states:
"Because the dogs of Egypt did not bark when the Children of Israel fled Egypt, Almighty God rewarded them with the [unkosher] hind-quarters of cattle. Therefore, whenever anyone who has eaten unkosher meat comes to the Gates of Paradise, the dogs who stand at guard there say to him, 'You may not enter here because you ate our portion'."
When I was told this Midrash by a Hassidic Rabbi at his Shabbas table, I asked him, "Rebbe, what does this mean?" To which he answered (somewhat impatiently, I might add), "It means that Jews are not to eat unkosher meat." To which I replied, "But Rebbe, does it not also mean that dogs have souls? Otherwise, how could they be standing at the Gates of Paradise? And does it not mean as well that God has given to these very dogs the power to judge among us humans who is fit to enter into heaven, and who is not?" I was never invited back to his Shabbas table again. As I fully expect never to be invited in the first place to some of yours.
May Almighty God grant us the humility to learn His Torah from the animals, just as Jewish Oral Scripture tells us Adam did from them in the Garden of Eden. May he grant us the insight He withheld from his servants Moses, Sabbatai Zevi and Jacob Frank that there are, in the realms of stones and plants and animals -- which is to say, in nature -- Holy Sparks yearning to be returned by us to God, just as there are in the realms of Isaac, Ishmael, Jacob and Esau -- which is to say, in mankind. As the Ba'al Shem Tov, whom we so often quote and will quote again, declared:
"All things of this world that belong to man desire with all their might to draw near him in order that the Sparks of Holiness that are in them should be raised by him back to God . . . . Man eats them, man drinks them, man uses them; these are the Sparks that dwell in the things. Therefore, one should have mercy on his tools and all his possessions for the sake of the Sparks that are in them; one should have mercy on the Holy Sparks."
"The sparrow has found its home at last, the swallow a nest for its young, [both of which are] your altars, Yahweh Sabaoth, my king and my God." (Psalms 84:3)
We see in the scripture on Balaam's Donkey (Numbers 22:22) a dumb animal that could and did literally see, hear, understand and obey the angel of Yahweh, whereas its human owner, Balaam, himself literally could not. So ask yourself the question: Who here has a soul? The man who cannot see, hear, understand and obey the angel of the Lord, or the dumb animal who does?" Then consider this quotation from Jewish Oral Scripture (Torah Sh'Baal Peh):
"Every being -- from the heavenly hosts, to man, to the tiniest creature -- blesses God with the words of the Psalm (89:53), Boruch Yahweh l'olam, omayin v'omayin! -- 'Bless Yahweh forever, amen and amen'." (Midrash, quoted in The Wisdom of the Hebrew Alphabet, Rabbi Michael L. Munk, Mesorah Press, 1983, p. 56)
Given that the "Oral" Torah (set down in the Midrash, Talmud, Zohar, etc.) is considered in Jewish tradition to be equal in authority to the "Written" Torah (i.e., "Old Testament") -- and that both were given simultaneously to Moses on Mt. Sinai (e.g. see Abraham Cohen, Everyman's Talmud, Schocken Books, 1995, pp. 146-149) -- given these ancient Judaic beliefs, what can we deduce about the Soul from the preceding quotation from the Midrash? We can deduce at least the following:
"The Holy Sparks that fell when God built and destroyed the worlds, man shall raise and purify upward from stone to plant, from plant to animal, from animal to speaking being [from speaking being to God] -- purify and raise the Holy Sparks that are imprisoned in the world of shells . . . . And who with the kavannah of his spirit is able to raise the Holy Spark from stone to plant, from plant to animal, from animal to speaking being, he leads it to freedom and no setting free of captives is greater than this. It is as when a King's son is rescued from captivity and brought to his father." (The Ba'al Shem Tov, "Instructions in Intercourse with God," trans. by Martin Buber in Hasidism and Modern Man, Horizon Press, 1958, pp. 187-188)
But the intent of this Tikkun is neither for the animal whose soul is purified and raised, nor for that of man who purifies and raises it; it is for God's redemption and not his own that man is given such a task by God himself:
"[Kabbalistic] Judaism regards each man's soul as a serving member of God's Creation which, by man's work, is to become the Kingdom of God; thus, no soul has its object in itself, in its own salvation. True, each is to know itself, purify itself, perfect itself, but not for its own sake -- neither for the sake of its temporal happiness nor for that of its eternal bliss -- but for the sake of the work it is destined to perform upon the world." (Martin Buber, ibid, pp. 165-166)
And, again, what is this "work" that man is "destined to perform upon the world?" It is this: "The Holy Sparks that fell when God built and destroyed the worlds, man shall raise and purify upward from stone to plant, from plant to animal, from animal to speaking being [from speaking being to God] -- purify and raise the Holy Sparks that are imprisoned in the world of shells." That is to say, it is Tikkun, the theurgy by which the Face of God is repaired by man. As C. G. Jung once wrote in 1954 to the first Jewish member of his original inner circle, and my mentor, James Kirsch:
"The Jew has the advantage of having long since anticipated the development of consciousness in his own spiritual history. By this I mean the Lurianic stage of the Kabbalah, the breaking of the vessels and man's help in restoring them. Here the thought emerges for the first time that man must help God to repair the damage wrought by the Creation. For the first time man's cosmic responsibility is acknowledged." (Collected Letters: Vol. 2, p. 155)
There are four "realms" in which this "restoration of the vessels," this redemption of God himself, is to be performed by returning Him to His pre-mundane unity through the mystical practice of Tikkun; they are:
2. Esau's Realm
3. The Realm of Balaam's Donkey
4. Balaam's Realm
"All that man has -- his servants, his animals, his tools -- all conceal Holy Sparks that belong to the roots of his soul and wish to be raised by him back to their Source." -- The Baal Shem Tov
When I was a boy, I remember seeing a newsreel or something of Adolph Hitler and his German Shepherd dog -- a very unusual breed of German Shepherd dog -- that he called his "Juden Hundt," or "Jew Dog." I never forgot that, and when I began my life with Sabbatai Zevi I decided I would someday find exactly such an animal and make it, in fact, a "Jew dog" -- that is, raise up the Holy Spark within it back to its Source.
Many years ago, I found just such a German Shepherd, almost an exact duplicate of the one I remembered seeing with Hitler. So I bought her and named her Dodi, the Hebrew word for "beloved." At the time, I was under the Sabbatian "Masa Duma," or "Burden of Silence" -- living, practicing, teaching and even sitting on the Bais Din, or "Rabbinic Superior Court," as an Orthodox Jew while leading a small Jewish congregation of covert Sabbatians as their non-ordained "rabbi," or spiritual teacher.
As a result, I outwardly practiced all the Jewish observances, especially those of the Sabbath. During the Sabbath meal -- which is actually a profoundly mystical sacrament in which bread and wine are infused with the Ruach HaKodesh, or "Holy Spirit," by various blessings and rituals -- I would include Dodi, giving her small amounts of consecrated bread and wine as if she were a participant in the rite.
She would always lie in the same place when I said, "Dodi, go to your Shabbas place." And when I would say, "Dodi, come get your motzee (consecrated bread); come get your kiddush (consecrated wine)," she would leave that place and come to the head of the table where I was making the Shabbat.
One night a rabbi I had recently met came to visit. Although still a young man, he was a Chassid and a prominent teacher of Kabbalah. He had no idea about my Sabbatian activities or, for that matter, about Dodi so when he came through the door he was startled to see such a huge dog in the house.
Now Dodi was very protective of her family and not initially friendly to strangers, especially strangers who looked as strange as Rabbi "N" with his black caftan, long beard, etc. Typically, she would menace strangers, barking at them to let them know they had better watch their step in her house.
But it was different when Rabbi "N" came to visit that night. Instead of charging at him and barking ferociously, Dodi ran to where he was sitting -- head down and tail between her legs -- and lay down gently at his feet. Rabbi "N" (who actually disliked dogs and didn't approve of them in Jewish households) looked at her intently, while shaking his head in puzzlement, for what seemed like a very long time. Finally, he said to me: "In this dog there is the soul of a great Tzaddik [Jewish holy man] who sinned and whose soul was forced to return for redemption."
We finally had to put Dodi down; she was old and paralyzed and unable to function. But whenever I think of her, I remember what Rabbi "N" had said that night, and I remember also the words of the Baal Shem Tov: "All that man has -- his servants, his animals, his tools -- all conceal Holy Sparks that belong to the roots of his soul and wish to be raised by him back to their Source."