Last week I took a little trip to New York to spend some quality time with some friends from my Jersey days. My talented Interior Designer friend, Margalit, recommended that we check out the newly refurbished Hudson Yards neighborhood on the West Side of Manhattan, featuring the recently opened “Vessel”.
This was all very karmic to me, because I had just been considering writing about the Kabbalistic concept of “vessel building.”
Although, I by no means claim to be an authority on the subject, (see more about this at Chabad.org,) I wanted to share what I have gleaned from listening to my daily classes by Gedale Fenster*, for over a year, in the most simple terms possible, as I understand them, and as they have helped me, in the hopes that they will also help you to convert your challenges, and even your traumas, into strong vessels for the receiving of light, joy, and meaning into your life.
So, with that being said, and with only the best and holy intentions, I ask Hashem to help me find the correct and pure words to share this information.
Here we go:
Let’s start first with the world “Kabbala”, which literally means “receiving.” We are all searching for ways to live joyful and meaningful lives…to receive Hashem’s infinite light. The problem is that if we are not prepared to receive, we end up missing the “flow”, or even blocking it from coming into our lives.
Imagine you’re in a desert and you’re dying of thirst. All of the sudden it starts raining, so you quickly open your mouth to receive as much water as possible. But it’s not enough. Your mouth alone is not enough to receive the amount of water you need. You will need to figure out how to create a vessel large enough to catch the rainwater and quench your thirst.
We are all “dying of thirst” when it comes to yearning to understand why we are here, why we have to go through what we’re going through, and how to find meaning, and ultimately joy and satisfaction in our day to day existence.
The problem is, we are each plopped into this world without an adequate vessel. And as we grow up and live our lives, we have experiences that don’t make sense and even hurt us. For most of us we carry this pain far into adulthood, leaving us tired, angry, sad, confused and lost. We busy ourselves with loads of meaningless distractions like empty entertainment, overindulgence of food, obsession with body, substances, bad relationships etc. just to survive. We are all so thirsty, many of us feeling depressed or anxious much of the time.
The good news is, at all times there is an abundance of light and goodness raining down upon us, and it is infinite and endless. After all it’s from G-d! We just aren’t able to perceive and receive it yet.
So how do we build that vessel big enough to receive the light and meaning we are all searching for?
Let’s start at the beginning. Before Hashem created the world, His light was Ein Sof (endless), but the materialistic aspects of the universe were not able to receive all of it, and therefore, it shattered into “shards” that were spread all over the universe. Now, through this “breaking of the vessel” came about all the darkness that is also a part of our world. Including all of our challenges, pain and trauma.
So first, let’s understand that this is the formula of creation. Through constriction and concealment comes light. And creation is happening at all times. Here are some examples:
Before a baby is born, it has to travel through an extremely painful constriction for both the mother and the baby.
Before a tree can grow, a seed has to go deep into the dark earth, break apart, and only then begin to grow.
Before a butterfly can roam freely, it has to almost die and then go through a period of constriction inside a cocoon.
And before we can live unconditionally joyous lives, full of meaning and without fear and anxiety, we all have to go through our own personal challenges, custom made just for us, offering the opportunity to choose between victimhood and misery, or getting up, brushing ourselves off, and building that vessel.
Ready to get building? Here we go…
Thank Hashem for everything! Even your biggest problems.
The first time I met with Gedale Fenster, he told me to thank Hashem for my problems, and focus on the good things that came out of them. I was like, “Wait a minute! I think I’m doing so great because I focus on the good stuff in my life.” (But I was still crying about the things I wasn’t so happy about.) But no! He told me to take it to the next level and actually work on gratitude for the bad stuff. And you know what? Soon I was able to see the things that had actually changed for the better because of the situation I was so miserable about.
Being grateful for your hardships may seem difficult in the beginning, but now you know that, like all good things that begin through concealment, your hardships may be the catalyst for a chain of events that is already bringing great light into your life. Maybe if you look hard enough you can already see it. Now you are beginning to build your vessel!
But how do you really know it will work? Well, that leads to the next step:
2. FAITH AND TRUST
Don’t just have faith, have complete and utter trust that everything will work out. You need to start training your brain to give over every bit of fear and anxiety to G-d. Say confidently, and loudly, “I totally trust in You that you have a plan that I can’t see right now. And I know it’s for my best and I thank you for this!”
Try saying this when people ask you how you are, or how a certain situation is, “Everything is exactly the way it’s supposed to be, and I’m totally confidant everything is going to work out even better than I expect.” Watch not only how your reality changes, but also the reaction of others.
The other day I said something similar to a friend, and she called me 15 minutes later to tell me she “had a spring in her step” because she decided to try the same attitude about a worry she was having and now she felt amazing. At the time, I had no clue I had an impact on her, as I was only trying to work on my own attitude. But do you see how these “good vibes” spread around, literally changing the world, in an instant of shared faith?
Still don’t believe it? Fake it until you make it. Affirmations work!
Remember? Some guy decided he wanted to build a structure like nothing ever built before on the West Side of Manhattan, and now it exists! Imagine if he never opened his mouth because he didn’t really believe it could happen!
Which leads to the next step in the formula:
For goodness sake, pray!
I know, I know, prayer is hard. Trust me, I avoided it for like 50 years! The way davening was taught to me personally was not conducive to authentic connection to G-d. But now that I realize that using our voice is one of the crucial steps to actually creating our realities, and that words have tremendous power, I decided to approach prayer differently. And it gets easier every day. Now, I can’t live without it.
So here are my tips for getting started with prayer:
Start by taking a few minutes a day to just meditate on the idea of G-d being your biggest fan, and wanting desperately to have a relationship with you. Then just start talking to Him. Can’t think of anything to say? How about, “Help!” That’s a great start!
If you’re ready to open a siddur. Start with something easy and doable, like the morning blessings. And just try to focus on the words that stand out for you. Like a word search puzzle. On most days I’ll focus on words like Boruch (Blessed), Chesed (kindness) and Rachamim (mercy). As I say those words I focus on bringing down blessings, kindness, and mercy into the world and into my life. In this way, my prayer has a more meaningful and practical purpose and I can truly connect with G-d’s infinite light and energy.
And, by now, I don’t have to tell you what that’s doing. Yup, it’s building a vessel.
The ego loves getting in the way and blocking out all of that gorgeous, delicious light that’s flying towards you at all times. In the beginning it may feel a bit counter intuitive, but try humbling yourself when you’re feeling at your worst. Just close your eyes and meditate on the ideas that everything is as it should be, that you’re not really entitled to anything, so whatever you have is a bonus, that you don’t really know everything and can’t see the big picture, and that your self worth comes from G-d and no one else. That’s called acceptance. And before you know it…woosh…you’re at peace and fully unblocked. There you go…your vessel is now wide open!
And finally, when you feel ready, here is the ultimate step to completing your vessel:
Use your pain to help others. Your unique experiences, growth and knowledge will help others in a way that no one else can. Which is exactly why I decided to write this post!
And don’t get discouraged! These things take practice and time, and there will be tests along the way. But things will get better! Trust me on this 🙂
As far as our city day, Margalit and I had a great time catching up and discussing design, architecture and manifesting our dreams. We were both in awe of how all of this came out of architect Thomas Heatherwick and his colleagues’ brains…building from the raw material of their imagination and then elevating it all into the creation of this unique landmark that would not only be beautiful to look at, but gather people together and take them “from nowhere to the sky.”
Talk about elevating raw material for a higher purpose. Now, that’s how you build a vessel.
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*Gedale Fenster speaks daily on Rabbi Nachman of Breslov’s teachings. He sometimes throws in some Kabbalistic concepts. If you’d like to be added to the WhatsApp of his daily classes please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.