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The Dark before the Dawn

The darkest time of night is right before the dawn. Similarly, the writers of The Book of Zohar said, almost 2,000 years ago, that humanity’s darkest time will come right before its spiritual awakening. For centuries, beginning with the Ari, author of the Tree of Life, who lived in the 16th century, Kabbalists have been writing that the time The Zohar was referring to was the end of the 20th century. They called it “the last generation.”

They did not mean that we would all perish in some apocalyptic, spectacular event. In Kabbalah, a generation represents a spiritual state. The last generation is the last and highest state that can be reached. And Kabbalists said that the time we are living in—the beginning of the 21st century—is when we would see the generation of the spiritual ascent.

But these Kabbalists also said that for this change to happen, we cannot continue to develop the way we’ve been evolving thus far. They said that today, a conscious, free choice is required if we want to grow.

As with any beginning or birth, the emergence of the last generation, the generation of free choice, is no easy process. Until recently, we have been evolving in our lower desires—still through speaking—leaving out the spiritual level. But now the spiritual Reshimot (spiritual genes, if you will) are surfacing in millions of people, and demand to be realized in real life.

When these Reshimot first appear in us, we still lack the appropriate method to deal with them. They are like a whole new technology that we must still learn to deal with. So while we are learning, we are trying to realize the new kind of Reshimot with our old ways of thought, because those ways helped us realize our lower level Reshimot. But those ways are inadequate for handling the new Reshimot, and therefore fail to do their task, leaving us empty and frustrated.

When these Reshimot surface in an individual, frustration arises, then depression, until he or she learns how to relate to these new desires. This usually happens by applying the wisdom of Kabbalah, which was originally designed to cope with spiritual Reshimot, as we’ve described in Chapter One.

If, however, one cannot find the solution, the individual might plunge into workaholism, addictions of all kinds, and other attempts to suppress the problem of the new desires, trying to avoid coping with an incurable ache.

On a personal level, such a state is very distressing but it doesn’t pose a problem serious enough to destabilize the social structure. However, when spiritual Reshimot appear in many millions of people at approximately the same time, and particularly if it happens in many countries simultaneously, you have a global crisis on your hands. And a global crisis calls for a global solution.

Clearly, humanity today is in a global crisis. Depression is soaring to unprecedented rates in the United States, but the picture isn’t much brighter in other developed countries. In 2001, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that “depression is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. and worldwide.”

Another major problem in modern society is the alarming abundance of drug abuse. It’s not that drugs haven’t always been in use, but in the past they were used primarily for medicine and for rituals, while today they are being used at a much earlier age, primarily to alleviate the emotional void that so many young people feel. And because depression is soaring, so is the use of drugs and drug-related crimes.

Another facet of the crisis is the family unit. The family institution used to be an icon of stability, warmth, and shelter, but not any more. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, for every two couples that marry, one divorces, and the figures are similar throughout the Western world.

Moreover, it is no longer a situation where couples have to go through a major crisis or personality clash to decide on a divorce. Today, even couples in their 50s and 60s can’t find reasons to stay together once their kids have left home. Since their incomes are secured, they’re not afraid of starting a new page at ages that only a few years back were considered unacceptable for such steps. We’ve even got a clever name for it: the “empty nest syndrome.” But the bottom line is that people divorce because once their children have left home, there is nothing to keep the parents together, since there is simply no love between them.

And this is the real void: the absence of love. If we remember that we were all created egoists by a force that wants to give, we might have a fighting chance. At least then we will know where to start looking for a solution.

But the crisis is unique not only in its universality, but in its versatility, which makes it much more comprehensive and difficult to handle. The crisis is happening in just about every field of human engagement—personal, social, international, in science, medicine, and the climate. For example, until just a few years ago, “the weather” was a convenient haven when one had nothing to contribute about other topics. Today, however, we are all required to be climate savvy. Hot topics nowadays are climate change, global warming, rising sea levels, and the start of the new hurricane season.

“The Big Thaw” is what Geoffrey Lean of The Independent ironically called the state of the planet in an online article published November 20, 2005. Here’s the title of Lean’s article: “The Big Thaw: Global Disaster Will Follow If the Ice Cap on Greenland Melts.” And the subtitle, “Now scientists say it is vanishing far faster than even they expected.”

And weather is not the only disaster lurking on the horizon. The June 22, 2006 issue of Nature magazine, published a University of California study stating that the San Andreas Fault is now overdue for the “big one.” According to Yuri Fialko of Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, “the fault is a significant seismic hazard and is primed for another big earthquake.”

And of course, if we survive the storms, the earthquakes, and the rising seas, there is always a Bin Laden in the area to remind us that our lives can be made significantly briefer than we had planned.

And last but not least, there are health issues that require our attention: AIDS, avian flu, mad cow, and of course, the old standbys: cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and diabetes. There are many more we can mention here, but by now you’ve probably gotten the point. Even though some of these health problems aren’t new, they are mentioned here because they are rapidly spreading around the globe.

Conclusion: An ancient Chinese proverb says that when you want to curse someone, say, “May you live in interesting times.” Our time is indeed very interesting; but it is not a curse. It is as The Book of Zohar promised—the darkness before the dawn. Now, let’s see if there’s a solution.

A Brave New World in Four Steps

It takes only four steps to change the world:

  1. Acknowledge the crisis;

  2. Discover why it exists;

  3. Determine the best solution;

  4. Design a plan to resolve the crisis.

Let’s examine them one at a time.

1. Acknowledging the crisis.

There are several reasons why many of us are still unaware that there is a crisis. Governments and international corporations should have been the first to tackle the issue, but conflicting interests prevent them from cooperating to deal with the crisis effectively. In addition, most of us still don’t feel that the problem is threatening us in any personal way, and therefore we suppress the urgent need to deal with it, before the going gets much tougher.

The biggest problem is that we have no memory of such a precarious state in the past. Because of that, we’re unable to assess our situation correctly. That’s not to say that catastrophes never happened before, but our time is unique in the sense that today it is happening on all fronts, instantaneously—in every aspect of human life, and around the globe.

2. Discovering why it exists.

A crisis occurs when there’s a collision between two elements, and the superior element forces its rule on the inferior one. Human nature, or egoism, is discovering how opposite it is from Nature, or altruism. This is why so many people feel distressed, depressed, insecure and frustrated.

In short, the crisis isn’t really happening on the outside. Even though it certainly seems to take up physical space, it is happening within us. The crisis is the titanic struggle between the good (altruism) and the evil (egoism). How sad it is that we have to play the bad guys in the real reality show. But don’t lose hope—as in all shows, a happy end awaits.

3. Determining the best solution.

The more we recognize the underlying cause of the crisis, namely our egoism, the more we’ll understand what needs to be changed in us and in our societies. By doing so, we will be able to de-escalate the crisis and bring society and ecology to a positive, constructive outcome. We will talk more about such changes as we explore the idea of freedom of choice.

4. Designing a plan to resolve the crisis.

Once we’ve completed the first three stages of the plan, we can draw it up in greater detail. But even the best plan cannot succeed without the active support of leading, internationally recognized organizations. Therefore, the plan must have a broad base of international support from scientists, thinkers, politicians, and the United Nations, as well as the media and social organizations.

Actually, because we grow from one level of desire to the next, everything that is happening now is happening for the first time on the spiritual level of desire. But if we remember that we are at this level, we can use the knowledge of those who have already connected with spirituality in the same way we use our current scientific knowledge.

Kabbalists, who have already made it to the spiritual worlds, the root of our world, see the Reshimot (spiritual root) causing this state, and can guide us out of the problems we are facing from its source in the spiritual world. This way we will resolve the crisis easily and quickly because we’ll know why things happen and what needs to be done about them. Think of it this way: If you knew that there were people who could predict the results of tomorrow’s lottery, wouldn’t you like them at your side when you’re placing your bets?

There is no magic here, only knowledge of the rules of the game in the spiritual world. Through the eyes of a Kabbalist, we’re not in a crisis, we’re just a little disoriented, and hence keep betting on the wrong numbers. When we find our direction, resolving the (nonexistent) crisis will be a piece of cake. And so will be winning the lottery. And the beauty about Kabbalistic knowledge is that it has no copyrights; it belongs to everyone.

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