I find myths to be fascinating. While reality may be defined by science and reason in our day and age, we are still humans and that means we will remain in search of something grander and more meaningful. How pitiful is it to think that we are but bags of meat floating around on a giant piece of rock? Or that our existence is as significant as that of the ants who work throughout their lives, working, building and maintaining their ant hill? Very pitiful, I would say.
But back to the point of this article. On January 2nd, 1492, The Christians conquered Granada and officially ended the Crusades by taking over the Muslim Empire in Spain. Jews, who had apparently lived a peaceful existence under the Muslim Empire, were now being forced to convert to Christianity or face deportation by the new rulers. Some converted to Christianity while others fled to the Ottoman empire where they lived in relatively better conditions. To these Jews, exile was beginning to seem like a natural state. During this period, where Jews looked to find a messiah to end their misery and guide them to the Promised Land, the Jews found a man names
Isaac Luria. Luria would go on to become very famous after his death for the myth he brought forth during this time. The myth goes like this:
“In Luria’s myth, the creative process begins with an act of voluntary exile. It starts by asking how the world could exist if God is omnipresent.
The answer is the doctrine of Zimzum (“withdrawal”): the infinite and inaccessible Godhead, which Kabbalists called Ein Sof (“Without End”), had to shrink into itself, evacuating, as it were, a region within
itself in order to make room for the world. Creation had begun, therefore, with an act of divine ruthlessness: in its compassionate desire to make itself known in and by its creatures, Ein Sof had inflicted exile upon a part of itself. Unlike the orderly, peaceful creation described in the first chapter of Genesis, this was a violent process of primal explosions, disasters, and false starts which seemed to the Sephardic exiles a more accurate appraisal of the world they lived in.
At an early stage in the Lurianic process, Ein Sof had tried to fill
the emptiness it had created by Zimzum with divine light, but the “vessels” or “pipes” which were supposed to channel it shattered under the strain. Sparks of divine light fell into the abyss of all that was
not God. After this “breaking of the vessels,” some of the sparks returned to the Godhead, but others remained trapped in this Godless realm, which was filled with the evil potential that Ein Sof had purged from itself in the act of Zimzum. After this disaster, creation was
awry; things were in the wrong place. When Adam was created, he could have rectified the situation and, had he done so, the divine exile
would have ended on the first Sabbath. But Adam sinned and henceforth the divine sparks were trapped in material objects, and the Shekhinah,
the Presence that is the closest we come to an apprehension of the
divine on earth, wandered through the world, a perpetual exile,
yearning to be reunited with the Godhead.”
-The Battle For God, Karen Armstrong.
Brilliant, isn’t it? Left me stunned.