Part 26: The Ultimate Journey
— Part 26 and Conclusion of Samach-Vav —
Finally, after two and a half years, sixty-one discourses and over 500 pages, we celebrate the centennial of the grand conclusion of Samach-Vav – the Rebbe Rashab’s tour de force delivered one century ago (September 1905 through January 1908). From the outset this column has been following along the flow of this comprehensive discourse, which lays out in elaborate detail the psychological and spiritual dynamics of existence, its Divine purpose and our role in the process.
And now, the final scene.
You are stranded on a dark lonely island called life. A weary traveler, on the road for so long, with threatening winds at your back, you have no clue where to find direction or refuge. Despite the intense desolation you sense a voice, hardly detectable, deep inside yourself. But you cannot make out its message. The struggle to survive at all costs controls your life. You spend your days scurrying for food and shelter; dodging shrewd predators and protecting yourself from harsh elements; making it day by day as you face the unknown.
Just as you are about to give up, you discover an ancient roadmap. Difficult and hard to read, the map highlights the pathways and avenues to help you navigate your way. It also offers you a methodology, instructing you how to develop tools and techniques to survive and thrive in this foreign place.
The roadmap and tools allow you to transcend the island’s loneliness. But the challenge is great: Will survival instincts control you, in a never-ending battle for “survival of the fittest,” pitting us one against another, focusing on – and begin distracted by – the means while forgetting the end? Or will you allow the roadmap and tools lift you to live a life driven by higher purpose, recognizing that all the islands material resources are fuel to reach a greater destination?
There is, in effect, a distinction between the roadmap and the tools. The roadmap offers us a bird’s eye from above, shedding light on the dark roads below. The tools, on the other hand, are crafted from the island’s actual resources, and thus transform the island from within, from the bottom up, transforming its raw materials into spiritual energy.
In other words, the tools transform the island; the roadmap directs the process. Like the architect’s blueprint, which directs the entire structure, yet the structure itself is made of crude materials, completely unlike the blueprint, which is a piece of paper.
Yet, even the roadmap is not easily accessible, especially on an island full of distractions and dangers. Exertion is necessary to study and scrutinize the map.
The plot further thickens: On this island you meet other lost souls. Some more lost than others. Many don’t even know or acknowledge the desolation and aimlessness. Others know really well.
And then there are the rare few souls who are never distracted by the island and its seductions. They are the souls that always have their sights on the purpose. These souls are the ones you want to meet in your journey – the ones that remind, cajole and motivate you to see beyond the trees; awake and inspire you to access the roadmap and its tools, so that you transform your wandering life into a meaningful, directional life.
As we roam the island it is indeed a great blessing to meet these souls that remind us of our mission and help us stay the course.
With map in hand, illuminating the dark paths and crevices of the island, you come to realize that you were sent to this isolated island with a mission: To refine your environment and transform this bleak and barren place into a beacon of light.
Only through the hard work of overcoming the challenges faced on the desolate island, and discovering direction and tools, do you realize your full potential and beyond. Transforming desolation into hope, darkness into light, generates an entire new level of experience and the fulfillment of the entire purpose of existence.
As time passes, your confidence builds, your methods are honed as you continue to refine your environment. Until the day comes when you reach your destination – and the island ceases to be a fearful place. Instead, it becomes a comfortable home, for you and others to live in peace and harmony, elevating all the islands in the universe and all of existence.
So we have here five components: You the traveler; the dark island where you find yourself; the illuminating roadmap; the tools; the destination. The interaction of these five elements creates a dynamic called life and all its achievements.
* * *
The desolate island is our physical world. You and I – and every soul on earth – is a stranded maroon on a dark island, where we begin our lives drifting aimlessly without direction.The roadmap is the Torah – a conveyor of light (ohr yeisoh) and Divine blueprint of all existence. The tools and techniques are the mitzvot, Divine modalities to change the world in which we live. And the destination is redemption – the final transformation of the material universe into a Divine home.
Some souls are like “sons,” spiritually aware of their mission and able to read the roadmap effortlessly and implement its tools seamlessly. Other souls are like “servants,” struggling to find their purpose, exerting themselves to understand the roadmap, and above all – fighting with the forces of darkness to excavate the hidden “sparks” within all matter.
Yet, also the “son” can become like a “servant,” when he exerts himself and delves into the deeper dimensions hidden within the oral interpretation of the roadmap. And even more so – through humility, the process of getting his ego-consciousness out of the way, dedicating himself not to the Torah’s wisdom alone, but to its power to allow in the higher state of unconsciousness and reach the ultimate truth.
Indeed, it is the Torah and the “son” souls, through their intimacy with the Divine, that transmit and reveal the power of the tools and of the “servant” souls to fight their battles in transforming the universe into a Divine home.
Thus, we have the elegant interplay of the traveler (soul) on the desolate island (universe), consulting the roadmap (Torah) that identifies the tools (mitzvoth) which transform the island into a Divine edifice. As well as the interaction between souls of different persuasions that help each other in this difficult journey – all finally join as one in the unfolding drama leading to the final destination – our rendezvous with G-d.
And so, this week we honor Samach-Vav’s conclusion one hundred years ago. We finally come to the end of the glorious journey that the Rebbe Rashab took us on one century ago, through the inner workings of the cosmos and the psyche, exposing the complex dynamics of existence and helping us fulfill our life’s purpose.
When the Rebbe Rashab completed Samach-Vav he instructed his son, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak, to bring [a bottle of] Benedictine and come see him. The Rebbe Rashab told his son: “I will share with you an episode. In 5638 (1878) when my father [the Rebbe Maharash] completed the hemshech [sequence of discourses titled] v’kocho he summoned me and instructed an aide to bring Tokayer wine. He told me to close the door and then said to me: ‘Come and let us celebrate you and I,’ and he spoke with me 1¾ hours on Chassidic subjects.”
As we now celebrate the centennial of Samach-Vav’s conclusion let us raise a cup to the Rebbe Rashab – and to all the Rebbes – and thank them for their priceless gift, providing us with a blueprint for life, relevant today just as then, if not more.
We assure you, Rebbe, that we will honor your life work; your ultimate salute to the dignity of the human spirit. We will not allow your great investment to be squandered. The countless hours you spent, pouring your soul, heart and mind into the 500+ pages of Samach-Vav will live on through our commitment to actualizing its teachings into our lives, and sharing them with all those we encounter.
May the completion of this epic journey mark the conclusion of our long odyssey on our lonely island, with the realization of the entire purpose of creation. In the concluding words of Samach-Vav: The revelation of the hidden Eden [a new unprecedented energy that expresses the innermost aspect of the Divine Essence], the ultimate revelation of the future redemption, when the ultimate purpose, rooted in the Essence, will be realized: the Divine desire to transform the lowest worlds into a Divine home.