A 2,000 year old Jewish teaching: When a woman and a man prepare
to make love, God calls on the Angel of Pregnancy, who is called
Night, and says: "Tonight this one and that one are going to get
pregnant. Go down there and make certain the seed becomes enwombed
with the potential to realize 365 major organs, and then
bring it to me."? Once the ovum is fertilized, it is seized by
Night and brought before God. God then asks the angel in charge
of souls to summon a particular soul from out of the Garden of
Eden, and says to it: "Enter this seed."? The soul protests: "I
like it here, in this high-falutin' spiritual world. I have loved it here from the very
moment you first created me. Why would you want to remove me from
this very sacred place and jam me into that repulsive thing that
has resulted from an act so thoroughly physical? I am holy and
pure and you want me to merge with that 'thing'?"? To which God
responds: "The world I wish to send you into is far more beautiful
than the one you have been living in all this time, and it is
for that 'thing' that I created you in the first place, so get
your ass in there and skadew"? (Midrash Tanchuma, P'kudei, Chapter 3).
A powerful teaching. This world, with all of its ups and downs
and lefts and rights, goods and evils, pains and joys and yuks
and yums is hyped up to be a better world than the spirit world
from which everything originated far more beautiful than the
Garden of Eden itself!! This is so contrary a teaching to
everything we?ve all been taught, antithetical to everything we
believed, a slap in the face of everything we?ve strived for!
What?! You mean to tell me that all these years that we?ve been
striving and struggling, rising and falling for the purpose of
achieving spiritual awareness, has been for naught? That all
along we were supposed to have been focusing on this messed up
mundane inane profane vain and insane world? What about all
those teachings about spirituality? Spiritual consciousness?
Spiritual this and spiritual that? How can the holy sages of yore
be telling us that in God's opinion the world of the here-and-now
is a far better place than the holy pure saintly sacred angelic
realms of the spirit world? Of the Garden of Eden, no less!
I am perplexed.
I have to admit, that although I have been studying and teaching
the perplexing lessons of my people?s ancient wisdom now for well
over forty years, I still can?t get used to it and am shocked
every time. I am convinced that Judaism is a Trickster Religion.
So I went to my teachers for some explanation. And here is what
the second-century Rabbi Yaakov said: "More beautiful is one
moment of personal transformation and doing good deeds in this
world than an eternity in the World to Come; and more beautiful
is one moment of bliss in the World to Come than an
eternity of bliss in this world" (Mishnah, Avot 4:17).
Thank you. That was very helpful. Now I am even more confused.
So I visited the 16th-century mystic and sorcerer par-excellence
Rabbi Yehudah Loew of Prague (known also as the MAHARAL), famed
creator of the legendary Golem, and asked him to clarify.
You cannot change anything about yourself in the World to Come,
he said, gathering a clump of earth from the Moldau River and
shaping it into the form of a person. Nor can you change anything
about yourself in the Garden of Eden, in the Spirit world. Only
here. This is where you become dynamic. This is where you flow,
flux, flex and germinate. Not there. Here. In this world. In the
spirit world you simply are what you are, are what you have
become while you meandered about in this lifetime, but in the
spirit world you cannot activate the actual dynamics of becoming,
the infinite possibilities of transformation with which you are
endowed. This only happens here, in this world, in the world of
change, in the realm of instability, in the cauldron of relativity,
in the arena of opportunity, across the gauntlet of challenge.
This is the happening place. And it is a far more beautiful place
to be, in contrast to the static realm of spirit where you may
fly around and shape shift all you want and listen to angelic
sing-song, but you cannot change your essential self, you
cannot change who or what you are. All transformative work
happens here, he said. Only here. So do the work here, don't
wait to die because over there you remain as you have become. Over
there you cannot become any more than what you already are. Here
we have moment to moment the opportunity, the challenge, to
become more than what we are -- or less, of course. So if you
haven't been here yet, this is a far more favorable place to
relocate from the otherwise boring ho-hum spirit realms. And,
conversely, if you have been here, or are still here, let me
assure you than in contrast to this place, a single moment in the
spirit realms yields far more tranquility than a worry-free
lifetime in this world. And that is what Rabbi Yaakov was teaching
(Maharal in Derech HaChayyim, Chapter 4, folio 198).
Bottom line, whether you believe in the spirit world, the world
to come, the hereafter, life before life and life after death ?
or not -- the lesson is important. Being here gifts us with
unparalleled opportunity, infinite possibility, and a wealth of
chance to change, alter, transform, improve, or vice-versa. That
alone makes this world, this lifetime, its foibles and troubles
notwithstanding, a far better place to be or, more to the point
to become, regardless of what the world looks like through the
daily news reports