Understanding Their Madness
The Lurianic Kabbalah
LURIANIC SPARKS: from G Scholem’s Redemption Through Sin
As long as the last divine sparks (nitzotzot) of holiness and good, which fell at the time of Adam’s primordial sin into the impure realm of the kelipot (the hylic forces of evil whose hold in the world is particularly strong among the Gentiles) have not been gathered back again to their source; so—the explanation ran—the process of redemption is incomplete. It is therefore left to the Redeemer, the holiest of men, to accomplish what not even the most righteous souls in the past have been able to do: to descend through the gates of impurity into the realm of the kelipot and to rescue the divine sparks still imprisoned there. As soon as this task is performed the Kingdom of Evil will collapse of itself, for its existence is made possible only by the divine sparks in its midst.
The Messiah is constrained to commit strange acts (ma’asim zarim; a concept hereafter to occupy a central place in Sabbatian theology), of which his apostasy is the most startling; all of these, however, are necessary for the fulfillment of his mission. In the formulation of Cardozo:
It is ordained that the King Messiah don the garments of a Marrano and so go unrecognized by his fellow Jews. In a word, it is ordained that he become a Marrano like me. ...
Underlying the novelty of Sabbatian thought more than anything else was the deeply paradoxical religious sensibility of the Marranos and their descendants, who constituted a large portion of Sephardic Jewry. Had it not been for the unique psychology of these reconverts to Judaism, the new theology would never have found the fertile ground to flourish in.
This missionary ideology reached a peak in the writings of the Lurianic Kabbalah, which strove to inculcate in every Jew a sense of duty to “elevate the sparks and so help bring about the ultimate tikkun of the Creation ... It is supposed among those versed in esoteric lore that the redemption can be brought about in either one of two ways:
1 ) Either Israel will have the power to withdraw all the sparks of holiness from (the realm of] the kelipah so that the kelipah will wither into nothing; or else
2 ) the kelipah will become so filled with holiness that because of this repletion it must be spewn forth ... And this, that the coming of the redemption can be prompted in one of two ways, was what the rabbis of blessed memory had in mind when they said that the Son of David would come either in a generation that was entirely guiltless (meaning when Israel by virtue of its good deeds had withdrawn all the sparks of holiness from the kelipah), or else: in a generation that was entirely guilty (meaning when the kelipah had become so filled with holiness that it split its maw and perished) ....
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