Adam's Immature Desire to Rectify the World
In order to understand more clearly why development of awareness is in fact necessary, we must first deepen our understanding of the reason behind Adam's transgression.
Before our world was created, there was a primordial World of Chaos that existed for seven days, on each of which ruled a different “king.”
The Arizal explains that these seven kings were the seven vessels of the sefirot, which are the attributes of the heart, beginning with da'at, “knowledge,” the key that opens them, making them accessible. These vessels broke as a result of too much light, or energy, in vessels that were too fragile (or immature) to contain it3. The vessels of the attributes, whose task it is to receive and contain Divine illumination were unable to contain the power of the light they received. Therefore, they shattered. The reason the vessels were unable to contain the power of the light was because each proclaimed, “I will reign.” Each of the vessels was a “conscious” entity and believed that it existed independently, without the need for others, and therefore could “reign” over its destiny and development by taking rule and becoming “king.” “I will reign” is an expression of self-awareness, the feeling of being an independent and a separate part of Creation. The immediate result of this feeling is the “shattering” of da'at and the attributes of the main trunk of the body, and their fall amongst the impure shells, increasing the power of evil in the world.
Adam was created after the breaking of the vessels and sensed this breakage in his super-conscious mind and through his innate insight. His “decision” to eat from the Tree of Knowledge was actually “motivated” by a desire to rectify the da'at of the World of Chaos—the first of the seven kings to shatter and fall amongst the impure shells. Adam's intent was to become an active partner in the rectification and refinement of the world.
However, Adam's intention can be compared to a child who wishes to accompany his father on a difficult journey, even though his father warns him that he will not be able to cope with the hardships and dangers of the trip. The loving and caring parent does not rebuke the child: “if you accompany me I will punish you.” Rather, treating his child as a mature individual, he warns him: “these are the dangers of the journey, if you persist in your wish to accompany me you will certainly face these hardships.”
Similarly, God warned Adam: “And from the Tree of Knowledge you shall not eat [meaning do not try to rectify it, for eating is a process of extraction of good from bad, nourishing food from waste], for on the day you eat from it you will surely die.” If you eat, if you place yourself in the dangerous situation of trying to rectify the “key to the heart” that has been broken, you will not only fail to rectify the situation but you will also destroy your own opportunity to do so in the future.
Adam nevertheless was not prepared to forfeit the immediate opportunity to rectify the world. He was not satisfied with God's having placed him in the Garden of Eden “to work it and guard it” through performance of the commandments alone. He wished to enter into the depths of the shells, into which the primordial vessels had fallen and remained imprisoned. Adam thought this would be a “descent for the sake of ascent.” The descent began with eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in order to ultimately become “like God.”
In reality though, the consequence of eating from the Tree of Knowledge, was that Adam himself entered the psychic state of the world of Chaos. In order to rectify the seven fallen sefirot, which became nullified as a result of their feeling of “I will reign,” man himself had to experience this same feeling of “ego,” the feeling of the self as separate and independent from God, as clarified before.
God did not originally intend the rectification to follow this route. God's intention was that Adam first eat from the Tree of Life, engage in the study of the life-giving Torah, and only later take on the rectification of da'at, by eating from the Tree of Knowledge. This will be explained later.
Rectification of Consciousness – the Hassidic Way
It is explained in Kabbalah that the “time” of the world of Chaos was the week before the creation of our world. Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year and the first day of the Hebrew month Tishrei, is the day of the creation of man, the sixth day of creation. The twenty-fifth day of the previous month of Elul is thus the first day of Creation. The seven days of the World of Chaos thus began on the eighteenth of Elul. On each day of this week, a different sefirah “reigned” and on the very same day, it died.
This sheds light on why the Ba'al Shem Tov, who was born on the eighteenth of Elul, said regarding himself that he came to the world to rectify and breathe life and joy into the service of teshuvah, “repentance” or “return” to God. The service of teshuvah is the service of the month of Elul and it entails the rectification and development of Divine awareness. As we explained, rectified consciousness is a prerequisite and an essential aspect of engaging in the “service of unification” that leads to the complete and true redemption.
We have already discussed the fact that developed awareness is needed in order to “open up” the heart as “da'at is the key that includes six,” the “key to the heart.” On the other hand, we have also seen that opening the heart immediately leads to “self-consciousness,” which was the basis of the shattering of the vessels in the World of Chaos. Moreover, Adam was expelled from the Garden of Eden because of his attempt to develop his consciousness. We can thus begin to see that rectified da'at contains a paradoxical element that we will now discuss.
3 This can be compared to the way a light bulb burns when the electrical current run through it is stronger than the filament is able to withstand.