The Kabbalistic Mystery of Nesira
Rosh HaShana, 5766/2005
Sarah Yehudit Schneider
You might be surprised to learn that not only is Rosh Hashanna the Day of Judgment (יום הדין), and the Day of Remembrance (יום הזכרון), but it is also, according to the Ari, the day of nesira (נסירה), which means literally, surgical uncoupling. This is a term used to describe the spiritual surgery, the sawing apart of Adam and Chava, who were originally created as a single androgynous being, back-to-back. Though nesira means surgical uncoupling, it only severs back-facing, addictive bonds. Its uncoupling actually initiates a higher, willful, and more rectified recoupling. (Ari, Shaar HaKavanot, RH)
In a back-to-back relationship the glue that binds the couple is from unconscious, compulsive forces that may even oppose their stated conscious intent. In contrast, a front-to-front relationship is one where the couple shares common goals and a mutuality of desire, at least to some extent.
“As below, so above.” Nesira is also the means by which the holy One created twoness in the world. At one stage in the creative process, HaShem employed the scalpel of nesira to carve out a cosmic other. Voila! Gender appears in the universe. He is called the Blessed Holy One (or man), and She is called the Shekhina (or woman).
The entire course of history (and its whole point) is for this cosmic couple to finally achieve a perfect union. They have been working on their marriage for nearly six thousand years. Eventually they will get it right. Eventually, says the Ari, they will meet and match from the crown of their heads to the soles of their feet. Yet, since each of our souls is a piece of the cosmic She, this striving for healthy (and joyous) union is also the secret (and the point) of each one of our lives.
Yet nesira is not something that happens once and for all. It occurs and recurs over time. In every relationship there are unrectified layers where the couple is enmeshed in a back-facing (dysfunctional) liaison and rectified layers where they meet eye-to-eye, heart-to-heart. With each cycle of nesira, the relationship deepens and sweetens as it turns face-to-face.
So too does this apply to our union with HaShem. There are areas of this relationship, where we are not earning our keep, where we are taking more than giving. Perhaps we are not living up to our potential, perhaps we are only serving from fear and not love (or perhaps not serving at all). In these unconscious and unrectified places our bond remains back-to-back.
On Rosh HaShana we receive our allocation of spiritual resources for the new year. This means that HaShem decides what He is going to reveal to us, of Himself, this coming year. And since “HaShem’s seal is truth,” His Self-revelation includes all that we are going to learn about life, and truth, and how to be a mentch in the world. It includes all the wisdom we are going to absorb in the coming cycle. With each new insight our relationship becomes more front-facing. In Hebrew, the word for face and the word for inward derive from the same root. A front-to-front relationship is one where each sees the other’s depths and their insides meet.
According to Kabbala, the deepest layer of a person is will. In the spiritual planes things are close when they are similar. The relationship between G‑d and man consummates when a person’s authentic and spontaneous desires exactly coincide with HaShem’s will. Intimacy then occurs at the most core level of being. This is as close as any two can get, and the pleasure of their union surpasses all earthly delights.
Each year, when the shofar blows, man and G-d strive for a meeting of wills. The first shofar was G-d’s breathing into Adam’s nostrils the soul of life. (Sod Yesharim, 1) With that breath HaShem conveyed to Adam all of His hopes and prayers and visions for mankind. But the shofar is also the primal cry of the human heart longing to be good and to serve and to receive the resources it needs to actualize its potential. (Sod Yesharim, 1). These two shofrot, one from above and one from below, effect the nesira. Some increment of soul, as yet unconscious, is pried loose to begin its holy turning, to face its Maker in conscious, willful, joyful union. Next year at this time it will be seeing through our eyes, loving through our hearts, and knowing through our heads. Next year the Shekhina’s marriage with the Blessed Holy One will have rectified and consummated a little more because of the growth that has occurred in our life (which is one cell in the mystical body of the Shekhina).
I want to bless us, as individuals and collectively, that the shofar’s cry should awaken our heart, cells, bones and spaces to KNOW that the only thing we want is to do what we are designed to do. We should receive a new glimpse of what that is, and HaShem should mark out the most direct and least painful path toward its fulfillment. As we move through this year we should KNOW that it is all about relationship and we should find the joy that comes from that in all the circumstances of our lives. Please G-d, let it be a good, sweet, healthy, joyful, peaceful, life-celebrating, heart-opening, faith-deepening, soul-liberating, love-filled New Year for all.
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