Many years ago, not long after I had begun to study the wisdom of Kabbalah with my teacher, RABASH (Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag), I received a letter from a man who was imprisoned in a penitentiary facility in Siberia. Back then, in the Soviet Union, those prisons were known as ruthless places where many did not survive. I do not know how the letter came to me, but its author wrote in eloquent, poetic Hebrew about his ordeals at the prison. He described hunger, cold, and inhumane conditions. However, what struck me most was that the man had no Jewish upbringing and had never been exposed to Hebrew; the language simply “landed on him.”
I asked RABASH how it was possible for someone who was not Jewish and never learned Hebrew to suddenly know the language so intimately. RABASH explained that extreme suffering can sometimes do that. When the suffering becomes too great and too long to bear, sometimes the ego becomes so broken that it seems to disappear completely. At that point, a person begins to connect with the whole of reality.
The Hebrew alphabet, explains The Book of Zohar in the essay about letters, consists of dots and lines that connect with one another. Each combination of dots and lines creates a different letter, which together form words, sentences, and the entire language. These dots and lines that form the letters represent interactions between the giving force and the receiving force of reality. Together, these forces form all of reality, the part we perceive and the part we still do not perceive.
When one’s ego is removed, the veil that hides from us the part created by the giving force is lifted, and we begin to see the full picture of reality. At that time, the way to express it through dots and lines may sometimes appear. This is why the prisoner from Siberia suddenly knew Hebrew. It did not actually “land on him”; it became revealed because the suffering had vanquished his ego and thereby removed the veil that hid it.
After explaining this, RABASH added that we do not need to suffer in order to reveal the hidden part of reality. The wisdom of Kabbalah reveals that part without any suffering, but simply by learning with a group of people who also wish to reveal the hidden part. As they study and work on their connections, they begin to grasp the meaning of the Hebrew letters. This is part of what Kabbalah defines as “spiritual attainment.”
Years later, the prisoner got out and came to live in Israel. His suffering had ended, but so did his enlightenment. In the absence of torment, his ego had reawakened and veiled once more the hidden part of reality.
Today, we can all reveal the full picture of reality. All we need is to study Kabbalah with like-minded people. Today we can study in almost any language we choose, and the material is available online. We do not need to suffer in order to reveal the secrets of reality or the meaning of the Hebrew alphabet; all we need is to want it.