Kabbalah on: Raising our Children…
The following is from a series of questions asked of Rav. Michael Laitman concerning the raising of our children in this age of increasing crisis and danger in all aspects of society. As a grandfather, it struck me with its insight on what we can do to change our rapid decent into chaos.
Every person asks himself: “Why do I live?” In essence this question is about the person’s origin, about the source of life, that is, about the Creator.
Humanity’s curiosity was always aroused by the way in which history progressed, what took place on Earth millions and billions of years ago and where we came from. In essence, however, the question about our origin is not about how our bodies emerged in the process of evolution. Rather, it is about the Creator or the force that created us. When people ask for what sake we exist, in essence they touch on the question about the future or the final goal of our existence.
Questions about the meaning of life awaken in a person as early as in childhood. This is a sign that by his nature a person is already ready to hear the answer to these questions and to discover their solutions. To the degree a child is ready for it, parents and the environment are obligated to fulfill his readiness or satisfy his curiosity. In the worst case his whole life will pass by in a completely automatic way, monotonously, without any sort of change or elevation above the animal level.
His life will roll by – kindergarten, school, possibly university, some sort of job, wife, kids, etc. One person will become interested in football, another in studying the Torah, a third science, and so on until his very death. Ultimately a person does not achieve anything special in his life and, merely depending on what generation and what epoch he lives in, correspondingly he somehow fills the years he has lived.
How can we help a person rise above his life in order for him not to live it within the same plane for all 70 years of his earthly existence?
Precisely by giving a person an answer to the question asked as early as childhood, “What is the meaning of our lives?”, we slightly elevate him above this world. We are obligated to provide people with this knowledge. Every person, a child as well as an adult, will absorb this knowledge according to his sensitivity, according to his structure and ability to absorb spiritual information at the given moment. After all, a person constantly perfects himself from year to year and from incarnation to incarnation. We can see how much humanity is developing and what progress it has achieved. How does this occur?
People’s desires constantly become stronger; their passion increases, yearnings for money, fame, and knowledge. As a result, the question “What is the meaning of my life?”, also constantly develops in a person. Therefore people who ask this question today are totally different than those who asked it 200 or 2000 years ago. These are the same souls, but they are already asking about the meaning of life on an entirely different level. Their question comes from the states of being stupefied and suppressed and it is the result of previous development or previous experience.
As Baal HaSulam says, the problem is that we dull the question about the meaning of life in a person with religious as well as social upbringing. It is not important what environment a person is in. With both kinds of upbringing we program a person’s whole life in this world in such a way that this question ceases to exist for him.
A person suppresses it instead of delving into it, living it, increasing and developing it. The religious answer is, ‘you know, the Creator wants things this way, therefore you are obligated to carry out the commandments and later you will receive a reward for it’. The secular or social answer is, ‘such is life, and we have to live here in order to get along with each other more or less’.
Only the Kabbalistic upbringing is oriented in such a way that a person will again and again ask the question about the meaning of life every moment over the course of his entire life, each time finding a broader and more complete answer to it. This way a person will come to the question that is called his entire soul, the unified Kli of the soul, “Hisaron” or a formulated desire, and he will fulfill this question with an answer called the light of the soul. A person will define the Creator’s relation to him as a question, and the Creator’s revelation to him as an answer.
Question: But this takes many years, since parents do not ask about the meaning of existence. And even if they ask about it, they do not have an answer. What, then, can they tell their children?
You are saying that this will take thousands more years. This process has already been going on for thousands of years and I do not know how much more time it will take. We are talking about the problem itself and about how to resolve it. In all languages, with the help of books, using media systems and the Internet, we are trying to explain to humanity in the whole world that, in essence, all our suffering and pain and our miserable new generation – all of this is screaming and calling to us to change the system of upbringing. Undoubtedly, the changes should begin with the young generation.
The current crisis in the system of upbringing, education, legislation, social boundaries, the decrease of morale, and so on – all this will finally prove to us that humanity does not have a choice and any way out of the situation. In reality, the problem of upbringing is the most important problem, which ultimately determines all other life and social processes.
This is in essence the only question that awakens in us in childhood years and it is also an adult’s question, since everything else is trivial. Look, we are asking this question as early as 6, 7, 8… 10 years of age! How is this possible? It clearly indicates that it is the most important thing. I would say that our culpability or worse crime we commit is the fact that we suppress and foster children’s upbringing to suppress the question about the meaning of their existence in them. Our entire life is built in such a way that we, the adults, have muffled this question in ourselves. Everything that flashes before our eyes, television, advertisements, etc, completely annihilates it. We are doing the same thing to the young generation.
The new generation needs spiritual upbringing. Social/secular or religious environments do not matter here. Whether it is Judaism, Christianity, or Islam does not have any relation to anything at all. The question about the meaning of life awakens in every person, in everyone who was born of a woman. The Creator is universal for everyone.
If we want our children to continue the same completely meaningless existence as previous generations then of course we should leave them alone and not give them a Kabbalistic upbringing. Kabbalah says that we should not only give children the development of this question: “Who am I, what do I exist for?”, but also the way to realize this question. The question needs to be realized not by the sciences or the arts or the acquisition of some sort of profession, that is, not by religions and various methodologies that compensate this question and somehow calm us down.
Instead, the question needs to be developed until it is the most important thing: “Who am I, what am I, and what do I exist for?”, in order for this to compel a person to reveal the entire universe, in order for him to enter the Upper world and see the entire universe in which he lives. When I reveal the entire universe and see where I am, who I am, then my purpose for existence will become clear to me. If I will find the answer to this question on my own, then I will be able to realize it correctly. Kabbalah calls on us to do this.
In other words, until we enter the spiritual world and until we see everything that is happening and how it is happening, this question will remain in us and continue to awaken us. Let it awaken us; let it arouse us to reveal it. Without the question there is no correct advancement towards the Goal of creation.
Therefore it is necessary to reveal it in such a way that the entire universe will become revealed before you (otherwise you will not understand this question). Then you should realize it based on what you see. This does not mean in such a way that someone would explain it to you, tell you about it and calm you down. Rather, it must be done in such a way that you yourself will see all the worlds in which you exist. Based on this, you should realize this question and answer it on your own and to yourself. This is Kabbalah’s task.
Therefore, not giving children this kind of upbringing is simply to rob them and to once again compel them to lead a useless animal existence for all the years of their lives. Gradually priorities will change in society and this idea will become included in university textbooks and then grade school textbooks. Remember only one thing: if a person does not begin to study a science from early age (from three years old as the Torah says) and if he does not begin to study it at least from 5-6 years of age, then it will remain a totally removed science for him. We see this especially on the example of studying a foreign language as well as in everything else.
We have to introduce this system into school education literally from beginning grades. It is not important how the little children will apprehend it. It must be done in such a way that at least a micro-portion of spiritual light will become evoked in them. Then in reality it will be a real system of upbringing, and we will gradually be able to come to what we are talking about right now in broad social circles. However, this is a very lengthy and gradual path.
I hope we will live to the time when we will be able to see the new methodology in a more modern and appropriate form for our generation. Because right now generations differ so much from each other that whatever was written only 20 years ago does not say anything to a person today. A year is like 20 years; it goes by very quickly. Therefore I hope we will see even newer general Kabbalistic methodology, speaking directly, clearly, and closely to each of our contemporaries. In addition, these books will be comprehensible for younger ages as well.
Question: Is it good for kids to hear about Kabbalah even in kindergarten?
As Baal HaSulam writes in the Introduction to the Talmud of the Ten Sefirot, we can teach a person about Kabbalah only to the degree he asks: “What is the meaning of my life?” If this question is not yet present in him, then there is no one to teach. We all felt this inner question within ourselves in childhood. As soon as a person begins to perceive it, we can begin to explain the construction of the world to him and the essence and goal of life, and only to the degree he asks about it. As soon as he is fulfilled by the answer we have to stop. That is, we should teach a person only to the degree of his inner readiness, which increases in each of us from one life to the next in our reincarnations.
Each person can remember when the first question about the Creator and the meaning of life emerged in him. This happened sometime between 6-10 years old. It is already necessary to give them the following answer: “He is the force that created you, and right now it is next to you, it takes care of you, it desires contact with you and you must find it. That is, find the same contact you have with your father and mother, and it is your family. After all, it is said that a person is created by the father, mother and the Creator”. Try it on children and become convinced how naturally they accept this idea.
Question: You are saying that we should not force children to listen to us. This is of course true, but doesn’t the Talmud write about a relatively harsh upbringing?
It is written well: whoever does not beat his children hates them. However, in principle we cannot understand this literally. That is, we must explain why this is written and what comprises this method.
The only method of upbringing is by example and never suppression. Baal HaSulam writes about this, that if you push a person, meaning a small child, then you do not allow him to develop his own attributes.
He is completely different than you. There is no spiritual connection between the biological father and son.
Question: How would you like to see your child?
I would like to see my child and all children maximal in everything, meaning perfect. However, if only I myself knew what this is! And “haughty” parents must bring up their children! Why did such an intelligent and all-foreseeing nature construct things in such a way? That is, in such a way that each generation is mistaken about the most important thing. Let it be even by the way of suffering, but to be able to prepare the next generation better than the previous. Ultimately, however, the following generation, as a rule, is even worse (after all, egoism increases in each generation).
Nature has foreseen that man will reach the realization that he only harms himself with his reason and this will compel man to study the genuine laws of nature in order to educate his offspring correspondingly to this.
The laws of all nature, including morality and thinking, are called “Kabbalah”. Only by studying this science it is possible for a person to correctly exist himself and to prepare his offspring to exist correctly, in order for everyone to feel good from man’s actions.
Question: Is there any sense in your students to participate in working in government of modern society?
Only in the educational system! By introducing Kabbalah as a subject into all systems of education we would be able to change the entire future generation. Although you may rebuke me by saying: “It is said that people come to Kabbalah with the question about the meaning of life.” Forceful upbringing is unacceptable in the spiritual.
We do not give Kabbalah, the method of spiritual ascent, but only a person who desires this is able to really study it and he can do it only to the degree of his desire. We are planing to provide information about the structure of the universe, about the Goal of creation, about the structure of the soul, meaning everything that relates to the descent of the light from up-down. However, the rest of the material, such as articles about a person’s spiritual (inner or individual) work – this is given only to a person who wants it. Information about the universe will give a person understanding about the construction of the world; reveal the goal of the world around him and the meaning of all that exists. This will allow him to simply know more about the world in which he lives. It will lead him out of depression and guard him from a bad action. I see this on examples of people who come to me.