Learning to Teach with Encrypted or Discrete Messages

By Yonatan Gordon

From the times of Abraham and his Kabbalistic work Sefer Yetzirah (The Book of Formation), the teachings of Kabbalah were passed from teacher to student in complete secret; only a select few privy to the mysteries of creation.

Then something changed. No longer were these teachings to remain hidden from masses. From the Zohar, authored by Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, and onward, the time became fitting to begin revealing these teachings publically.

With this public dissemination came a safety mechanism. Although the teachings would now be easily accessible to all, many of the hidden messages and lessons behind the texts would remain concealed to the casual passersby. Only those devoted students, who have invested themselves in disciplined study, would become privy to perceiving something deeper than a surface reading of the text.

In our times, from the Ba’al Shem Tov and on, the encouragement to spread the wellsprings of inner dimension of the Torah (Kabbalah and Chassidut) has become even stronger. But implicit in this dissemination is that no matter where the books, articles, classes are made available for public consumption, only those who have the proper intentions, will be able to truly begin decoding these texts.

Thanks to proposed advances in quantum communication, we now have some most fitting words to metaphorically describe this phenomenon. In Scientific American’s piece entitled “Quantum Teleportation in Space Explored as Message Encryption Solution” they explain how Quantum Entanglement (the faster-than-light “action at a distance” between two particles) may soon be used as a method to encrypt top-secret messages.

Previously, we mentioned how the Phasers and Tractor Beams of the Star Trek series have become real to an extent. Now we are turning our sites to teleportation devices. What does it mean to beam someone “up” from one place to another?

The answer begins by first looking into the verse “Pull me after you, we will run; the king brought me into his chambers, we will take delight and joy in you”. In Chassidic thought, the word “mishkan” (the travelling Tabernacle in the desert) is cognate with “pulling,” meaning that it pulls. In this verse, the Tabernacle is telling the Almighty, pull me after You, and we will run.

In order to better appreciate how this verse relates to our discussion, we can think in terms of a person preparing to make a big move. While there is much deliberation involved prior to the move, the pull or run to one specific locale comes from favorable circumstances at the destination point. In a deeper sense, the availability of an income, a nice place to live, etc… shows that the conditions are ripe for the “signal’ of the person at point A, to begin resonating at point B. While the actual leap occurs once the person boards the plane, hops in the moving truck, etc… the relationship between these two distant points began long before.

Finding Home

Generally, we think of travelling in terms of someone who desired to travel to some predetermined location. But the introduction of the “pull” concept of the Tabernacle emphasizes the draw of the destination point itself; the new place is asking to be pulled upwards to receive this person. In our phrase, this relates to the Tabernacle (malchut/earth) that desires to receive new wisdom (termed the yud or the source of wisdom in Kabbalah). As we saw in our article, the main thing that travels is not the particle itself, but the information that the particle contains; or as we began, the secrets of Kabbalah that are transmitted from one person to the next. Much like the student is pulling the information (wisdom) of his teacher into a new place (the mindset of the student), a destination point can also pull the world traveler to it as well.

When does the run of the traveler begin? From the moment he has the intent (kavanah) to move to this new place. From the very first thought to move, the new dwelling (or Tabernacle in our verse) is asking to be brought to the yud to receive the wisdom of this new person. In the continuation of the verse, it says “the king brought me into his chambers.” But this is in the past-tense. How then does it go with the present-tense “pull me after you”? If we’re already in his chambers, then why does he need to pull us after him?

In short, the request is with the faith, hope and trust that this will indeed happen. That God will pull me after Him because I recall that in my root, before my soul came down to the earth (malchut), he brought me to His chambers. God did this a long time ago, so I am requesting that He bring me back to that awareness.

We didn’t mention this earlier, but to pull something is to purchase it, to take possession of it (קנין). With what do I ask him to pull me? It is with the memory of having been in His chambers. The exile is before being pulled, but because we are certain that immediately He will pull us to His chamber, then even now, we are full of joy. I was there, before the exile, before the sin, and I’m certain that I will return there.

The Quantum Traveler

From this understanding, we can begin constructing our answer of how two distant points can instantaneously be traversed. Through a person remembering their source in the new place, they in a sense, have already traveled there. In our example of the traveler, he is looking for the place that he could call “home.” All these other places that he stayed at were temporary dwellings relative to this one.

But more than just desiring to travel, if the destination is indeed the intended one, then there is a veritable pull from the destination itself. Sometimes we say that a place waited for hundreds of even thousands of years for this person to walk there to pray, do a mitzvah, etc… This comes from the awareness that God vests within nature to fulfill its intended purpose. So too, we could say that this traveler has always visited this place because that was what was intended for both this person and that place. Once a person recognizes, and embarks on his journey home, then he becomes immediately awakened to the fact that his souls was always destined to be there.

Discrete Messages

We began this article by explaining how Kabbalah was transmitted secretly from person to person. In our discussion, the ability for a signal to go “undetected” relates to the unknowable nature of the king’s chamber. While it is the source of all Jewish souls, it is also a secret place rooted in the “unknowable head” (radla in Kabbalah) of the king. In our lower reality on earth, there are souls that feel separate from God. But the way for these souls to always feel connected is to keep in mind that this lower reality relates to His most inner place. The Almighty desired to make for Himself a dwelling place below. Through remembering this connection, these souls can immediately see their seemingly separate existence, as one still included in God’s inner chamber. But because the place is unknown, it also remains undetectable to the onlooker.

This also explains why an outsider, or the “eavesdropper” from the article, disrupts the signal of communication. When they have their own ulterior motives at play, the discrete messages are dispersed. The fact that they are trying to observe it, according to Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, itself causes the message to escape detection. But like our world traveler who is simply trying to travel home, this also relates to the teacher-student paradigm. As long as the students are true to their teachers, then they will merit receiving the message. If not, then the teachings will disperse from before them. This concept is similar to what I wrote on Quora.com in answer to the question: “Is plagiarism potentially creative?

“A well-known author once asked me this question, but he phrased it a bit differently. Here is how he worded it (paraphrased): “Whenever I give a class, I present my thoughts to the crowd. But then I see them taking these ideas and portraying them as their own. Is there anything you can suggest that I do differently?”

I answered him that if this group were your students, you’d be all the happier that they were spreading your ideas. Sometimes, in order to bring merit to the teacher, the students need to leave off the teacher’s name.

Take for instance a student of Steve Jobs that is now teaching a course on creativity at Microsoft. If during the whole class, he says “and Steve said this… and Steve said that….” the people in the crowd would likely get annoyed and frustrated. Sometimes in order to spread the message of the teacher, you need to pretend (at least for the moment) that the novel insights are your own.”

So really this author was asking me how do I turn the “people in the crowd” to my students? The problem is not that they are running away with his thoughts. The problem is when the teacher doesn’t feel like people are endeavoring to implement his teachings.”

We are now adding to this answer that if the student does indeed have ulterior motives, they will never be able to grasp anything to begin with. What eavesdropping is for the world of governments and military communication, plagiarism is for the classroom. This is another point we learn from the discrete teaching method presented in Kabbalah. If the teachings are viewed as something overt, then the teacher may wonder where they will wind up. But when discrete, only those students who have the intent to further the teachings, will be able to hold onto them to begin with.

The Coupling Constant of Kabbalah

The force that binds two particles is called a “coupling constant,” or the inverse of the fine-structure constant. The value of this concept is 137, something which among many other things equals the value of the word “Kabbalah” itself.

The secret of how a person on one side of the world can instantaneously beam to the other comes through learning Kabbalah. But like the Kabbalists who once transmitted this knowledge privately, the signal remains detectable only for those so intended.

What then does it mean to beam someone up? It rests in the potential latent in students to connect with their source and find their home; both in the world and with the discrete messages of their teacher.

Excerpted and adapted from the weekly shiur (class/lesson) given 26 Adar 5773 from Harav Yitzchak Ginsburgh

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