Do you know the Big Bang theory for how the world was created? According to modern physics, some 15 billion years ago all of what would become matter was condensed into a single point, infinitely dense and of infinite potential. That infinitely dense matter exploded out in all directions, and it kept exploding outward for some 300,000 years. It made a perfect sphere of matter, with no distinct objects in it. Everything was equally dense throughout because it was perfect, and this perfect distribution of matter and space produced a murky cosmic soup. After 300,000 years a wrinkle emerged, an imperfection in creation. And it was because of that imperfection that matter was able to congeal in different degrees of density, allowing us to be created. Without that uneven distribution of matter, there could be no thing, nothing.
Now let me share with you the Kabbalah's story of the creation of the world.
In the beginning God determined to create, and so God needed to make a space in which there wasn't God. Because if God is everywhere and God is everything, then how can there be anywhere else or anything else? So God condensed into a point of infinite density and infinite energy that is called tzimtzum. Then God exploded out in all directions, but the perfection of divine energy could not be contained in physical vessels, in material reality. So, shortly after this "big bang" in Kabbalah, the vessels containing the divine energy broke (called shevirat ha'kelim), and it is precisely the breaking of the vessels that allowed for the creation of the world, the sun and the stars, and the planets, you and me.
When the vessel shattered, divine energy that had been held in the vessels slipped out into what is called the Sitra Ahra, the other side. Once the vessels broke, God had to find a way to regather the divine sparks that had been lost. God needed an undercover agent within material reality to gather up the sparks. And that undercover agent is each and every Jew. Every time a Jew does a mitzvah, she reclaims a spark of divine energy from the other side. Then, on Friday night when we light our Shabbat candles, all of the divine energy that we have liberated from the other side returns through the flame of the candles back to their divine source.
Let's push this Kabbalah/Big Bang analogy a little further. Let's say, just for purposes of insight, that the force that created the Big Bang is the one we call "God." And let us then say that the Big Bang itself is the primary physical expression of this force we call God. And let us recognize then that the Big Bang, an explosion of that magnitude, that size, that force, can still be heard today. The sound of the Big Bang is the sound of the cosmos growing, yet also heard in the bearing of each living heart. It pulsates in the sound of breath entering and leaving our lungs. Each of us is a piece of stardust. We are made of the same Big Bang material out of which the earth is made, out of which the stars and the galaxies were fashioned. Each of us is a product of that exact same explosion, as are the trees, the buildings, the animals, the clouds and all that is. We are, all of us, connected to all, and we are, all of us, expressions of the One. What a magnificent vision of a dynamic world! What I love about this Kabbalistic theology is it is a theology of moral empowerment. The salvation of the universe depends on the way we live our lives with each other. There is no neutral in Kabbalah: we are either advancing the unity of God or we are delaying it. Every time we make a choice for righteousness, for compassion and for Godliness we are literally repairing the structure of the universe. What I love about this theology is that it is a powerful metaphor for the fact that this world is a broken world.
This is not a world of fairy tales and bliss. This is a world in which hearts are broken. This is a world of pain and of hatred and of disappointment. Yes, and of beauty too. But this is a shattered universe, and we have a choice as to whether we leave it shattered or to grow as mature adults to our God-given responsibility to heal the world. According to Kabbalah, God cannot do it without us. We are free agents to choose whether or not God's ultimate goodness will become manifest or not – it is in our hands.
Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson.