The symbol of a divine spark encased in earthly matter is an ancient Gnostic symbol, which took on new life in the Kabbalah of seventeenth century Safed, as well as in 2015 in Rhode Island. An extraordinary story in today’s Providence Journal gives me more than a flicker of hope that even in the darkest of times, there are people who find ingenious and simple ways to hold us all in the light.
In the Gnostic version, a spark of divinity is entrapped in an alien and evil world, and imprisoned in the soul of man. According to the Gnostics, the individual’s knowledge of the spark within himself results in its being liberated from this world, and the Gnostic abandons both body and self to join the infinite pleroma.
In contradiction to the Gnostics, Rabbi Isaac Luria held that when the spark of divine light is freed, the world is reintegrated and restored, rather than escaped and discarded. According to the Hasidim it is the individual’s divinely appointed task to not only liberate those sparks that are entrapped in Kelippot within his own body and soul, but also those sparks in the world that he or she encounters along life’s way. Through proper ethical and spiritual conduct the individual is able to free the holy sparks from the Kelippot which contain them, enabling the exiled divine light to return to its source, thus promoting the completion of Tikkun ha-Olam.
The “raising of the sparks” implies that there is something of spiritual value in all things, and it is man’s daily task to discover and bring out the value in the material world, transforming it into a spiritual realm. Tikkun ha-Olam will only be complete when the last spark has been raised and the entire world informed with spiritual meaning and value.
My wish for this season is that we each begin, or continue, our ongoing dialogue with the Divine. If we freely acknowledge and collectively share our fragments of light, perhaps God will respond in kind.
“The message is: we know you are there and we are thinking about you, and goodnight.”