Light and Vessels - Jewish Outlook

Welcome To Jewish Outlook

Light and Vessels

The entire Likutei Moharan was not written down by Rebbe Nachman. It was written by his pupil, Rebbe Nathan. But the thing we are learning right now is actually mamash Rebbe Nachman’s words, it was written down in his own words. And you can feel that this is on a completely different level as much as Rebbe Nathan understood what Rebbe Nachman said, but this is taka mamash, the depths of this is unbelievable.

Lights without vessels

Many people walk around in this world, and they’re broken, right? The reason is because a lot of people have a lot of lights, but they have no vessels to hold their own light. Most kids have a lot of light, but they don’t have the vessels for their own light. They don’t know what to do with it.

So they have one of two options: Either they force their light into the little vessel that they have, or they decide to lead a life of vessels and disregard the light. If they have small vessels, so they have a little light. Like some ‘straight’ people, they have a little light, and little vessels, everything is straight [normative]. Or, they decide to live on a ‘light level,’ that means they have no vessels, and so they’re broken all the time. But it’s also not good, because the world is made up of light and vessels.

Imagine if I mamash believe that I should walk on the streets every day and give gifts to everybody. That’s my light. But then, I can’t, right? So there are two ways I could go. I could walk around giving gifts, but then I stop doing everything else, I leave my wife, my children, and I just walk around on the streets giving out gifts. It’s a very holy thought. It’s a very holy light, but I’m ending up being crazy. Or, I think, “No, I can’t, because right now I have a job, I have got to support my wife and children.” And so I abandon the light. Either way is bad. Either way is bad. You see, the world does not yet know the secret of light and vessels. Either they have vessels, or they have light. They don’t know the secret of light within vessels yet. There’s no one to teach it to them. Because what most people teach is all vessel talk, and not even good vessels. The whole thing is, the secret of Torah is, G-d speaking to us on Mt. Sinai is, the most important thing is that we have light within vessels.

The words of the Torah

The most amazing thing about the words of the Torah is that those words are vessels for great light. And real holy teaching is not something that makes you crazy, real holy teaching is that it makes your light deeper and your vessels stronger.

The Bal Shem Tov would always say to people, “I bless you that your body should be strong enough for your soul.” Everybody can make himself crazy, anyone can make his soul shine like an atomic explosion, but what’s going to be with your body?

So a lot of people, and most religions, only have lights, but no vessels. So what do they tell you to do? They tell you; “You want to be holy? Leave your wife and your children, and go to live like a monk.” Hare Krishna kids, they’re holy kids, they have great light, but no vessels. Because this is not the world you’re living in. You don’t walk around with a shaved head asking everybody for a penny. It’s very holy, but this isn’t where it’s at. And even with higher things, this is also not where it’s at.

Hidden holiness

What’s wrong with standing in a grocery store and selling herring? It’s very holy if you know how to sell it. But this is a hidden kind of holiness.

Obviously if you’re standing and praying it’s very holy. But to sell herring, or to be a mailman…. It is a very holy thing to bring a letter to somebody. Though you could say, “It’s the most awful thing in the world.” but it can be the holiest thing in the world. Do you know what it means to deliver a letter to somebody? Gevalt! You can work for Western Union and say, “It’s really bad, brother.” Or you can do it thinking, ‘Gevalt, it is the greatest privilege in the world to bring somebody a message. It might change their whole life.’

Whatever you do, you can do it on the highest level, or on the lowest level. It depends on whether or not your vessels and your lights are strong.


The holiness of Yerushalayim is not that there is no light anywhere else. The whole world is full of light. Yerushalayim is a vessel for this holy light.

Every house could be a holy temple, but it isn’t, the vessels are missing. After all, how can a house be a vessel if it’s not really a house, right? The holiness of Yerushalayim is that this holy little house is a vessel for this light.

Everybody could be a high priest. Aharon HaCohen was the one who made vessels for it.

Strong vessels

Moshe Rabbenu was the one who had strong enough vessels to go up on Mt. Sinai, talk to G-d, and come back to tell us about it.

I can also go up to Mt. Sinai, but I’ll blow my mind. They’ll carry me down crazy. If I would have a revelation like Moshe Rabbenu’s, mamash hear G-d talking to me, though perhaps I could have that revelation, but I’d crack up and loose my mind. Crack up completely.
With Moshe Rabbenu, not only was his light holy, but also he had strong vessels. He came down from Mt. Sinai and said, ‘Give me some apple juice.’

The Alter Rebbe and ‘the Angel’ were sitting and learning together one night, and, it was like heaven and earth were opened up before them. The Alter Rebbe went into the kitchen to get a bagel and he even remembered to put butter on it. Imagine what a strong vessel he was. He didn’t forget to put butter on, because this is the way of the world. He wasn’t one ounce less holy than when he had the revelation. He was with it completely.

So, today, what we have to do very strong [intensely] is not only to have holy lights, but we also must have very holy vessels.

I’ll tell you something very very strong. On a level ‘between people,’ many times people love each other from afar, which means the great light is shining, but when it comes to meeting each other, they have no vessel. They don’t even say hello to each other. Have you ever seen this? Sometimes you want to meet someone, you love them so much. You want to see them. But then when you’re standing in front of them, you don’t know what to say. Because we have no vessels. And sometimes it’s so good, because we have the light and the vessels. Sometimes I want to tell someone I love them, and the light is so strong I don’t know how to say it. That means that I have no vessels. Yet sometimes the way I love someone is with vessels that have no light. That is also meaningless. The secret of the world is light and vessels.

Chaos world

In Hassidus there is such a thing as olam hatohu. Olam hatohu means the world of chaos. What’s chaos? Everything is there, but it’s not in its right place. Imagine, you can take the house you’re living in and turn it over. Turn over all the furniture, put the dishes in the bed, the bed in the fridge, and then someone will ask, “Is anything missing?” “No, everything’s here.” But what are you doing? You can’t live like this, because the light and the vessels don’t mix. Everything has its proper place.

The fixed world

Then there is olam hatikun, the world of correction. The fixed world.

The top tikun haolam [fixing the world] man is Yaakov Avinu [our forefather Jacob]. Esau is olam hatohu. Do you think Esau didn’t have great lights? He was learning by Yitzchak [he lived in the house of our forefather Isaac]. Do you think that when you learn by Yitzchak you don’t blow your mind from the great light? Do you think that Esau didn’t know that it’s the greatest thing in the world to do somebody a favor? This great light was tremendous. But he had no vessels. He could walk out from Yitzchak’s house and immediately kill somebody. He had no vessels to hold on to this great light. So Esau is olam hatohu; you know everything – it’s not that you don’t know – but you have no vessels. So it’s nothing. It’s meaningless.

Yaakov Avinu is olam hatikun. Yaakov learned with Yitzchak, and every word had a vessel. Yaakov Avinu was able to spend 21 years being a shepherd, and be the holy of holies. Yaakov Avinu could talk to his father-in-law Laban, the biggest thief in the world, and Yaakov remains Yaakov and Laban is still Laban. Most of us, if we spend a lot of time talking with a big thief, something would rub off on us. Yaakov sent the strongest message to Esau, he says to him, “I was with my father-in-law Laban, the biggest thief, but I didn’t learn anything from him. Don’t think it rubbed off on me.”

If, thank G-d you have a good healthy body, and you are able to walk straight, and you see a cripple, do you start limping because he’s a cripple? Thank G-d your feet are ok, your body’s ok, so you walk straight. But imagine if you’re also a cripple. If you see another cripple limping, you’ll think, “Maybe that’s a good way to walk, I’ll also walk like him.”

If my vessels and my light are completely in touch, if my light is with the vessels and the vessels are with the light, then I won’t be influenced by somebody else. But if my light and my vessels don’t go completely together, then with every little thing, I’ll think, “Maybe this is the way.” “Maybe that is the way.”

Listen, if I know what it means to be a Jew, then I can see the holiest people in the world, I love them, I respect them, and everything, but I am a Jew. But if I’m not so sure about my being Jewish, that means my Jewish light, which is hiding in my soul, doesn’t have any Jewish vessels. Then every little thing I see, I think, ‘Maybe this is right. Maybe this is wrong.’

Let’s say somebody is married, and yet, every woman he sees on the street he thinks, “Oy, I should have married her.” That means there’s something wrong there. It means the light and the vessels, the man and his wife, never got together properly. Because, ok, this other woman is very beautiful, but she’s not his wife.

If the light has a vessel and everything is in its place, then it’s just such a beautiful world. Olam hatikun. That means the fixed world.

Today, such great lights are shining, and each generation has deeper lights. And the last generation didn’t make vessels for this great light. Do you know what happened in the last generation? They threw out all the lights, and just had little vessels. They have, like, small whiskey shot glasses, and we need big bottles. I have a light and I need at least 20,000 bottles for it. So imagine my father comes to me with a shot glass and he says, “Pour it in here.” So I do one of the two things. Either I give in, or, nebech, I don’t give in.
What I really have to do is, I have to make new vessels.

A great light will shine

“A great and new light should shine upon Zion. And we all should be blessed and privileged that we should have this great light.” Rav Kook says, what does it mean? If the light is shining, so how could I not have it? What does it mean that I should have the light? It’s a very deep translation. He says that a great light should be shining, and I should have vessels for it. We should all be there. Because if the light shines into the vessels, then something also happens to the light, because the light without the vessels is very painful to the light, because light needs vessels.

Imagine if I want to tell somebody “I love you” but I don’t know how to say it. I don’t have the vessels. It hurts so much. I want to do something, and I don’t know how to do it. I want to be a Jew, and I don’t know how to do it, it hurts, right?

If you know how to do it, not only do you do it, but then your light becomes much deeper. A very, very deep thing.

Imagine if I want to keep Shabbos and I don’t know how to do it. If I know how to do it then the Shabbos is much deeper, it’s real. Everything that has a place is real, meaning to say that the light cannot reveal itself in all its greatness and depth unless it has a vessel. Without a vessel, it’s a light, it’s true, the light is shining, but not with all its fullness. The moment the light is shining with its fullness, it must have vessels. It has to be in a certain place.

Where do I get vessels

There is a passuk in the Psalms, “HaShem Yikalkelecha,” and so the sad translation is, “and G-d will feed you,” which really doesn’t blow my mind. So G-d will feed me, so? You don’t have to be King David to make such a statement. G-d is feeding the whole world. It’s very sweet. The Zohar Kodesh says that it means, “G-d will give you vessels.” It comes from the word kelim – Yikalkelecha – He will give you vessels.


The whole idea of Shabbos is that Shabbos is the day of vessels, G-dly vessels.

In the craziest / paradoxical way… during the week we have vessels for this world, not for great lights. But on Shabbos, by not doing anything, we get these great big vessels, because on Shabbos G-d gives us vessels. If you make a vessel, you have to work to make it yourself, but on Shabbos, the light is so deep, you cannot make a vessel for it by doing anything. It’s such a deep light that your vessel is ‘not doing anything.’ This is a way out / amazing vessel. A G-d vessel. Shabbos is the day that not only does G-d give you a great light, but by not doing anything on Shabbos, you also make the vessel. We always think Shabbos is only light. But it is also vessels. But the vessel for Shabbos is, ‘not doing anything.’ Can you imagine, such a great vessel…

Let’s put it this way, there are vessels for words, that are made by speaking the words, and there are deeper vessels for words, that are made by not saying them. That is also a vessel for the words. So the vessel for this great light for which I have no vessels, is made when I’m not doing anything on Shabbos. Then my vessels become strong because on Shabbos G-d not only strengthens my light, He also strengthens my vessels.

And, above all, the most important thing is that I realize that I must have vessels, one way or another. Buy them. Get them in a pawn shop. I don’t know how. But imagine if I know that I really need a Coca Cola – I’ll walk around until I find it.

Maybe we have the lights, and throw them out.

Maybe we have the vessels, and fill them with herring instead of with wine.

For example, the straight people / conformists. Their lights and their vessels fit, but it’s not the truth. You know what they did? They cut off / truncated their lights, and only left a little flashlight. Because real light always gets deeper, it demands more vessels. The first sign that you’re really living on a little bit of a light level is that you’re looking for more. If you don’t look for more, then you’re just living on a level of vessels, dead vessels.

This is not only the idea of Rebbe Nachman. This is the top / epitome of Kabala, the top concepts of mysticism. Because the whole creation of the world is based on the fact that G-d put His light into vessels. If this concept is not understood, it is as if you speak English and you don’t know what “yes” and “no” mean; you’re off. If you want to know anything, you have to know the secret of vessels and lights. Because this is the beginning.

Surrounding light

But then you have to realize that there are lights which have no vessels. Which have no vessels… But if you have light and vessels, then you are strong enough to also carry the light which has no vessels. This light which surrounds us. You know, sometimes you meet people who have a great surrounding light. I mean, there’s something, you don’t know what it is, and they don’t know what it is themselves, but it’s a great light. But this is only with the people whose light and vessels are strong, then they have this surrounding light.

Imagine a box that is five miles long. If my head is strong you can put it on me and I can carry it. You’ll say, “It’s protruding on all four sides!” But that doesn’t matter, because I’m fairly well balanced, and so I can carry it. In the same way, if my light and my vessels are strong inside, then you can put a big light on me, one which is bigger than I am, and I can carry it. But I have got to have a strong head. Oy!

If you’re filled with something holy

Remember what the Gemara said, that G-d is different than human beings. Human beings can only fill an empty vessel. But G-d can fill a full vessel. You see, if you’re filled with holiness, then you always have space for more holiness. But if you’re filled with nothingness, then you’re so full that nothing else can go in. You know, there is a full emptiness and an empty emptiness. You can be filled with emptiness.

Why do we really die? Because deep, deep down we really don’t think we need our body forever. We don’t yet know the holiness of the body. So we really think, “My soul is so holy, it really has got to keep on going. But my body? It is not important, so it only needs to stay for a few years.” This is the difference between the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge. The Tree of Knowledge knows right and wrong. It looks down at the body because it knows, ‘This is right and this is wrong.’ It wants to get away from evil, so what does it tell you to do you do? ‘Knock off the body.’ And deep down, deep down, you think, “You know, it is pretty good. If I would have to live with my body for a thousand years it would be a bad scene / not so pleasant, who has strength for so long?” The Tree of Life responds, “I really know the holiness of the body, of really wanting to stay forever.”

Before saying kriat shema, we say, “Let us walk upright into the holy Land.” The Hebrew word komimiut is a double upright, two uprights. In Hassidus it is explained: The uprightness of the body, and the uprightness of the soul. Right now we don’t really let the body rise to its full stature because we don’t think that the body is so good. Because we are like Adam, putting the blame on somebody else. Everything I do wrong, I say, “It was the fault of my body, because my soul is so pure.” So I put the blame on somebody else, I put all the blame on my body.*
*Do you know the famous story of the holy Rizhener Rebbe. Someone came to the Rizhener and said, “I’m very holy.” The holy Rizhener asked, “Why are you so holy?” The man answers, “Because I am rolling in snow every night, and I am fasting.” So the Rizhener says, “Come, I’ll take you to the window, and I’ll show you ‘something holy’.” There was a poor horse standing out in the snow, because his driver was a drunkard sitting in the bar drinking like mad. The holy Rizhener says, “What do you think of that horse in the snow? It’s so holy. But the owner is sitting there drinking. You know,” continued the holy Rizhener, “your body is rolling in snow, but you yourself….”



Daily Torah Quote

Joke of the day

A young man learning in Yeshiva is engaged to a wonderful young lady from wealthy home. The father is upset. How is this guy going to make a living? So he takes him into his office to interview him while the mother and the future bride wait nervously outside. The father says, “How do you intend to make a living?” “G-d will provide,” answers the young man. “Well, my daughter’s needs are great; she was brought up that way.” “G-d will provide,” comes the reply. “How about a house? She needs a big house.” “G-d will provide.””How about clothes? She’s used to expensive, elegant dressing.” “G-d will provide.” The father comes out of the interview and the mother and daughter anxiously inquire, “So what do you think?” “Why, he’s a very fine young man. He thinks I’m G-d!”