The month of Elul is the time that Jews start thinking about the high holy days approaching. Rosh Hashanah is known as the yom hadin, (a day of judgement) meaning that since human beings were created on Rosh Hashanah we as a species are judged by our Creator as He takes an inventory, so to speak, to decide how we have fulfilled our potential thus far. It would be like auditing your own business. You set a goal and then check in on how you have done in order to mark your progress. You then decide whether the project is successful or not. If it is too far below standard you may choose to abandon the project entirely. Obviously if it is going well, you will choose to invest more energy in the project for the coming year.
Humanity as a whole is compared on Rosh Hashanah with the overall goal of creation and each individual is likewise held up against their own personal potential and decisions are made regarding the best way to proceed with the project. Being under this scrutinous lens is called din or judgement.
We generally turn away frightened at the idea of being judged. I mean who wants to be scrutinized and judged? In a Kabbalistic sense judgement or din means a constriction of light or another way of putting it is a hiddenness of G-d’s presence, which means we will face hard times. What is less known and spoken about is another Kabbalistic concept which describes the revelation of light or an increase in the presence of G-d as din or constriction in itself of an even greater nature than His hiddenness.
Let me explain; in the beginning there was only Atzmo, which means the Creator Himself, which is something we cannot discuss other than to mention it, because we cannot grasp it. Atzmo created something called Ein sof, the infinite. The Infinite is giving off Or Ain Sof which is infinite light. The Ain Sof restricted His light so to speak and almost all of that light returned to the Or Ain Sof and was nullified within the Or Ein Sof, leaving a dark space called the challal which is now a makom or space for existence. The Or Ain Sof then injects a kav (beam) of light into the Challal in order to reveal Itself as the universe we live in including all its parts physical and spiritual.
The first concept to understand is that the original creation of the Ein Sof, Infinite, is a hiddenness of the Creator Himself in order for there to be revelation. The Or Ain Sof even though it is infinite is still somewhat describable meaning that it is yet a further hiddenness of the Creator Himself, but a revelation of Ein Sof (the Infinite). The Challal is now a hiddenness of the Or Ain Sof (Infinite light), but a revelation of Ein Sof (the Infinite) which cannot be truly described by the Or (light) coming from it. The challal (empty space) is now a greater hiddenness of Atzmo (the Creator) in order for there to be a revelation. Now when the kav of light enters the Challal, it becomes a hiddenness of the Challal, but a revelation of the Or Ain Sof and yet another level of hiddenness of Atzmo Baruch Hu(the Creator may He be blessed). We find that there are two forms of light. Black light and white light.
In the physical world black light means ultra violet rays are being emitted which are invisible to us. They also happen to cause harm to the skin causing burns and cancer. Similarly the Challal (empty space) is as much a revelation from the Holy one as the flash of visible light is. In fact it turns out that the Challal must be stronger than the light contained within it, otherwise it would not be strong enough to contain the light within it. Just like a styrofoam cup is not strong enough to house molten lead. It must be strong enough to hold the light within it, i.e the kav which is more like coffee to the Challal. Therefore there is a more powerful revelation to us through gevurah (restraint and hiddenness) then there is through chesed (kindness), because the gevurah of the challal precedes the kav of Or and must be able to contain it.
So what does that really mean to us? It means that our natural reaction to suffering and darkness is to run, because we don’t understand that the darkness is our greatest and only opportunity to express ourselves. Every level of growth is only enabled by another level of constriction. Hence all the worlds are built upon this tzimtzum (constriction of light) and so are our characters. We often try to teach ourselves to focus on the positive. What that means to us is that we focus on things that we recognize as chesed (kindness from the Creator) and look away from things that we recognize as gevurah (hardship). The problem is that it’s only a trick and a hard one to do, because the gevurah (challenges) are painful and we are fooling ourselves if we try to ignore them. Our suffering really remains deep inside and we remain repressed and unexpressed. We need to learn to rather see the gevurah (restraint) as chesed (loving kindness) and the chesed (kindness) as gevurah (restraint). Would we really prefer an easy life void of challenges and no true pleasure? The truth is that every revelation of light is only a chesed if we have the kelim (vessels) to appreciate it as a revelation. Otherwise it is like seeds thrown into the garbage which can never sprout. The hard times are the Creator’s greatest chesed (kindnes), because they are only in order for us to build our kelim (vessels or tolerance and character traits) and hence truly taste the pleasure of the chasadim (kindness).
Remember that before the constriction of light forming the challal (empty space) there is a burst of Or Ain Sof (infinite light, wisdom, love) to be constricted. That means that you will always get a flash of revelation and chesed (kindness) to reveal your ultimate goal before you fall into the hard times. We usually speak about a yeridah (falling) letzorech aliyah (to facilitate rising up). Now I’m talking about an aliyah letzorech yeridah (rising in order to fall). We are shown a flash of vision to awaken in us a desire for growth. The desire for growth is answered from above with a new level of challenge. A part of us dies in order for new growth, but before that a part of us lives in order to die.
There is a substance called phosphors. They retain light and continue to glow in the dark. In fact they appear to glow even brighter in the dark. That’s what you see glowing under a black light. They are phosphors contained in the white materials. For us in our avodah (process of growth) phosphors would be our practicing a recognition of the good and appreciation and gratitudein the times of chesed (revealed kindness from the creator) so much so that we retain the light and glow in the dark and challenging times ahead. Then when the light is removed so to speak creating a space for our growth, we shine brighter in the dark than we ever could have shined in the light. Indeed the negative space will enable the next ray of light to come into our lives for the development of the next phase of our growth. If we cherish the darkness for what it enables us to do we can actually start to perceive the uv rays so to speak that are the black light of tzimtzum (constriction), because we have chosen to see with eyes that are more a tuned than to just the physical, rather a tuned to the spiritual. When the going gets rough, just know that the boss has a bigger project for you to accomplish. Therefore you must be very valued in the company. Accept the challenge with joy and if your challenge is that you cannot be joyful then be joyful for that. Great things have certainly already arrived.