Kabbalah Counseling

In previous articles we discussed the manner in which many of us get distracted from our goal of achieving the ultimate in life and wind up putting our focus and energies into building that which is temporary and trivial. Such a distraction is referred to in Kabbalah as “klipah”, meaning shell, because a shell surrounds the purpose (i.e. the fruit), yet gets its vitality from the fruit. Similarly, in life, our interest in building that which is trivial ultimately has its root in our potential and inner yearning to build something of great worth and meaning. That is to say, our interest in building a stamp, comic book, car, or diamond collection, has its root in our potential and inner yearning to build something higher – namely, our relationship with the Infinite.

In fact, probably the most prevalent klipah we struggle with in the world today is what I like to call the Klipah of Greece. The philosophy, ideals, and culture of Greece were spread further by the Roman Empire, which (combined with Christianity) serves as the underpinnings of the Western society in which we presently find ourselves.

The Greek goal, definition, and vision of true beauty was pure externality and physicality. The human physique, sports, the Olympics – these were the pinnacle they thought to be worth “collecting.” If the Jewish motto is that there is nothing other than God, the Greek motto is that there is nothing other than the physical.

The word for Greece in Hebrew, Yavan, is spelled yud, vav, finalnun. If you take a look at this word in Hebrew (יון), you see that the word starts from the smallest letter, the yud, and seems to be getting stretched out and pulled downward.

Being that the letter yud is the smallest of all the letters and likened to a mere dot, it expresses spiritual existence – when written, it exists there on the page but is not drawn out to contain physical properties, as if to demonstrate existence beyond the physical. Thus, the letters of the Hebrew word Yavan hint to the “spiritual” yud being stretched out, and not only brought down into the physical, but dragged down and entrenched into the physical, as the end-nun can be seen to be implying. This is what Greece is all about – turning the spiritual into physical.

By contrast, Judaism is all about getting to the spiritual even in the physical and clarifying that the physical itself is actually spiritual at its root. So, if we refer to the Jewish people as a “light unto the nations” for their illumination of the spiritual reality inherent within this physical world, we can refer to Greece as a “darkness unto the nations” for their attempt to block out any semblance of the spiritual reality inherent within this physical world.

Jewish Pastime

Before entering university, I spent a year at a yeshiva in Israel in which I investigated the underpinnings of Judaism and immersed myself in its teachings and values. Upon returning to the USA, a few Yankees tickets found their way to a friend of mine who offered me to come along, so I figured I’d take him up on it.

It was a close game.

With two outs in the bottom of the 8th inning and a couple of runners on base, one of the Yankees gets a hit and the ball rolls all the way back to the wall. One runner comes in to tie the game. The crowd is cheering. Another runner is rounding third. The crowd gets off its feet. Here comes the play at the plate… At that moment, I look around and I find myself just sitting there watching this whole scene, thinking to myself, “This has got to be the saddest excuse for something meaningful that has ever been invented.”

After all, what are they cheering about at the end of the day?

Think about it.

If you’ve ever listened to people talk about “their” team winning a championship, they typically exclaim: “We won!”

Really? You won? I haven’t seen your championship ring.

For a person to have an appreciation for the game and for the game to have entertainment value is one thing, but the passion and sense of personal and societal identity that many fans (short for “fanatics”) associate with “their” team is something quite different.

This sense of identity and meaningfulness extends to such a fanatical point that a few years ago a lifelong Steelers fan was brought in an urn to experience a game for the first time “in person” (if you can call it that). And, just in case you think that is one extreme, isolated incident, they have now come out with a line of colorful caskets and urns available for purchase for people looking to fulfill their mantra of dying for their team.

Said the spokeswoman for Major League Baseball, “Passionate fans express their love of their team in a number of different ways.”


The klipah of Greece and Greek-influenced cultures such as Rome, and by extension the entire Western world, is that they have taken the soul-power for growth and meaningful living and turned the goal and definition of true beauty into sports and Olympics – the physical and external.

In a society in which money defines success – such as the Western world, which declares that “It’s all about the Benjamins” – in order to see what they value, all you have to look at is what they spend their money on.

So what does this society spend its money on? And, by extension, who does our society glorify as the personification of its goals, ideals, and aspirations?

Is it the teachers of their children?


Is it the aid and relief workers?

Nope. Most of them are actually expected to volunteer for their positions.

Rather, it’s those people who are hitting the homeruns, putting the ball in the hoop, throwing touchdown passes. It’s those people who are in the movies and on TV. That’s who our society considers to be “really making it.” After all, what are you going to set as your Facebook profile picture – you with the aid worker who just got back from Africa, or you with Lady Gaga?

Just think about what posters were on the walls of your room when you were a kid, and you can see exactly what our society is teaching us to value, hold near-and-dear, and, ultimately, to emulate.

The Messianic Symphony

Another great example of the manner in which physicality and externality has been redefined by Westernism as the truest beauty and the ultimate goal can be seen in commercials for the National Football League. The background music will come on sounding like some combination of symphony and opera, giving the feeling of some sort of heavenly ascendance in which all parts of the orchestra fuse together for a higher, all-inclusive purpose. Then, a highlight of a quarterback throwing a spiral football floating in the air in slow motion, culminating in an over-the-shoulder catch in the end zone.

Ah, a thing of beauty.

But do you notice how they’re essentially trying to make football into a God experience, into a Messianic experience? After all, according to Judaism, in Messianic times all aspects of this world of multiplicity will reveal the underlying unity of God that is at its core. And the NFL is tapping into that.

Similar is the experience of the concert when everyone pulls out their lighter (or cell phone) – each becoming individualistic parts of the greater collective unified whole.

This hijacking of the soul of humanity is what we call klipah.

Humanity has an inherent soul-desire and yearning for this Messianic age, this God-experience, and the aura of ascendance that comes with that; our Greek-Roman-Western society puts something objectively meaningless in its place. And the irony is that the whole reason for the interest and passion in the objectively meaningless collection, sports team, or rock concert experience is due to their being empowered by the soul’s desire and yearning for that which is higher. Thus, the objectively meaningless collection, sports team, and rock concert experience usurps the soul’s thirst for something objectively meaningful, thereby pulling it away from actually attaining its true goal of personal refinement and relationship with God.

Rabbi Eliyahu Yaakov is a cutting edge international speaker on Kabbalah, relationships, parenting, and life, and the author of the #1 Amazon’s Best Seller, Jewish By Choice: A Kabbalistic Take on Life & Judaism.

Rabbi Eliyahu is scheduled to be in North America on November 5-22. To book a presentation, email

Last week we discussed the manner in which many of us get distracted from our goal of achieving the ultimate in life and wind up putting our focus and energies into building that which is temporary and trivial.

In fact, there was recently an eruption of applause in Geneva’s Beau Rivage Hotel as a prominent London-based jeweler broke the record for the world’s largest buy in an auction at $46,158,674.

And what did he buy with this sum of money that could have fed a country’s worth of impoverished?

A diamond. It was pink.


And guess whose record he broke with this large sum.

Yes, you guessed it – his own.

A little while ago this same character bought a different rock at a different auction for $34 million.

In this buyer’s case, I think it is fair to say that we are not talking about merely living in luxury and with added comforts. And don’t assume this is purely for investment purposes either. In the case of this jeweler, we are talking about something much deeper. There is a search for meaning going on here; for that which goes on and is everlasting; for eternity.

By attempting to replace God with rocks, this jeweler thinks that he will satisfy the passion for growth, ascendance, and elevation that burns within him – but, of course, that will not do the trick. And, deep down, he knows this to be true.

While he may be able to create a lasting name for himself and leave behind a legacy for generations, all the rocks, stones, boulders, and pebbles on the planet could never be a substitute for one’s inherent personal value and ultimate worth. Compared to that, showboating the value of a rock collection as if it is something of essential, objective meaning is like Coca-Cola – a prime example of an artificial product – advertising itself as the Real Thing.

Rabbi Eliyahu Yaakov is a cutting edge international speaker on Kabbalah, relationships, parenting, and life, and the author of the #1 Amazon’s Best Seller, Jewish By Choice: A Kabbalistic Take on Life & Judaism.

Rabbi Eliyahu is scheduled to be in North America on November 5-22. To book a presentation, email

In previous articles, we outlined that, according to Judaism and Kabbalah, God set up the world as a system by which humanity has the choice to pull away from Him, thereby allowing for the “higher” Spouse-like relationship with Him to become available. God gives us the Free Will to choose away from the relationship with Him, since the quality of a relationship depends on one’s ability to choose it, and choosing it means you have to have the ability to destroy it. That is, it’s only a real choice toward the relationship if the participant in the relationship has the real opportunity and pull to choose against the relationship, thereby bringing about its collapse.

It is because of this that God sets up a path “toward” Him and spirituality, as well as arranging for the option by which one can manipulate that path and go astray.

This possibility of moving “away” from God applies to all of our character traits.

Our character traits enable us to do Good and move toward God. But there is the option to manipulate these traits, use them in their unhealthy extreme, and go the other way, thus allowing for Free Will in the application of these traits.

For example, the human being has a trait or quality called “giving,” but you can use giving in an extreme or incorrect manner, and then all of a sudden you are using the power of giving for the wrong purpose. The easiest illustration of this example is a society that advocates “free love” – this is a classic manipulation of the power of giving; this is giving gone wild.

Really Artificial

We are hardwired to go after the max, which is to build a relationship with the Infinite. But for every desire to get the real thing, there is a Coca-Cola option calling itself the real thing, when, in fact, it is artificial. When a person gets sucked into focusing his time and energy on such a Coca-Cola option, he ends up squandering his inner yearning for that which truly is the real thing (getting close to God). He exchanges the Real Thing for that which is portraying itself as the real thing despite the fact that its entire make-up consists of chemicals and food coloring (sugar and caffeine not withstanding).

This is the concept of klipah, literally meaning “shell,” in Kabbalah. In Kabbalistic terminology, klipah describes something that is a distraction or manipulation of the true goal. Just as a shell stands in the way of your attaining the purpose or goal you are pursuing (i.e., the fruit), so too, klipah stands in the way of your attaining the purpose or goal you are pursuing (i.e., relationship God).

When we think about this deeper, we find that, despite the fact that the shell stands in the way of getting to the fruit, it is from the fruit itself that the shell gets its whole life and vitality in the first place. So, klipah stands in the way of your getting to the purpose, yet it is from the purpose itself that klipah gets its whole life and vitality.

For example, imagine a person who builds a trivial collection, such as comic books or baseball cards. Where does his desire to build such a collection come from? If we dig deep, I think we’d have to say that building such a collection is rooted in the collector’s inner yearning to build, accomplish, and grow something in a meaningful way.

Judaism says that this yearning is actually rooted in the soul’s desire to build a relationship with the Infinite – to build something meaningful; to build the Real Thing. Yet the collector is using this yearning in order to build something that is not meaningful. The collector takes a soul desire and uses that inspiration and power of assertion to do something else, something “other” that distracts and, ultimately, pulls him away from the true goal of the origin of that soul desire.

Building such a collection is a manipulation and hijacking of the soul’s energy to accomplish. It undermines the original intent of that energy to accomplish in the arena in which it is truly worth accomplishing – in one’s relationship with the Infinite and the expression of one’s soul.

Growth & “Growth”

Thus we can see that there is “holy growth” and there is the “klipah of growth.” That is, there is growth in areas that are objectively meaningful and purposeful, such as character refinement and one’s relationship with God. And there is an “other” side of growth, a “backside” of growth that feeds off the soul’s energy for holy growth, despite its being ultimately objectively meaningless and purposeless.

At this point, it is important to clarify that we are not saying here that there is something categorically or inherently wrong with someone compiling a trivial collection, or with someone’s involvement with something that is not connected to his or her personal development and relationship with God. Rather, we are pointing out that there is a tragedy going on. This tragedy is the fizzling away of the human being’s focus on and motivation for that which is ultimately valuable and meaningful, by way of pacifying his inner yearning for meaning through attributing a false sense of value and meaning to that which is ultimately not valuable and meaningful.

Now, some people will claim that these things are relatively meaningful – that since the individual finds a certain sense of fulfillment in his collection, it is therefore meaningful to him.

The truth is that my intent here is not to challenge that assertion. If a person senses a certain fulfillment or meaningfulness in a particular accomplishment, then, by definition, it is indeed relatively meaningful to him. However, what I am trying to demonstrate here is that when you compare relative meaningfulness to objective meaningfulness, it comes out that relative meaningfulness is not meaningful at all.

This is because, ultimately, what is meaningful is that which goes on, that which is everlasting. For example, what meaningful difference is there between me waking up this morning and building a hospital versus me waking up this morning and filling a hospital by going on a killing spree? Obviously, it would be nicer of me to build the hospital than to go on the killing spree, but what makes my decision between the two objectively meaningful?

God willing, the conversation continues next week. Stay tuned…

Rabbi Eliyahu Yaakov is a sought after cutting edge international speaker on Kabbalah, relationships, parenting, and life. His recently released #1 Amazon’s Best Seller, Jewish By Choice: A Kabbalistic Take on Life & Judaism, has won wide acclaim as one of the clearest, most comprehensive, and reader-friendly depictions of Kabbalah and the “whys” of Judaism.

Tuesday night through Wednesday night is the holiest day in Judaism – Yom Kippur.

Since we’ve been speaking the last few weeks about the concept of Free Will, we will continue on that theme. One foundational principle is that,  for all the positive things a person has done in one’s life, he is left to wonder how much of it was actually him, and how much of it was “given” to him by way of his genetic makeup and the conditions of his upbringing.

The story is told of the guy who, after 120 years, passed away. He gets upstairs and an angel asks him, “What’s your name? And he responds, “Joe”. The angel says, “Ah yes, Joe, you’re on the list; we’ve been expecting you. Go up two flights, make a left, then take a right down the hall and you will find room 328. Go in there, and that is where you’ll find all of your reward for the mitzvot (commandments), Torah learning, and good deeds that you’ve done.

Joe thanks the angel and begins his trek towards room 328.

He starts to get nervous, thinking to himself, ‘This is it; I know I was kind of a good guy, but then again I also messed up plenty.’

Joe follows the directions given to him by the angel and, as he gets closer to room 328, his (non-existent) heart starts pounding. He arrives at the door, slowly opens it up and… WHAM!

There it is! A big mountain of reward!

Joe starts jumping for joy. He starts doing cartwheels and backflips, etc.

Joe is on top of the world as he sees all the wonderful things he achieved in his life with his time here on Earth.

However, a couple of minutes later, a huge bulldozer comes along and smashes into Joe’s big mountain of reward, pushing half of it away.

Joe screams out, “’No! Stop! What are you doing? You’re taking away my mitzvot!” At that moment, Joe wonders, ‘Who’s driving the bulldozer anyway?’ He looks closely and, to his utter shock, he sees two gleeful people smiling and waving.

It’s his parents!

They say to him, “You did all of these great things, but we get some credit for them too. We raised you to be that good guy that you turned out to be. A lot of this reward belongs to us.”

Joe acknowledges that what his parents are saying is in fact correct and, reluctantly, he watches as what he thought were his mitzvot are dragged away.

A few minutes pass, and Joe begins to come to terms with what he just witnessed as he looks ahead to the half-a-mountain’s-worth of reward he still has left.

However, right at that moment, another bulldozer comes along – a little smaller this time – and smashes into Joe’s half-mountain of reward, pushing away half of what is left.

Joe cries out, “No! Not again! Stop! What are you doing?”. ‘Who’s riding this bulldozer anyway?’ Joe wonders. Again, Joe looks closely only to find familiar looking people gleefully smiling and waving back at him.

This time the people on the bulldozer are his teachers.

“This belongs to us, you know” they say. “We taught you. We helped you out when you needed it. We set you on your path to goodness.”

Again Joe reluctantly concedes.

This process continues until that last guy who Joe once met on a bus and got a good piece of advice from comes along with his little sack and throws a few things in and runs off.

And, at the end of this process, what Joe is left with is what he actually put in and built himself. The effort, true personal advancement, and the striving that Joe did ultimately defines who he is.

This is where Free Will comes in to play.

What did Joe actually do? What did he actually put in on his own? What did he do with what he was given? Everything else is the stage being set for greatness, but it is up to each individual to get onto that stage and be a star.

This is the individualistic relative nature of Free Will.

Everyone has Free Will in different places. Therefore, we are each to acknowledge the positive we have done while always trying to build on it, and judge others favorably and in accordance with the deeper reality that, at their core, they are a pure Godly soul.

On Yom Kippurn, as we look back on the past year and look forward to the year to come, let us keep in our minds and our hearts that our spiritual level and our relationship with the Infinite will always be one and the same with the sum total of the Free Will choices that he makes under the specific conditions that he’s been dealt – nothing more, nothing less.

Rabbi Eliyahu Yaakov is a sought after cutting edge international speaker on Kabbalah, relationships, parenting, and life. His recently released #1 Amazon’s Best Seller, Jewish By Choice: A Kabbalistic Take on Life & Judaism, has won wide acclaim as one of the clearest, most comprehensive, and reader-friendly depictions of Kabbalah and the “whys” of Judaism.