On Roots and Branches - Official Kabbalah Publication of the Bnei Baruch Kabbalah Education & Research Institute
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On Roots and Branches

By Gilad Shadmon

The rules that affect our world originate in the highest spiritual realms. These rules cascade into the reality we all experience, but in the process they lose their beauty and grace. The wisdom of Kabbalah teaches us how to rediscover that beauty and revive our spiritual side.

To understand the phenomena in our world, we must first understand their origin. If we honestly examine reality, we will have to admit that we have no idea why things happen the way they do. In every field of human knowledge—exact sciences, social science, medicine, or culture—we are unable to thoroughly and accurately explain why things unfold as they do. If we could, we would be able to prevent future misfortunes from occurring.

Once something has gone awry, we may rationalize its causes in a thousand different ways, but at the end of the day, the best we’ll come up with is a calculated guess. Here are a few examples: “If I had been wearing my warm coat when we went out last night, instead of trying to look chic in my leather jacket, I wouldn’t have been sick today.” “The dollar is plunging because of the huge trade deficit.” “The Knicks are losing their home games because the players feel more pressure at home.”

To really understand why thing happen and how they evolve, we must look deeper than at the level of results. We need a tool that can probe the depths of our souls and discover how things work at the level of cause, rather than at the level of effect. For such intense examinations, the “Hubble telescope” of introspection and self-scrutiny is the wisdom of Kabbalah.

The wisdom of Kabbalah is a research tool, which, if used correctly, grants its users knowledge about every phenomenon in both this world and the spiritual worlds. Rather than treating reality as a muddle of incidents, Kabbalah describes the events of our world according to the absolute and unchanging laws of nature. These laws are undetectable to ordinary persons until they begin to apply the wisdom of Kabbalah to their lives. As a consequence, a new understanding of reality emerges, and with it, the ability to shape it.

Take gravity, for example. If we stand on a chair and jump to the floor, it might be a game. But if we jump off the roof of a ten-story building, it’ll probably prove tragic. In this example, the mistake and its consequence are immediate, so we can link the result directly to its cause: “The man died because he jumped off the roof of a ten-story building.”

But what if that man didn’t die as soon as he hit the ground? What if he got up, dusted off his clothes and walked away, but suddenly died a year later, without any obvious connection to his jump twelve months earlier? How would he know that he should not have jumped?

He would need a means that showed him what his jump would lead to, in a year’s time. This is exactly what Kabbalah does—it sees the causes and their consequences. In Kabbalistic terms, we say that it reveals the connections between the branches (consequences) and their roots (causes).

Gravity is a law. It cannot be “detoured” or lied to. We can, however, study it and learn how to use it to our benefit. But if we did not know it existed, and did not see the connection between gravity and its consequences, how would we be able to avoid falling?

Probably the most basic principle of criminal law is that ignorance of the law does not exempt one from punishment. In much the same way, you cannot jump off a building and say, “Oops, sorry, I didn’t think…”

The laws that Kabbalah describes are just as rigid. The only difference between these spiritual laws and physical laws is that we don’t see the spiritual laws because we are detached from spirituality. To a Kabbalist, who is connected to spirituality as tangibly as you and I are connected to the physical world, these laws are as clear and real as the force of gravity. To a Kabbalist, ignoring these laws is similar to the man who jumped off the tenth floor being asked halfway down, “How’s it going buddy?” and him replying, “It’s a breeze!”

The Law of Root and Branch

The first law we will explore is “The Law of Root and Branch.” This law determines that everything that happens in the material world replicates events that take place in a higher world. Kabbalists describe a higher world that is presently hidden from our senses, but which for them is very concrete. In fact, it is so concrete that they consider that other world as the basis for everything that happens in our world. They call the world they see, “the world of reasons” or “the root world,” and refer to our world as “the world of consequences” or “the world of branches.”

Kabbalists teach us that everything we think, feel, imagine, see, and hear has been predetermined in a higher world. Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag describes this law in his essay “The Essence of the Wisdom of Kabbalah.” According to Ashlag, “There is no element of reality, or of an event in reality, that you do not find in the Upper World as similar as two drops in a pond. They are called ‘root and branch,’ indicating that the element in the lower world is considered a branch compared to its sample template in Upper World, which is the root of the element in the lower world, since that element in the lower world has been imprinted and formed from there.”

Using Kabbalah, we can affect this higher system and actually change our fates! First, we need to learn how that system works, and then learn how to operate it by ourselves. Every Kabbalah book describes how the spiritual (root) system works, enabling us to find these actions in our souls. When we find them in our souls, we can “play” with them, and as a result, change our reality. This is what Kabbalists refer to when they talk about Tikkun (correction).