Holy Sparks

A kabbalistic concept of the light found in all creation.

Print this page Print this page

Conversely, every good deed assists in the reclaiming of the holy sparks and ultimately the restoration of cosmic harmony. When the task of restoration is complete, when all the sparks have been reclaimed for the holy, the Messiah will come and the disharmony resulting from the breaking of the vessels will be no more and cosmic redemption will have been achieved.

Reclaiming the Sparks

At first it was intended for the reclaiming of the holy sparks to be performed by Adam, whose great soul embraced all the souls of humanity. If Adam had obeyed God, harmony would have been restored throughout all creation. But, as a result of Adam's disobedience, there took place a second cosmic fall, repeating as it were, the original breaking of the vessels. Adam's soul became fragmented, each of his descendants having a mere spark of Adam's mighty soul.

Thus the Lurianic School thinks of two kinds of sparks. The first are those which fell when the vessels were shattered. The second are the sparks of Adam's soul. It is not only the sparks in creation that require reclamation, but, in addition, every soul has its own task, the perfection of that particular spark of Adam's soul. A vast cosmic drama is being played out with the human being in the central role. Each human being has his or her own holy spark, an inheritance from the first father of the human race, and each has to reclaim the holy sparks in creation, both of which tasks are achieved by keeping the precepts of the Torah.

When Israel was given the Torah and accepted it, humanity was given a second chance to produce harmony in the sefirotic realm. But when the people worshipped the golden calf the catastrophic breach was repeated and all was in disarray again. The process of reclaiming the sparks now had to be a gradual one, to be completed only in the far-off Messianic age. The risk of a third catastrophic failure could only be averted by a step-by-step restoration rather than an immediate storming of the heavens.

Shabbatean Approach

The followers of the false Messiah, Shabbetai Zevi, in the 17th century, when the supposed Messiah embraced Islam, developed a radical theology based on the doctrine of the holy sparks. In this system the final reclamation of the holy sparks could only be achieved by the Messiah himself descending into the realm of the kelipot, consciously embracing Islam in order to rescue the sparks still awaiting their redemption there.

Long after Shabbetai's death, his still-faithful followers were captivated by this intoxicating notion of the holy sin, adopting it as a task to be undertaken not only by the Messiah but by all believers. These later Shabbateans outwardly kept all the observances of the Torah but secretly endeavored to rescue, by the performance of illegal acts, the holy sparks imprisoned among the kelipot.

This involved a complete reversal of the Lurianic kabbalah. In the Lurianic scheme it is never permitted to rescue the holy sparks through sinful acts. On the contrary, refraining from sin was one of the ways in which the sparks were to be rescued and the restoration completed.

Did you like this article?  MyJewishLearning is a not-for-profit organization.

Please consider making a donation today.

Rabbi Louis Jacobs

Rabbi Dr. Louis Jacobs (1920-2006) was a Masorti rabbi, the first leader of Masorti Judaism (also known as Conservative Judaism) in the United Kingdom, and a leading writer and thinker on Judaism.