"Six Hundred Thousand Root Souls"

by Sarah Schneider

According to Jewish tradition, the Torah’s revelation was the most profound manifestation of G-d that ever transpired on the planet. An estimated four million people experienced that historic event.1 A searing revelation of Presence engraved the souls of an entire nation with the-truth-of-the-universe compressed into a single burst of light. Its impact continues to impel their generations to be seekers and servants of G-d, and will do so till the end of time.

There are 600,000 root souls in the Jewish nation2 and these were all present and represented by the 600,000 family units (i.e. 4 million people) who experienced that event. Every one of us is a sliver of one of them. This means that our souls all carry an imprint of that prophesy.3 Even if not the active personality of those incarnations, we were hidden in their subconscious depths.

The unfolding of generations is the process by which a layer of soul-stuff that was unconscious (or even semi-conscious) in previous generations now incarnates into a personality all its own. Its task is to actualize some potential that was not fully developed in its ancestral lineage. This process of liberating potential is not all or nothing. It’s more like a relay, where one incarnation completes some tasks but not others. They pass the baton on to the next in line, who does the same. A potential is fully actualized when it gets used in a way that serves good and reveals G-d.

The midrash says that at Sinai, Moshe told each person where they should stand to experience that holy surge of Divine communication.4 Each witnessed the event from a unique distance and a unique angle. 5 This means that every individual glimpsed some perspective of G-d (and truth and Torah) that no one else saw, for no one else beheld the prophesy from quite that vantage. This is what it means that everyone inherits a unique portion of the Torah.

The mission of each root soul (with its innumerable subsparks) is to shine its special Torah into the world. In part, this happens naturally when we strive to live with integrity to the truths we absorbed at Sinai. The Torah is not a philosophy but a living tradition. It is disseminated through actions even more than classrooms. Each moment provides a unique configuration of forces, objects, and people that never was before and never will be again. When we find the most G-d serving way to use that moment, we reveal a facet of applied-Torah that is our unique contribution to its evolving revelation of truth.

Rav Tsadok HaKohen says that the patterns of our lives, the themes that recur, and the aphorisms that become our mottos, all these provide a glimpse into the nature of our soul-root and the Torah it has come to teach the world.6 We received this mission at Sinai, and have come now to embody its message through the dance of revelation that is simply our life.
Let it be that on this Shavuot, when the lights of that revolutionary moment of group prophesy re-enter the world, that each person know that they were chosen to provide a glimpse of G-d and truth that would be lost to the universe if not for them. Let us open to the light, faith, love and awe that are so SO present on this day. And let us reaffirm, with whole and willing hearts our commitment to The Holy Work.

1. Targum Yonaton, Shmot 12:37.
2. Megilat Amukot - Vaet'chanan
3. Leshem II, 146 (top/rt); Shmot Rabba 28:6, Devarim 29:14, Pirkey D’Rebbe Eliezer 41.
4. Torah Sheleima (Yitro) footnote øòå ; Mechilta 19:24, Michilta d’ Rashbi
5. Zohar 2:82b
6. Tsidkat HaTsadik 53.


[Reprinted from //astillsmallvoice.org]

Sarah-Yehudit Sachneider, the Old City of Jerusalem, is the founding director of A Still Small Voice, a correspondence school that provides weekly teachings in classical Jewish wisdom to subscribers around the world. She is also the author of several books and numerous journal articles.

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