To be happy or to activate your personal potential, you must first know who you are and what resources are at your disposal. The Talmud teaches that each of us is a mini-universe. Just as the universe at large has its resources, each one of us has our own resources. Contrary to what many think, our resources are not limited to brain and brawn. Our resources are the Divine influences on our lives.
Kabbalah defines the three dimensions of Divine influence on our lives and refers to them as olam, shana, and nefesh, or the dimensions of place, time, and body.
The message of olam, shana, and nefesh – place, time, and body – teaches us vital information about ourselves and how to properly utilize our resources. We know that conserving the earth’s resources is vital to our sustenance. In like manner, we must learn to conserve our own resources. Once we’re aware that Divine influences are manifest on three levels, we can do much to improve the quality of our lives.
The Creator enables our souls to fulfill their specific mission also by giving us the three dimensions of influence – place, time, and body. These are the soul’s prime resources, which it must utilize effectively for a person to feel happy, fulfilled and successful. Consequently, when an individual squanders these vital resources, the soul suffers in the same manner that the entire world suffers when its natural resources are misused. Let’s see how this works on an individual level:
One should always consent with a capable spiritual guide before moving or changing one’s place of employment or learning. Why? Just as each plant thrives on certain soil and in a certain location that provides optimal conditions for that plant’s growth, each soul thrives in its optimal place. Suppose you were sent to this world to heal people; you won’t thrive on a desert island living in solitude. But, if you were sent to this world to refrain from idle chatter, then a desert island is a great place to be.
Our olam is divided into our general place and our specific places. One’s general place is Brooklyn, for example, and his specific places might be his home, his place of employment, his place of personal prayer, and his place of learning and worship. The Creator sends this person influences of abundance in these four places.
How is one’s resource of olam squandered? If he is in a bar drinking beer rather than in his place of study or employment, he squanders Divine abundance and influence. Clearly, if he’s roaming around in a shopping mall when he should be in school or at work, he’ll see an immediate loss of Divine abundance and influence in the form of a stiff reprimand from his employer or teacher, a fine, and maybe even total failure such as losing his job or flunking out of school. We therefore must be careful about being at the right place in the right time. For a soldier on guard in a border outpost, this meanings staying alive.
Conserving the priceless resource of our time is the easiest concept of olam, shana, nefesh to understand. Each of us has a predetermined allotment of time on this earth, depending on the nature of our task on earth and our needed soul correction.
If one systematically squanders time, he will not only fail to accomplish his mission on earth, but he won’t be happy, fulfilled or successful. If a pre-Med student spends the night before final exams in a billiards parlor or in a discotheque instead of reviewing his organic chemistry notes and getting a good night’s rest, he seriously jeopardizes his chances of scoring high on the final exam and being accepted to medical school. His entire future is at stake because of one evening’s wasted time.
Woe to the children whose parents social-media and chatroom addicts or those who aimlessly surf for hours on the web. Can they justifiably complain that they don’t have time to devote to family? Hashem has given them the time to devote to enhancing their marriage or raising wonderful children, but they’ve squandered it.
The hallmark of history’s spiritual luminaries was their utilization of time. It’s mind-boggling to think about what the father of Kabbalah, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria Ashkenaz1 (1534-1572) accomplished in his brief lifespan of 38 years. We therefore want to utilize each day to the max and be especially careful about what we do with our time.
The body is the housing of the soul. We must protect it and use it for the right purposes. For example, the Creator gives us a heart, whose task is to pump blood through a slim and healthy body for 120 years. If a person overeats and indulges in junk food – which are detrimental to the health of body and soul – his body will accumulate fat cells. The poor heart must now supply blood to these wasted areas of the body, which unlike the bones and the muscles, contribute little to performing one’s task on earth. To add insult to injury, the cholesterol and saturated fats of junk food will clog the arteries, cause a rise in blood pressure, and make the heart’s job of providing blood to the “dead-beat” fat deposits even more difficult.
Our prime consideration in utilizing nefesh should be the question of what’s good for nefesh rather than what’s comfortable, convenient, or tasty. A proper workout in the gym may be excruciating and uncomfortable, but the nefesh will thrive as a result. Hashem gives us certain parts of nefesh to perform specific commandments, such as procreation and granting marital bliss. When these parts of nefesh are misused, the flow of Divine abundance to the soul is sorely impaired.
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Practically, we should all strive to be our own personal conservation agencies, using the resources that Hashem gives us for the very best. Start with one resource, such as time, and make a conscious effort to improve while asking the Almighty in your personal prayers to help you. Wait and see how happy and successful you become. An awareness of olam, shana, nefesh can help a person lose weight when no other diet would help, and is a wonderful aid in helping us find our mission on earth. May we all be blessed to utilize the wonderful resources that the Creator gives us for the very best, amen!