The 9th day of Leo (Av) holds a unique balance of opposites for our family.
Tisha B’Av (Tisha meaning “ninth”) is considered a day of sadness and darkness. The date commemorates the destruction of both the first and second temples, along with other tragic moments in history. Yet kabbalists teach that the greater the darkness, the greater the potential for Light. So it’s no surprise that my mother-in-law and great teacher, Karen Berg, elevated from this world on the 9th of Av three years ago. Days of elevation are especially powerful because they allow us to tap into the energy a person’s soul brought to the world during their lifetime.
And throughout the 28 years I knew her (which I can now call 31 since she’s still with me every day!), Karen was a conduit for the Light–from her beautiful, dimpled smile to all the ways she lifted others near and far.
Karen knew that darkness is almost always connected at some level with a lack of love and sharing. Wars, crime, greed, fallen temples–they all are rooted in humanity’s tendency to shut out “the other” for the sake of self-interest. The mistaken notion that we can still be okay when others are not runs contrary to the essence of spirituality: that being that there is only ONE energy, one love, one well-being. Your happiness and mine are intertwined!
As Karen wrote: “The only way to fulfillment is to transform your desire to receive for the self alone–the gravitational pull to ‘me, me, me’–into the desire to receive for the sake of sharing.” Yet that kind of sharing isn’t always easy. Over the course of her life, Karen faced her share of obstacles. For instance, people were adamantly opposed to bringing the study of kabbalah (once reserved for the elder scholars and rabbis only) into the public sphere. But neither Karen nor the Rav let any of this stop them.
In fact, Karen often talked about resistance as a necessary element for manifestation of any kind. A seed needs the resistance of the earth, as well as temperature and water fluctuations, wind, and so forth, to become a healthy plant or tree. A lightbulb may get plugged into a current, but without the resistance created by its filament, it would reap nothing but a brief flash and a mess of shattered glass.
We, too, need resistance to reach the fullness of our potential. It wasn’t despite all the push-back that Karen and the Rav were able to bring kabbalah into the Light. Rather, it was BECAUSE of all the naysayers and backlash that they doubled down on their commitment to see through their vision. And they both aimed higher, both personally and professionally, as a result… to the benefit of thousands and millions across the world!!
Karen believed in me long before I ever believed in me. Aware of my tendencies toward perfectionism, Karen once told me, “That’s why God created erasers—we don’t have to be perfect.” She reminded me that if we have certainty in the Light of the Creator, then the Light of the Creator is involved in every aspect of our lives, including the mistakes we make. Those mistakes are part of that resistance. They’re integral to the process!
So on this traditionally dark day of Tisha B’Av, we can all elevate ourselves by exploring where and how our own challenges have helped us grow. If you are currently facing a difficulty or setback, know that it isn’t there to block you. See it for what it is: the resistance you need to help you grow into a better version of YOU!
Right before Karen left us, a small earthquake registered on the seismic meters in LA. I knew then, and still do, that she wanted to shake us awake. Literally! She wanted to remind us to never lose sight of all the good in this world, and in ourselves. Amidst the backdrop of the day’s traditional somberness, Karen wanted each of us to stay in touch with our own vision… to remember that any darkness we experience is also a bridge to the Light.