Kabbalistic writings often stress the principle that every human deed, if performed with proper, spiritual intention, has the ability to influence material reality, enhancing or debasing it accordingly.
This idea is exemplified in the following quote from the teachings of the Ramchal:(1)
“If a person is pulled after the [lusts of] the world to be drawn away from his Creator, he becomes tainted, and the world is tainted along with him. If he controls himself and cleaves to his Creator, using the world only as an aid in the service of God, he is uplifted and the world itself is uplifted with him. For all creatures are greatly uplifted when they serve the perfected human being, who is sanctified with the holiness of the Blessed One.”
We see from here that objective reality can be influenced by the deeds of a righteous individual.
Along these lines, let us look at a fascinating piece of research that substantiates the effect of spirit on matter.
A Japanese scientist, Dr. Masaru Emoto, has proven that spoken words have a direct and verifiable effect upon water – depending upon the type of statement made. Using extremely powerful microscopes, Dr. Emoto’s conducted the following research:
1. A cup of pure water, drawn from a spring or river, was placed in a room. Those present in the room made positive or negative statements.
2. A small volume of the water was then poured into a Petri dish and frozen at -25º C for three hours.
3. The frozen water was removed from the freezer and examined under a microscope with a magnifying power between 200x and 500x, in a room kept at -5º C degrees.
The results are amazing.
Positive statements, such as compliments, words of praise or of affection, caused the formation of crystals.
If the statements were negative, however, such as insults, curses, or angry words, the ice crystals took totally different forms.
Science has discovered that sound waves can affect material reality in significant ways, depending upon the type of words spoken. However, is Dr. Emoto’s 20th century discovery as new as it appears?
The following statement of the Sages may at first seem strange. However, in light the discussion above, it can now be understood:
“The world only exists by virtue of the breath of the children in the study house.”(2)
In other words, the breath of Jewish children at their Torah lessons in school is the life-giving oxygen that sustains the world. Without this, the world would expire, as the verse states:(3) “Thus says the Lord: If My covenant is not maintained day and night [i.e. the covenant of Torah, which is studied around the world ceaselessly], I have not appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth (i.e., the world would cease to exist).”
On this topic, Rabbi Chayim of Volozhin states:(4) “The very life and existence of all the worlds depends solely upon our speech and our Torah study. There is no doubt whatsoever that if, God forbid, our world were to be entirely devoid of Torah study for even a single instant… all the upper and lower worlds would be immediately destroyed and would revert to nothingness and emptiness, God forbid.”
On the other hand, the Torah Sages have made the following statement regarding negative speech:(5) “As a punishment for obscenity, troubles multiply, cruel decrees are reissued, and the youth of Israel die.”
When a man utters obscenities, whether in private or in public (even a stand-up comic, who only means to entertain people), the fetid breath spreads through the world and can cause harm and even death to young Jews.
This principle helps us understand the Jewish custom of holding a special housewarming party upon entering a new home, which entails the reading of specific passages from the Mishnah and the Zohar. Once words of Torah have been read in the new home, it takes on a very different energy. It is now a spiritual home, shielded and safe, though the surrounding protection is not necessarily something visible. (We cannot even see bacteria without a microscope, though they exist in our reality – how much less can we see spiritual forces, which elude the grasp of scientific instruments.)
According to Kabbalists, Torah study has the power to refine and ennoble its students (unlike other fields of knowledge). God imbued the words of the Torah with innate spirituality, which can penetrate into the hearts of those who study it.
On this concept, the Ramchal writes:(6) The whole power of the Torah derives from the precious spiritual influence that God has invested in it, to the point that by reciting and studying its words, one draws down this great power… which is the highest and most exalted influence that reaches the creation from God… When a person studies Torah, he stands before God and draws upon himself a great light… And although he should rejoice in this good fortune, he must also tremble in fear, and not be frivolous or disrespectful toward the words or texts of the Torah … so as to draw down this spiritual influence that we mentioned… [If a person] realizes before whom he stands… his learning will be truly appropriate… The Divine grace will grow within him, and he will draw rectification and enlightenment into the entire world. However, if the person lacks this condition, he will not draw down illumination… It is only his level of fear, respect and conscientiousness that determines the value of his study, and the degree of spiritual influence that he draws down.
On the same subject, the Talmud(7) states that the body’s ability to rise in the resurrection of the dead comes from the Torah a person studied during his or her life, and whose spiritual bounty has been physically absorbed.
Notes and Sources
(1) In his book: Mesilat Yesharim (“The Path of the Just”), Chapter 1.
(2) Zohar 2:39a and BT Shabbat 119b.
(3) Jeremiah 33:25. Notwithstanding the fact that Torah study by adults also supports the world, the breath of innocent children is purer, and therefore carries more force. As mentioned in the Talmud (ibid.) “Breath which contains sin is not like breath which does not contain sin.”
(4) In his book: Nefesh Chayim, Gate 4, Chapter 11.
(5) BT Shabbat 33a.
(6) In his book: Derech Hashem, Section 4, Chapter 2.
(7) BT Berachot 17a.