According to one of Cabala's basic tenets, our physical reality is comprised of the broken shards of ten great sephiroth, or vessels. These ten vessels were successively created, but then burst apart, as each failed its intended task of containing the inexhaustible rush of divine energy, that surged through the universe, at the moment of creation.
The properties of these ten sephiroth, how they interact with each other, and how they underlie and inform all events and processes in this reality, are at the core of learning Cabala.
At the beginning of time, they say, when the immeasurable wave of energy exploded these ten primordial vessels into bits, human souls were formed from the scattered sparks of divine energy, for the task of collecting together, and restoring, all the damaged and scattered fragments. And each human soul with its divine spark must venture in, to become a part of the physical world. For only by actually entering, and becoming one with, the physical world, can the divine sparks reunite with the broken fragments, redeem them with recognition and understanding, and bring them all back together, making the universe whole, once again.
The messiah, reflecting this shamanistic model, is a divine consciousness which descends down into a physical human body, in order to experience human life, joys, sins, and pains, to understand us, to become one with us, with our fragmented, imperfect souls, to redeem them, and restore them to their proper place and function in the universe.
This paradigm also recalls how Moses comes down from his home in Pharaoh's high palace, to become one with the lowly slaves; and then as one of them, to lead them to their enlightenment at Sinai, and then to freedom in the Promised Land.
Reb Nachman's parable of The Chicken Prince revolves about this same theme. The scruffy little healer, (a hidden zaddik - a great soul disguised as a chicken) represents the messiah. He lowers himself down to the level of the lost prince, becomes a chicken himself, to unite with the prince; and in that process, heals the broken and confused prince, and restores him to his proper place and destiny, as a high soul and a great king.
Among other things, the tale of The Imperfect Lamp explores the ancillary idea, of fragmentation and imperfection being the luminous part of a human soul.
A variation of this theme is expressed somewhat differently in How The Baal Shem Tov Got The Name Of The Road. Here, there is a focus on a kind of mind/body dualism; a dualism engendered by the notion of a high soul, a divine spark, which needs to venture down into the difficulties of the physical world. This story features a master/disciple duality, where the disciple is sort of an alter-ego that the master sends down into the world, to accomplish a physical task.
Similarly, there is also a scholar/merchant (soul/body) duality in the Name of the Road, where the holy scholar is lowered down to the mundane occupation of merchant, for the purpose of going out into the world to attain a goal, which would essentially be impossible to achieve as a feckless scholar.
Along the same dualistic lines, this story broaches the notion of an avatar or messiah: a high soul who, purely for the love of fellow humans, willingly foregoes a life in paradise, in favor of taking upon themselves the rigors and travails of an earthly life as a human being.
Another iteration of the same theme in this story invokes a community of people who achieve a perfect balance in their lives, by alternating realities; shuttling effortlessly between spiritual paradise and the lower physical realm - a traditional cabalistic commentary on the dualistic potential of our human condition.
As indicated by the diagrams on the Contents page, the stories in this book have been specifically arranged, in an attempt to illustrate the lower nine of Cabala's ten sephiroth (from Chockma through Malkuth). Kether, the top sephirah, can only be experienced directly. Kether lies beyond the domain of representation, metaphor, allegory, and third-party description. Like any attempt to depict the Holy One in terms of graven images, human attributes, common idioms, or pronounceable names, so would any attempt to illustrate Kether with a story or parable be inherently misinformative.