Talks About Spirituality
In memory of Kabbalist Rabbi Baruch Ashlag, 1995
The Creator acts upon us using the various elements of our world. Man must understand that events occurring to him are nothing but messages from the Creator. If man responds correctly to divine action, he will clearly grasp what the Creator expects of him and he will feel Him.
Not only does the Creator act upon us through the people in our environment, but he uses everything which exists in our world. The structure of our world is such that the Creator can influence us and draw us nearer to the goal of creation.
We hardly ever feel the presence of the Creator in the daily situations we need to face. This is because our attributes place us opposite to the Creator and make it impossible for us to feel Him. As soon as man acquires attributes similar to those of the Creator, he begins to feel Him proportionately.
When hardships befall us we need to ask ourselves the question: "Why am I getting this and why is the Creator doing this to me?" Punishments as such do not exist although many are mentioned in the Torah. There are only "incentives" forcing man to progress toward what he selfishly feels.
The awareness of things is only an ancillary mechanism which helps us to properly understand what we feel. Whenever we picture our life as a gigantic classroom with the omniscient Creator acting as a teacher and lavishing on us the knowledge we are prepared to receive, it progressively awakens in us the feeling of the Creator in our newborn spiritual sense organs.
The Creator has made a ladder for our ascension. It is a moving ladder. This ladder appeared in Jacob's dream and was described by Baal HaSulam, rabbi Yehuda Ashlag, and his son Baruch Ashlag.
We turn our backs to the source of knowledge symbolized by this ladder and only through our efforts will we manage to turn around and start moving toward the Creator. This is why the Creator sends us teachers and books as well as study companions.
The student who follows the teachings of Kabbalah lives in the physical world but is overburdened by his selfishness. This is why he cannot properly understand the wise sages who are physically close to him but who also evolve in the spiritual worlds. If the student can leave aside his reasoning and, his opinions, and follow the ways expounded by the writers of authentic books of wisdom, he may be able to bond unconsciously with the spiritual.
We do not see and feel the Creator in our world and it is therefore impossible for us to make our selfishness surrender to Him. The thoughts of a teacher or a master can penetrate the student and induce faith in him. This corresponds with the teacher's spiritual AHP(Awzen (ear), Hotem (nose), Peh (mouth), representing the vessels of reception), coming down to the GE (Galgalta ve Eynaim, representing the vessels of bestowal) of the level below (meaning the student's).
Rising to the level of the master's AHP means bonding with his wisdom and his thoughts. Likewise if a student delves into the AHP of a text of wisdom, he rises temporarily and the spiritual is revealed to him. Whenever we read the works of the righteous, Baal HaSulam, or Simon Bar Yohai, we bond directly with them through the Surrounding Light, Ohr Makif. We are then enlightened and our vessels of reception purified.
While reading, it is important to bear in mind the stature of the author. Whether he is alive or dead does not really matter. We can always bond with him using our feelings when studying his works.
There are many paths leading to the Creator and He uses many means to act upon us. Any difficulty or obstacle on the student's path, in particular the death of a master, may be considered an opportunity to transform oneself at an individual level.
A talk at a dinner of the holiday of Sukkot, 1995
All corrections taking place within the Partzuf ZA of the World of Atzilut which is man's prototype in our world, are included in a spiritual process named "Sukkot." Man, the spiritual vessel, the soul, is similar to the state of ZA in the World of Atzilut. The Light that the soul receives comes from the interaction of Bina, ZA and Malchut in the World of Atzilut. Yehuda Ashlag said: "The Sukka reunites two concepts: the covering roof made up of small branches and vegetal residues. Similarly if man can build a protection against pleasures, from Above he will discover the Creator and His glory."
When man builds the roof of the Sukka he symbolizes the construction of the screen (the Masach) which enables him to reflect the pleasure procured by the perception of the Creator. This work is called "MAN de Ima," it is like a prayer to receive the strength to oppose selfishness. If man's prayer is sincere, the strength is sent to him and he can receive the Divine Light with the help of a screen. This Light is the Light of wisdom and understanding, "Ohr Hochma." This Light carries all information about man's present spiritual level and the degree reached as well as the "hows and whys" of events occurring to him. Once man has understood the attributes of this spiritual degree he bears the name of this degree. Each new higher degree he reaches will correspond to more perfection and new names as he moves up. During this process new attributes are acquired.
The mission of souls incarnating in our world is to reach the level that they stood on before descending and entering the flesh of the body. It is man's task during one of his lives, in spite of the opposition of his body, to return to the root of his soul, the spiritual level he dwelled on before his soul's incarnation. Some souls only need to rise back to their former level. In this case their path, the one along which they rise, is composed of 6000 degrees called "years," hence the notion of the world's 6000 years of existence.
There are also some special souls who not only need to return to their former level but carry on their progression through the worlds of ABYA and reach the level of the Partzuf of SAG in the World of Adam Kadmon. This level is named "7000 degrees" or "7000" years. They may also reach the level of the Partzuf of AB in the World of Adam Kadmon named "8000 years." Or even higher the level of the Partzuf of Galgalta named "9000 years." Finally some souls reach the level "10,000 degrees" or "10,000 years" and their knowledge and perception enable them to penetrate the World Without End, Ein Sof. Such souls will incarnate only once in tens of generations. Mankind has witnessed very few of these souls. The great Kabbalists possess such a soul.
Observing the commandment of building the Sukka symbolizes the fusion at the highest level between the Creator and creation. How does this all happen? ZA which comprises 6 Sefirot provides the orientation according to the origin of the Light: North, South, East, West, Above and Below. Malchut receives the Light from the Sefirot of ZA, from its 6 attributes. This is why the Etrog is first applied to the Lulav opening the door for the blessing to be pronounced. This concerns the observance of the commandment of the Sukka and the Lulav. A person performing a commandment must not believe that with mechanical gestures, he will accomplish spiritual actions. This is never the case. Man cannot accomplish anything spiritual with the help of his hands, feet and lips! A true spiritual action only takes place when man draws a screen against his selfish desires, opening himself to the Divine Light and dedicating this pleasure to the Creator.
The feast of Sukkot lasts 7 days, in the image of the light entering the 7 Sefirot of ZA of Bina. Each day corresponds to a spiritual degree/level, a new light in a new Sefira. The 7th day, when light is transferred from ZA to Malchut, is called "Simchat Torah" also "The Joy of the Torah." This phase corresponds to the gathering of all the light received by Malchut and which descends into the souls and the general light called "Torah."
This light does not enter the Sukka, it corresponds to a separate feast. The Sukka corresponds to the light passing through ZA with the help of a screen during the celebration of the seven days of Sukkot. Simchat Torah corresponds to the passing of the light of the Torah, ZA into Malchut and their complete union.
The night preceding Simchat Torah is called "Leil hashana raba. " It is a special night during which all the Surrounding Light gathers around ZA. As this light is all around ZA this degree is called "night" before its transformation into Inner Light, "Ohr Pnimi, that will subsequently enter Malchut.
Any deed performed with an intention "dedicated to the Creator" is spiritual; the same deed performed with a "self-aimed intention" is material and selfish. The beginner Kabbalist finds it very difficult to physically observe the commandments, something easy for religious people, however he must strive to observe them. One of the difficulties for the Kabbalist is that he has to analyze all his thoughts, actions and events according to their impact on his spiritual path. He gauges the importance of these factors in his progression, in his relation with the Creator. As the connection with the Creator fosters higher concentration and inner efforts against selfishness, man meets difficulties in performing physical deeds supposedly linked to the spiritual. No physical deed can have an influence on the spiritual world, the Creator. The relation between man and the Creator is woven in the heart of man. The mechanical observance of the commandments remains necessary because it corresponds to the Creator's desire.
All efforts made by himself help man progress spiritually. These efforts help him focus on the existence of the Creator while studying Kabbalah so he can understand His deeds and achieve the goal of creation. Selfishness enables us to do something only when it is sure to benefit us and we derive pleasure from it. One must ask the Creator for help during prayer to contain the forces of selfishness. This is the only direct path to Him and as time goes by the connection between man and the Creator will clarify itself and become more sustained. Thanks to this process man begins to understand what happens to him, why he experiences certain feelings and what he needs to do. These new induced states are used as a springboard which propels man to the next spiritual degree, level.
What is a secret or a secret teaching? A secret will continue to exist unless man penetrates it. The same occurs in everyday life which can be obscure and incomprehensible one day, obvious and self-evident the next. Only an individual person can open the doors of a secret and make strenuous efforts to understand what was not clear before.
It is not possible to measure the efforts in our study because they pertain to the sphere of feelings and are therefore difficult to express. It is hard to grasp what other people feel. Generally speaking all efforts made in our world correspond to some selfish activity. A man who transforms his pleasures by seeking small fragments of light usually strives to reach them using the objects of our world. This stems from the fact that he is motivated by selfish needs. In Kabbalah an effort is what man cannot accomplish without hurting his ego. After testing all sorts of possibilities to no avail, man turns to the Creator to send Him his demands. This is a true prayer following a genuine effort.
Only the Creator can lift us out of our selfishness, there is nothing man can do about it. If man still lives under the impression that he can improve spiritually or that there are still some options left, his selfishness will prevent him from genuinely crying out for the Creator. Selfishness will not give in to the benevolence of the Creator as long as man is not convinced that if he refuses to follow the path of spirituality he is dead, and that the journey can only be undertaken with the help of the Creator. This path is not similar to any other as it is impossible to perceive the next move. Each new move takes place in total darkness and past experience is useless in understanding one's future progression. If it weren't the case man would use his reason instead of placing his faith in the Creator above his own knowledge and understanding.
The authenticity of one's efforts and the proper direction can be verified if one constantly redirects his thoughts toward the Creator. One must know that every new sensation is sent by the Creator because it corresponds to His desire. The Creator gives us what we can understand at the present moment. This process is private and cannot be compared to any other. All we can do is become aware of our selfishness, our enemy and face it rather then swinging at windmills. This stage is shared by all men albeit perceived differently by each of them.
There is no direct link between the intensity of our selfishness and the duration of our spiritual journey. Nothing happens from outside, all is based on the energy man invests in his request for help to the Creator. This request is difficult to formulate because selfishness feels humiliated in this battle.
Without the help of the Creator and the spreading of His Light inside the Kli, the Kli will not become altruistic. Without the attributes of the Light, the Kli will remain totally selfish and unable to move toward spirituality. There is no other way to reach spirituality.
After having explored all options, man is convinced there is no way out and his selfishness is ready to accept help. In order to reach this degree man must permanently put the spiritual plane above the physical even if he chooses a completely selfish goal in the beginning, meaning the desire to gain something from spirituality.
We need to use all the means available in the world today. As selfish desires diminish, we need to select means to keep up with our desire to study Kabbalah. Gaining respectability, honors, and power are driving factors followed by the true desire to feel the Creator. Afterwards it becomes important to man's eyes to do something to please the Creator.
We should never discard the means at our disposal and at the same time never forget that the Creator acts upon us by using the various elements of our world.
From the "seuda mafseket" before "Yom Kippur" (the day of atonement), 1996
"Talmid hakham," the sage's student, these terms describe those who study directly with the Creator. What can one study with the Creator? The Creator"s sole attribute is to please His creation. If man desires to acquire this attribute in order to please the Creator just like the Creator pleases man, he becomes "the Creator's student."
Provided man makes efforts to work, the Creator will hear his call for help. This process should be sincere as one cannot beat about the bush with the Creator. Spiritual progression is a personal inner path, it is not necessary to reveal it to other people otherwise one's prayer may be in vain. When spiritual impressions begin to be perceived there are no words to describe them. Therefore a man seeking the divine should never speak about the level where he stands.
Whenever man thinks of nothing else but to progress toward the Creator, when all his time and energy are dedicated to his progression, the Creator will satisfy his desires.
At first man must know what is required for his correction but he does not clearly grasp what a Kli (vessel) is, or that it is ready to receive Divine Light as well as the nature of that Light. The works of Yehuda and Baruch Ashlag provide instructions and a global method to progress spiritually. Baal HaSulam has given us specifics on how to undertake our spiritual progression and draw ourselves closer to the Creator.
Why do we fast during Yom Kippur? If an ill person is asked not to eat for a full day and to dress up in white to cure a disease, he will do it for his own good. This is how most men perform deeds stemming from religious prescriptions.
Commandments must be observed only because they correspond to His Will. We do not understand how the spiritual is connected to our world, and how spiritual worlds take the aspect of our material world.
Man studies: if he understands that he does not understand, this is already a truth. The Creator gives man this impression because he wishes to draw him closer to Him. Conversely, if He does not want man to draw himself closer He will give him satisfaction in his study, work and family. Spiritual progression is possible only when there is a feeling of dissatisfaction.
Generally man is educated to feel his own perfection. This is how teachers strip man's being of possibilities of rising or falling. In our modern societies education is based on self-satisfaction principles. This kills man because his selfishness is satisfied. The same goes for our spiritual development because only the degree of dissatisfaction fuels the inspiration to go beyond the limits of habits and laziness in order to rise spiritually.
Individual efforts in quantity and quality enable us to achieve the goal we have set for ourselves. All efforts - studying, discussing or disseminating the wisdom of Kabbalah - greatly benefit those who make them. They become a gateway allowing others in our world to become familiar with the Creator.
To be authentic, Kabbalistic knowledge must be bred in man's heart and feelings. Sciences may be studied but they will not modify the human character, they do not require from the seeker a transformation of his existential outlook. Sciences only deal wth a small part of creation, the outer one which is confined to the narrow limits of our world. Nowadays however science has begun to discover that a relation between the experience and the experimenter exists. In Kabbalah the researcher can only obtain knowledge if his qualities match the ones of the subject of his study.
Dinner for rosh chodesh Tishrei (the new moon), september 1996
The universe is made up of two components: the Creator and his desire to give pleasure and creation and its desire to receive it. The desire to receive pleasure when corrected by an anti-selfishness screen is termed "Partzuf," a spiritual element. When the Partzuf allows the Light of the Creator to enter and dedicates it to the Creator, it realizes the "Zivug de Hakaa." This action is termed "commandment." This Light in the Partzuf is called "Torah." Whenever man performs a physical commandment with spiritual intention, he receives the light of Torah. His selfishness is corrected and two worlds are united.
While observing the commandments in this world, man still needs to define what he wants to obtain. Mechanical observance does not lead to spiritual progression, it only places man on a "spiritually inanimate" level. Only intention can help man enter the spiritual world. It also defines his spiritual level and the degree of perception of the spiritual Light, the Creator. A commandment without intention is like a "spiritless body" meaning that it is performed on the "spiritually inanimate" level.
The teaching of the proper intention is the purpose and task of Kabbalah. Kabbalah represents the hidden part of the Torah and is based in its preliminary teachings on the study of man and on how to define one's true intentions. Finally man becomes aware of his selfishness and true nature which foster his desire to receive pleasure without considering other people's opinions, thoughts and desires.
When embarking on his spiritual voyage, man does not know why he gets up early in the morning, studies and attends lectures. All this takes place unconsciously. Only once the Creator has revealed Himself to him does man understand he was guided to act in such a way and everything becomes clear. The worlds cannot exist without man who perceives them. Only when man perceives one of the fragments of the infinite and Endless Light does he call "his world" the fragment perceived. Conversely, all the degrees of the world are latent in man. These degrees of spiritual knowledge correspond to the progressive acquisition of knowledge located beyond the limits of our world.
Man is a selfish point in creation and he must ripen spiritually to progress. Only this maturation, that is to say the opening of the point in the heart, matches the initial incentive, all other actions stem from it.
We are only animated by the desire to feel pleasure at all stages of our development. This desire is termed "Klipa" (skin, husk) because this force protects man as long as he has not reached the level where he wishes to remove the skin to enjoy the fruit. The fruit is the mended Klipa, the desire to bestow without return, to please just like the Creator. The Klipa is a spiritual force. The Klipa's spiritual body is composed of a head and a body. The head of the Kilpa is termed "knowledge" and the body, "desire to receive." The "head" of a spiritually pure body is called "faith above reason" and the "body" is named" the action of bestowing without return." Only assiduous study can lift man above undesired states in which he helplessly wallows. Daily study purifiies our thoughts and sets us moving in the right direction.
Question: Why do we say "Le Chaim" (to life) when we drink?
Wine symbolizes the light of "Hochma," the Light of Life. In order to stress that we receive the Light of Life with the help of a screen we say "Le Chaim." That way the received Light shines upon us in the name of life. It is not incorrectly received via desires which are not repaired, mended. If this were the case, the Light would disappear and bring "spiritual death."
Question: Are there wrong or useless questions?
No, because if there is a question this means that a desire needs to be satisfied, hence, the question has the right to be asked. As for the answer, it is a little bit more complex. It is sometimes not possible to provide an answer due to the fact that the feelings of the questioner differ from those of the answer provider. One must find an answer to his own questions.
If man has spiritual worries this means that there are personal ties between him and the Creator. Even if they are not clearly felt these ties exist. Only man can find his own answers even if he does not understand what is going on. The spiritual world is nothing but the desire to receive and the screen (Masach) which opposes it. Decision-making in the Kli (vessel) begins either with a desire (the selfish Kli) or the Masach (a spiritual Kli, bestowing without return) or their merging (spiritual Kli receiving).
Man must strive to accept everything that happens to him as all events are a means to progress spiritually. There is no one recipe for any particular case and man must find out what he can or cannot do as well as apply the methods exposed by our masters. When man realizes that after having tried everything he cannot escape the small universe of his selfishness, he calls God and cries out for help. Selfishness feels that it is the beginning of the end. Only in this dead end situation can the Creator help man because man is now ready to accept His help.
We will all reach the state of "Gmar Tikkun," the achievement of correction. Whatever happens we will all reach our root in "Ein Sof" (endless world). Everything is geared towards the final correction, the end of selfish desires. The notion of "end of the world" in everyday life radically differs from its true meaning in Kabbalah.
The study of true sources can speed up our progression towards the spiritual and allow us to live the spiritual in this life. This way is called the Path of the Torah. Progression can also occur through suffering, following the reincarnation of the soul but in any case the result is the same. The Path of the Torah does not mean reducing suffering or avoiding it. This is not the driving force of the one who follows the Path of the Torah.
Man transforms suffering induced by worldly selfish desires into suffering corresponding to a lack of the spiritual and thus shortens the time left to reach his goal.
Dinner for rosh chodesh Tevet (the new moon), Tevet 1995
Man's desire to know the divine equals the most intense aspiration to know oneself. Selfishness hinders man's aspiration because man's nature is to seek self-satisfaction and the saturation of his desires. Everytime man ceases to give in to illusions he immediately wishes to know the CREATOR, his Source, his true nature.
Baal HaSulam was ready to speak to everybody, to look after students and he published a newspaper whose excerpts later became the book, "Matan Torah" (The Gift of the Torah). However, he had very few students who wished to study.The paradox lies in the fact that before there were Kabbalists and no students, while presently many wish to study but there are not any Kabbalists.
IT IS THE FIRST TIME IN HISTORY THAT WE FACE SUCH A SITUATION: the desire to study is fostered from below while from Above we find ourselves thrown into increasing spiritual darkness. This is a constructive situation because it bears witness to the fact that if our desire to progress spiritually is genuine, the answers received will be proportional to its intensity.
What defines the power of love between man and the Creator? It is the degree of suffering and passion, the degree of suffering due to the absence of Light inside the Kli and the passion following the penetration of the Divine Light when bonding takes place. This means that if man can feel true desires within himself, his desires will be fulfilled.
The problem of people who try to enter or perceive the spiritual worlds is that they rely on reason while ignoring that it is the product of our selfish nature. This nature prevents us from becoming acquainted with the spiritual world and usually beginners in Kabbalah follow this path.
We are used to increasing our perception of things first and afterwards place faith above reason. This helps us understand that a Kli filled with selfishness matches the desire to feel pleasure and not the intention to please the Creator. A spiritual Kli is the desire to please the Creator through our deeds.
We open books, study and try to understand with our reason. It is however impossible to feel what is spelled out by the intellect. The same goes with the threshold (Machsom) which separates our world from the spiritual world.
OUR PERCEPTION OF THINGS AND OUR BRAIN ARE SECONDARY BECAUSE THEY PROCESS INFORMATION AND SATISFY OUR DESIRES. THE BRAIN IS ONLY AN AUXILLIARY MEAN. AS SOON AS MAN UNDERSTANDS THAT IT IS KEY FOR HIM TO IMPROVE HIS SENSATIONS AND NOT HIS AWARENESS OF THINGS, THE PATH TO SPIRITUALITY CLEARLY OPENS ITSELF TO HIM.
MAN USUALLY DOES NOT TRUST HIS FEELINGS. FIRST HE WANTS TO UNDERSTAND, THEN FEEL AND ACT. SO WHY WAS THE BRAIN GIVEN TO US IF IT IS SUCH AN OBSTACLE? IT WAS GIVEN TO US SO THAT WE MAY USE IT AND AT THE SAME TIME PROGRESS BY PLACING FAITH ABOVE REASON. THE PATH PLACING FAITH ABOVE REASON IS BASED ON TRIAL AND ERROR AND IS FULL OF HARDSHIPS. THIS PATH HELPS MAN REALIZE THAT ALL SITUATIONS IN LIFE ARE HELP SENT BY THE CREATOR TO STIMULATE SPIRITUAL PROGRESSION.
The Creator sends all sorts of forces and they are brought forth so that man can improve his self-control. However, a golden rule needs to be applied and that is secrecy. We must conceal our goal from our own selfishness and even more from other people!! The student in Kabbalah should behave discretely and not mention his goal just to anyone. If this principle is not complied with, the student can attract against him very powerful negative forces.
When Kabbalah students get together, they must neither speak of their love for the Creator nor of their feelings for one another because by doing so they only express their personal opinion and subjective feelings. The distance separating man from the Creator is similar to a ladder with rungs. We occupy the lowest and the Creator, the highest. Our task is to climb up this ladder and reach the Creator. There are several ways to progress. One consists in stimulation from below, it is our path: man longs for spirituality and elevation, begins to read books etc...However, there exists another path with stimulation from Above whereby the Creator lifts us and draws us closer to Him.
What is the difference between these two paths? The stimulation from Above corresponds to the constant uplifting of our world regardless of each and every personal aspiration.
Those who manifest personal aspirations are guided toward the study of Kabbalah and it is preferable for man to take advantage of what has been sent to him. Man must behave seriously in his work as well as with the capacities that are sent to him.
There are 32 sparks (Lamed Bet Nitzotzin) within us and the heart of stone (Lev ha Even). This corresponds to a type of selfishness which can only be corrected when the general Light called "Messiah" comes. Only this type of Light can free us from selfishness. We need to persevere in our efforts to rid ourselves of selfishness and our desire to help the "Messiah" will appear and free the world from its chains.