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Ninth Talk: How to Relate to Suffering in Life

It seems that right now you and I are sitting here in the group, and someone out there is determining our fate for us. However, this is not the case. It is true that we do not determine anything. If we already understand this and we are ready to suffer through the next advancement, this means that we have slightly distanced ourselves from the animal state and we are ready for the spiritual state. In this case, we will receive it. However, if we do not yet have this kind of readiness, then we will not receive anything from above.

I strongly hope that we will be safeguarded by the upper forces. We can never know how to take the next step. We do not know what the soul is, what the Creator is, what our final goal is, and in which direction it lies. The same thing applies to our lives. We do not know how to act and what will happen tomorrow, no matter how much we may try to make our lives safe.

A person must perceive all obstacles placed before him as the signal for the next step. We have to know how to act in each particular case and how to get rid of the current difficult state. If a person is working in this direction, then he prepares himself for the next state. All bad things we encounter along our path, and all suffering and misfortunes that we overcome and that we perceive as an integral part of advancement, prepare us for the good.

The path forward consists of two components: the left side and the right side. The left side is the desires (Kelim) of the next level. They are manifested as various obstacles, problems and difficulties we must overcome, and we must endure in spite of them. This too is a step forward, but from the opposite side. The Creator sends us these states in order to enable us to take a step forward with their help.

If a person perceives absolutely everything that happens to him as good, then he immediately acquires a connection with the Creator. A person maintains this connection as long as he perceives all difficulties that come to him as an opportunity to advance and to justify everything, no matter how difficult it is.

The Creator created a desire that allows us to perceive everything surrounding us as either good or bad, depending on the fulfillment of our desire. If I suffer, this means that my desire to receive is not fulfilled. More correctly, if my desire is not fulfilled then I suffer. If I feel pleasure, then this is because my desire to receive is satisfied.

How can we separate ourselves from our dependency on the fulfillment of the desire to receive? How can we make things work in such a way that, during any state – regardless of whether our desire receives pleasure or not – we will not perceive emptiness (or lack of pleasure) as suffering?

This is possible only with the help of the intention or the orientation of the pleasure. The desire cannot be altered or corrected. It is an animal attribute; it is nature that was created by the Creator. If a person does not check whether his desire is directed at the goal of creation, and instead he acts according to what the desire itself is telling him, then he still relates to the animal level of development rather than the “human” level. As long as a person fulfills all his desires without checking his motivation or his goal of receiving fulfillment, he remains an animal. That is, he is located beneath the Machsom - in our world.

On the other hand, when a person begins to check and sort out his desires (for what sake is he fulfilling them, to what end does he receive pleasure and why) and to ask various questions about the reason for his pleasure, then he begins to be a person. He understands that there is a source of all of the pleasures and, if this is the case, then it is possible to demand of his nature to do something to achieve correction. Then, a person takes the desires that were created by the Creator and, with the help of the intention “for the sake of the Creator,” he fulfills those same desires, transforming them into a source of bestowal.

Why do we need bodily suffering? Does it disappear as we begin to perceive spiritual suffering, such as the perception of lack of love for the Creator? At the end of his life, Baal HaSulam endured severe suffering and people asked him why he did not rid himself of it. He replied that if a person knew how much he benefits from it, then, even if he could do so, he would not run away from suffering. Our soul needs everything that we experience and then this passes into the Kelim for receiving the light…

Does this mean that we have to ask for more diseases and blows on our heads, in order to then receive more light? No. A person has to perceive everything as a means to correct the Kelim of his soul that are not yet corrected.

Every suffering corresponds to the correction of a specific part of the soul. Sometimes the correction takes place due to the study of Kabbalah. Sometimes it occurs when people take care of the aged or children. Other times, various illnesses and suffering serve as correction. Along with suffering we receive various means that accelerate the correction, such as progress, medicine and mutual help.

In the spiritual, the intention is action. Our actions only alter our attitude towards the Creator’s actions and towards His governance. It is not by chance that a person’s spiritual work is called “Avodat ha Shem” or “the Creator’s work”, because it is precisely the Creator who does all of the work, and we only observe His work and justify it to the degree we are corrected. If our attitude is incorrect then we do not see anything. However, if a person is able to observe what is happening to him, without any connection with himself, he passes the Machsom. In the spiritual, the name “action” refers to the very orientation of the action.

If a person receives the ability to see with the suffering also the source of the suffering, then this person is beginning to have a connection with the Source. These people then become religious; they begin to believe in the Creator, to pray to Him and to thank Him. How can this be so? A person receives something bad, yet he blesses the Source?

This occurs because when a person reveals the Creator, he simultaneously receives the ability to justify Him. If we agree with the fact that the Creator exists, then we are able to justify Him. The levels of justifying the Creator, meaning the degree to which a person views the Creator’s actions as righteous, are called “the levels of the worlds”. I can only come as close to the Creator as how much I justify Him. The Creator adds a negative perception to the left or egoistic side, but a person is able to take forces from the right side in order to justify the left side. As a result, he ascends to a higher level.

According to nature, our body naturally works according to the principle “maximum pleasure with minimum efforts”. This principle is preserved on all levels. Without having awareness that we are doing so, we are constantly carrying out our desire to receive and feel delight. Naturally, our intention corresponds to our desire. We do not control whether this is good or bad, and we do not ask ourselves the question of why and what for do we carry out all of our desires. To carry out that which we desire is the basis of egoism.

Where is the boundary of attaching intentions to my actions? There is no boundary. If I ascend to the world of Ein Sof (Infinity) then I clothe my intention “for the sake of the Creator” on the tiniest action of this world. In this way, I come to reveal all of the Creator’s actions, from the biggest to the smallest. Increasingly lower desires constantly become revealed to a person, desires that he did not even suspect were there.

These desires become revealed to him because he has the ability to form the correct intention over them, and thus to correct his attitude or relation to them. If a person lacks the required intention, he remains an animal. The presence of an intention over a specific part of the desires transforms that part of an “animal in a person” into a “person in a person”. The more intentions of bestowal a person acquires, the bigger part of his desires becomes “a person” or “human”.

All of the levels from our world until the Creator are levels of increase of the intention “for the sake of the Creator”. A desire does not increase or decrease on its own. Simply, not all desires are immediately revealed to a person. Rather, they become revealed only to the degree of a person’s ability to form the correct intention over them.

The Creator knows what the person must correct right now. Reshimot are records of a person’s previous states, or states he was in prior to his soul’s clothing into the body. Gradually, one by one, the Reshimot become revealed or manifested in a person, and he must successively make efforts in order to create the intention “for the sake of the Creator” over them. The person himself should not think that he needs to correct something right now. Rather, he should pay attention to what he receives from above.

You asked me to comment on the first part of the “Introduction to the book of Zohar”. The book of “Zohar” contains this, but let us try to add explanations. (The italics are the translated text.)

In this introduction, I would like to clarify matters that are seemingly simple. Matters that everyone fumbles with, and which much ink has been spilled over in attempting to clarify. Yet we have not reached a concrete and sufficient knowledge of them. And here are the questions:

1) What is our essence?

2) What is our role in the long chain of reality, which we are but small links of?

3) When we examine ourselves, we find ourselves to be as corrupted and as low as can be; and when we examine the worker who has conceived us, we are compelled to be full of praise. Is it not necessary that from a perfect worker will come out only perfect works?

We are creations and He is the Creator. If He is so good and perfect, then how could He have created creatures so corrupted as us? If the Creator is absolutely perfect, then how could He have had such a bad thought? After all, the thought is equal to the action. And vice-versa. Does this mean that He Himself is this way? And what do we constantly receive from Him? It is impossible to correlate goodness and the manifestation of the creation’s results in our world, in any way.

4) Our mind tells us that He is utterly benevolent – beyond compare. How, then, did He create so many creatures that suffer and agonize all through their lives? Is it not the nature of the good to bestow, or at least not to harm so?

According to Kabbalah, there must first be a Kli or desire, and this means suffering. Then, there must be the desire’s fulfillment or pleasure. However, why should there first be suffering and blows, and then pleasure? Is this the way perfection is supposed to be?

5) How is it possible, that the infinite – with no beginning and no end – will extract from itself finite, mortal, transient creatures?

In order to clear all that up, we need to make some preliminary inquiries. And not, God forbid, where it is forbidden, meaning in His essence, of which we have no conception whatsoever and thus have no thought of Him. But where the inquiry is required, meaning an inquiry in His deeds, as the Torah tells us: "Know thou the God of thy father" and, as it says in the poem of unification, "By your actions we know you".

It is forbidden to investigate the Essence of the Creator. More correctly, our brain is not capable of attaining this, and this is why it is forbidden. In Kabbalah, “forbidden” means “unattainable”. Therefore, everything that is attainable is desirable for us to attain! We are not only able to, but we are obligated to investigate and correct all of the Creator’s actions, which He does to us. Correspondingly, we have to investigate and correct our attitude or relation to these actions.

Inquiry No. 1: How can we picture a new creation, meaning something new, that is not a part of Him?

How can we understand this: the fact that there is something that did not exist before? We learn that in the beginning there was the Creator. Then, with a single thought, He created the creation. What is creation? It is the desire to receive. The Creator is entirely “bestowal” and He does not contain the desire to receive. He created the desire to receive out of nothing. How can something be created out of nothing? How can something be created that was not present before in any form? For example, gas has existed before and we were not able to see it. Under pressure, gas transforms into a solid body, which can again be transformed into a gas by heating. However, creation did not exist before in any form at all, not even in any thought. Thought emerged later. How is this possible?

It is obvious to anyone of right mind that there is nothing that is not a part of Him…

If there is something that was not previously present in the Creator, then how can it be that He is perfect? Was He compelled to create something that would complete His thought? Even the most primitive mind is able to say that there is nothing that is not contained in the Creator.

Inquiry No. 2: If you say that from the aspect of His almightiness, He certainly can create existence from existence, meaning something new that is not in Him, there arises the question - what is that reality, that can be conceived, which has no place in Him and is completely new?

What is this thing the Creator needs so much, that He created it out of nothingness?

Inquiry No. 3: Deals with what Kabbalists have said, that a man's soul is a part of God, in such a way that there is no difference between Him and the soul, but that He is the "whole" and the soul is a "part". And they'd compared it to a rock carved off a mountain. There is no difference between the rock and the mountain, except that He is a "whole" and the rock is a "part". Thus we must ask: a stone carved from the mountain is separated from it by an ax made for that purpose, causing the separation of the "part" from the "whole".

But how can you picture that about Him, that He would separate a part from His essence to become separated from Him, meaning a soul, to the point that it can only be understood as part of His essence?

Inquiry No. 4: Since the chariot of the Evil Side and the shells are at the other end of His holiness, that nothing farther remote can be conceived, how can it be extracted and made from holiness, much less that it will sustain it?

There exist forces that are completely opposite to the Creator in their essence. They hate the Creator’s holiness and they are at war with it. How could the Creator have created such a terrible foe? And the most difficult thing to understand is the fact that, in addition, the Creator takes care of this foe and of his existence, and constantly gives him the light of life. This can not be apprehended by any mind. Such an eternal and perfect Creator creates something that is base, flawed, and absolutely opposite to perfection. This must mean that He needs it?

Inquiry No. 5: The matter of the rising of the dead: Since the body is so despicable, that immediately at birth it is doomed to perish and be buried. Furthermore, the Zohar said that before the body rots entirely, the soul cannot ascend to its place in Heaven, while there are still remnants of it. Therefore, why must it return and rise at the revival of the dead? Could the Creator not delight the souls without it? Even more bewildering is what our sages said, that the dead are destined to rise with their flaws, so that they will not be mistaken for another, and after that He will cure their flaws. We must understand why God would mind that they would not be mistaken for another, that for that he would recreate their flaw and then would have to cure it?

Inquiry No. 6: Regarding what our sages said, that man is the center of reality, that the upper worlds and this corporeal world, and everything in them, were not created but for him, and obliged man to believe that the world had been created for him. It is seemingly hard to grasp, that for this small human, who grasps no more than a wisp of this world's reality, much less of the upper worlds, whose height is immeasurable, that the Creator troubled Himself to create all this for him. And also, why would man want all that?

When and for what purpose will a person ever be able to utilize all of this unattainable grandeur? We do not know anything about our very selves, about our lives, about what is around us; not about the generations that preceded us and that will come after us. All of this is concealed from us and we continue to live as before. In addition, here we are obligated to attain, and knowledge about the whole universe awaits us…

In order to understand these questions and inquiries, the trick is to start by looking at the end, that is, at the purpose of creation. For nothing can be understood in the middle of the process, but only at its end. And it is clear that there is no act without purpose, for only the insane can be found to act purposelessly. I know that there are those who cast over their backs the burden of Torah and Mitzvot (commandments), saying the Creator has created reality, then left it alone; that because of the worthlessness of the creatures, it is not fitting for the exalted Creator to watch over their petty little ways. Indeed, without knowledge they have spoken, for it is not possible to comment on our nothingness and lowliness, before we decide that we have created ourselves with all our tarnished natures.

We really do not feel the hand of the Creator in our lives. He is concealed from us. He created us and seemingly has left us to the mercy of fate. Our entire problem lies in the fact that we are not able to see the end result of the thought of creation until we correct our Kelim. That is, until we replace our desire to receive with its opposite – the desire to bestow.

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