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Michael Laitman, PhD

Chapter 3. The Giving of Kabbalah

The great sage, Rabbi Akiva, (1st century CE) said: “Love thy neighbor as thyself is the comprehensive rule of all the spiritual laws.”

As we know, the term “comprehensive” points to the sum of its constituents. Therefore, when Rabbi Akiva speaks about love for our neighbor (one of many spiritual laws), about our duties with regard to society and even to the Creator as the comprehensive law, he implies that all the other laws are mere constituents of this rule.

However, when we try to find an explanation for this, we are met with an even more unusual statement by the sage, Hillel. When his disciple asked him to teach him the entire wisdom of Kabbalah while standing on one foot, Hillel replied: “Anything that you hate, do not do to others!”

Hillel’s answer teaches us that the whole purpose, indeed the reason for the existence of Kabbalah, is to clarify and fulfill a single law: “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” Yet, how can I love another as myself? Loving others as myself would imply constantly fulfilling all the desires of all the people, when I am unable to satisfy even my own desires! Moreover, the sages explain that we have to satisfy others’ desires before our own.

For example, it is written (Tosfot, Masechet Kidushin) that if you have only one pillow, you must give it to your friend, or if you have one chair, another person should take it, while you stand or sit on the ground. Otherwise, you will not be fulfilling the instruction of loving your neighbor. Is this a feasible demand? Since “Love thy neighbor as thyself” is the comprehensive law of Kabbalah, let’s first find out what Kabbalah is.

Kabbalah teaches that the world and we, its dwellers, were created only to fulfill the laws that aim at humanity’s spiritual development above our material world. In this way, we may attain similarity and unity with the Creator.

Yet, why did the Creator need to create us so corrupted and give us Kabbalah for our correction? The Book of Zohar answers this question in the following way: “He who eats someone else’s bread is ashamed of looking in the giver’s eyes.”

Therefore, the world was created to save us from this shame. By struggling with our own egoism and correcting it, we will earn our future world.

To explain this, let’s imagine the following situation: A rich man meets his poor friend, whom he has not seen for a long time. He brings him to his house, gives him food, drink, and clothes, day after day. One day, intending to please his friend, the rich man asks him what else he can do for him. The poor man's reply is: “I wish only one thing: to receive everything you are giving me out of mercy, as a reward for my own labor. You can fulfill all my desires except this one!”

We see how the giver is unable to rid the receiver of shame. On the contrary, the more favors the poor man receives, the greater his shame. The universe, our small planet, and human society (our workplace) were created to save us from this feeling. Our work is to return to the Creator with corrected desires and to receive a well-earned reward, the enormous delight of eternity, perfection, and merging with the Creator.

But why do we feel embarrassed and ashamed when receiving something from another? Scientists know the law of cause and effect. It states that every consequence is close in character to its cause, or source, and all the laws effective in the source are passed on to its consequence.

The effect of this law manifests at all levels of nature: inanimate, vegetative, animate, and human. The state of any mineral is determined by the laws that control it. We are accustomed to, and prefer, what we experience while growing up. Similarly, every particle that constitutes the consequence of a whole is drawn to its origin, and everything that is absent in the root is disliked and negated by its consequence.

Accordingly, since the Creator of nature is the Root and the Source of all that was created, we perceive all the laws effective within Him as pleasant, and all that is absent in Him as utterly alien and unattractive. For example, we like rest and dislike movement so much that we move only with the purpose of achieving rest. This is because the Root (Creator) from which we all originated is absolutely motionless. Hence, any motion is opposite to our nature.

We are born and we grow as absolute egoists, caring only for ourselves. Being egoists is what makes us opposite from the Creator, who vitalizes all nature. However, as we fall under the influence of society, we begin to understand the need for mutual aid, though its measure and direction depend on the society’s level of development.

By creating our ill will (evil inclination) and by giving us Kabbalah as a counterbalance, the Creator enabled us to eliminate the manifestation of egoism and attain delight without shame.

There are two kinds of laws in Kabbalah – those with regard to other people and those with regard to the Creator. However, both of them are intended to make us similar to the Creator. It is utterly unimportant to us whether we act for the sake of the Creator or for the sake of other people. This is because anything that transcends the boundaries of our personal interest remains completely imperceptible.

Every movement that we make for the sake of another is – in the end – for self-benefit. It is absolutely impossible to make any physical or mental movement without a prior intention to derive at least some profit from it. This law of nature is known as “absolute egoism.” Only by observing the spiritual laws can one achieve the state of selfless love for others. Those who do not follow the rules of Kabbalah have no way of transcending the boundaries of “absolute egoism.”

According to Kabbalah, the laws regulating social relationships are more important than the laws regulating the relationship with the Creator. This is so because when we follow these laws under changing social circumstances, we are able to correct ourselves effectively and in the right direction.

Now we can understand Hillel’s answer to his disciple: the main thing is to love your neighbor, the rest are merely subsidiary laws, including those pertaining to our relations with the Creator. In fact, one cannot merge with Him prior to attaining love for others. Hence, the ancient sage pointed to “love thy neighbor” as the safest and quickest means to master Kabbalah.

Now imagine a nation with a population of millions in which every member lovingly and unreservedly aspired to help every other member of society and satisfied their every need. Clearly, not a single person of that society would need to worry about him or herself or fear the future. Indeed, millions of loving people would constantly stand guard over their interests and take care of them.

However, since the nation would depend on its members, a breach in the obligation would create a vacuum in society because someone would remain without help. The bigger the number of violators, the more the rule that every member of society is obliged to observe would be breached. All are responsible for one another, both for observing the laws and for violating them.

Another ancient sage, Elazar, the son of Rashbi (Rabbi Shimon Bar-Yochai, the author of The Zohar), has an even greater surprise for us. He says that not only every nation, but all of humanity, every living being, is responsible for each other. Elazar states that all nations will have to observe this rule, and in so doing the entire world will be corrected. The world cannot be completely corrected and elevated unless everyone embraces the comprehensive law of the universe.

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