Chapter 13. A Few Basic Concepts
Kabbalah is a method for revealing the Creator to the created beings existing in this world. Kabbalah derives from the word Lekabel (to receive). The goal of those who live in this world is to receive all the infinite pleasure for which the entire Creation was formed.
The sensation of another person is developed only in humans. It endows envy, empathy, shame, and the sensation of spiritual ascent. The ability to sense others was created in us to enable us to sense the Creator.
The sensation of the Creator means that everyone feels the Creator in exactly the same way as one feels one’s fellow person. It is said that Moses spoke to the Creator “face to face.” This means that he had a sense of absolute attainment of the Creator, to the extent of intimacy in his contact with Him, as with a friend.
The end of an action is determined by the original thought: Just like a person who is building a house first makes a plan and works on specifications according to the final goal, all one’s actions are determined by the final, predetermined goal.
After clarifying the ultimate goal of Creation, we realize that Creation and the ways to control it correspond to this ultimate goal. The purpose of the governance lies in humanity’s gradual development, until we feel the Creator just as we feel other created beings in our world.
From above downward is a path of a gradual attainment of the spiritual. In other words, this is our development to the point where one can feel another exactly as one feels oneself, and feel spiritual objects as clearly as one feels corporeal objects, and so forth at all levels up to the Creator Himself. This is the Creator’s order of attainment, which moves along the same levels by which Creation passed on its descent from Above. This means that this path already exists, and as we reveal the higher levels, we completely reveal the corresponding lower levels as well.
From below upward is the order of Creation of both worlds: the spiritual and our final, material one.
The spiritual observance of the laws of Creation: The thought and desire to achieve the purpose of Creation becomes the means to attain spiritual perfection.
The periods in Kabbalah: Since the beginning of Creation and up to the destruction of the Second Temple, Kabbalists have “openly” studied Kabbalah. All spiritual forces were perceived more tangibly in our world, and our contact with the spiritual worlds was closer and more significant, particularly through the Temple and the services conducted there.
As the moral level of society declined, we became unworthy (i.e., different in qualities) and lost our ability to sense the spiritual worlds. Hence, the Temple was destroyed and the exile period began. Kabbalists continued studying secretly and made Kabbalah inaccessible to the “unworthy.”
It is written in The Zohar that the Creator’s desire was to conceal His wisdom from the world, but when the world approaches the days of the Messiah, even children will reveal His secrets. They will be able to foresee and study the future, and at that time He will reveal Himself to all.
Rashbi was the last Kabbalist of the pre-exile period; hence, he received permission from Above to write The Book of Zohar.
Kabbalah was forbidden for almost fifteen centuries, until the Kabbalist Ari (Rabbi Yitzhak Luria) appeared and spiritually attained the whole Kabbalah. In his works he revealed The Zohar for us: “…in 600 years of the sixth millennium the sources of wisdom will open up above and flow down.”
In one of the ancient manuscripts, Kabbalist Abraham Azulai (sixth century CE) found that “from the year 5,300 (1,539 CE) since Creation, everyone will be permitted to openly study Kabbalah, adults and children, and just because of this, the Redeemer shall come.”
As a sign that we live at the end of days, the great Kabbalist Yehuda Ashlag (Baal HaSulam) appeared in our time and explicated the whole Kabbalah in a clear and comprehensible language, using a method that is suitable for our souls.
The uniqueness of the science of Kabbalah lies in the fact that it includes complete knowledge about our world (i.e., all sciences in their unrevealed entirety) and its elements, because it studies the roots that control our world, and from which our world appeared.
The soul is an "I" that everyone feels. On closer examination, the soul divides a force into our body, which vitalizes it, creating “the animate” soul, as well as a force of aspiration to the spiritual, known as “the spiritual” (divine) soul, which is practically nonexistent in spiritually undeveloped people.
The physical body and the animate soul are the products of our world. They are sufficient for us to perceive through sense organs. By developing a spiritual soul, we acquire the ability to feel beyond the “I.” This occurs when the spiritual, altruistic “I” emerges from the negation of the egoistical “I.” Thus, we begin to sense more intense spiritual vibrations until we develop the soul from “a point” up to its intrinsic capacity.
The inner essence of Kabbalah is the research of the Light of the Creator, which emanates from Him and reaches us according to certain laws.
The law of roots and branches is the law that determines the operations of the forces that impel all parts of our world’s creation to grow and develop. It is said in Kabbalah: “There is no grain below without its angel above that strikes it and tells it: Grow!” The language of branches also helps reveal information about what occurs in other worlds. Creatures that populate a certain world perceive objects in that world in a similar way, and can thus exchange information using their own language. One can inform others about what happens in other worlds using the same language, while at the same time implying that this refers to objects in another world, which correspond to our own. This is exactly the language in which the Torah is written.
All the worlds are similar to one another; the difference is only in the material from which they are created – the higher the world, the “purer” its matter. However, the laws of their functioning and form are the same, and each subsequent world is an exact replica (branch) of its predecessor (root).
The created beings populating a certain world can perceive only within its boundaries because sense organs perceive only the material of that particular world. Only humans can simultaneously attain all the worlds.
The levels of attainment are the consecutive degrees of perception of the Creator. It is as though they form a ladder that climbs from our world to the spiritual worlds. The bottom rung of that ladder is called “the Machsom” (barrier). It conceals all the spiritual forces from us so completely that we have no perception of them whatsoever. Hence, we try to find the Source and the purpose of life in our world.
Light in the spiritual worlds: Information, feelings, and pleasures are passed by the expansion and retraction of the spiritual force called “Light” (by analogy with the light in our world that gives life and warmth, or with the light pertaining to thought, clarity, and enlightenment).
The right to exist: Everything in our world, good, bad, even the most harmful, has a right to exist. We are given an opportunity to make corrections and improvements. There is nothing redundant or unnecessary in our world. Everything is created for the good of humanity, both directly and indirectly. Thus, by correcting ourselves, we neutralize any detrimental influences.
Correction: The Creator has not finished creating our world; we are entrusted with the task of completing and perfecting it. We see our world as a fruit that remains bitter during its ripening, and it is our task and goal to correct and sweeten it.
Two paths of correction:
The Path of Light: The path of acceptance of the spiritual laws of Correction by everyone is called “the path of Light.” It is preferable from the Creator’s perspective because His goal is to bestow joy to His created beings at all the stages of their existence. Thus, we would not taste the bitterness of the fruit.
The path of suffering: Through trial and error during a period of 6,000 years, humanity realizes the need to observe the laws of Creation one way or another.
Reward is pleasure (the taste of the ripe fruit). We can only influence ourselves; we cannot influence anything outside of us. Hence, correction can only be made when everyone works on self-perfection.
A Kabbalist is any person in our world who attains similarity to the Creator. By studying and observing the spiritual laws, we develop ourselves spiritually to an extent where we become a part of the spiritual worlds.
Attainment occurs through inner work on ourselves, by studying the nature and attributes of the spiritual objects. We do not speak about psychological sensations, fantasies, or suggestion. What is meant here is a genuine ascent to a world whose substance is spiritual, above and beyond all human psychological perception.
Pleasure can be felt only if desire and aspiration are available. A desire can exist only if the resultant pleasure is known. Aspiration is possible only in the absence of pleasure at a given moment. A person who was not released from prison does not enjoy freedom, and only a sick person can truly appreciate good health. We receive both desires and aspirations from the Creator.
The only created thing is the sensation of deficiency, which is absent in the Creator. The more developed one is, the more keenly one will feel it. This deficiency is rather limited in simple people and children. A true human being wants the entire world. A wise one wants not only our world, but all the other worlds as well.
A combination of desire and aspiration is called a Kli (vessel) in Kabbalah. The pleasure itself, Ohr (Light), emanates from the Creator.
The sensation of pleasure: The vessel feels the entrance of the Light, depending on the similarity between the qualities of the vessel and those of the Light. The more similar these qualities are, the more the vessel can bestow, love, and bring joy, and the smaller its will to receive. The closer the vessel is to the Light, the more Light and pleasure it feels.
Existence in the spiritual worlds: Our ability to feel or not to feel the Creator (the Light) depends only on our closeness to Him, based on our equivalence of attributes with Him. This is because every one of us is a vessel. As long as the vessel has even the slightest desire to bestow, to think of others, to suffer for them, to love and help them while disregarding its own desires, this vessel exists in the spiritual worlds, and its properties determine which world it will occupy.
The recognition of evil: When the intention to bestow is absent in a vessel, it perceives itself in this world. Such a vessel is called a person’s “body,” whose only wish is to care for itself. We cannot even imagine the ability to selflessly do something for another. By undergoing “the recognition of evil” – an accurate and rigorous self-analysis – one can determine one’s inability to selflessly do for another.
The vessel’s perfection: The vessel (Kli) is created in such a way that it contains desires for all the pleasures that exist in the Light. Because of the restriction and the breaking of the vessels, a certain number of separate vessels were formed. Each of these vessels moves from one state (world) to another, which leads to separation (death).
While living in this world, everyone must make the attributes of their vessel similar to the Light, receive a corresponding measure of Light, and reunite with the other vessels (souls) to form a single vessel completely filled with Light (pleasure). This future state is called Gmar Tikkun (The End of Correction).
The entrance of Light into the vessel: The differences among people are based on the magnitude of their desires. The ban imposed on spiritual coercion and murder is quite clear. By studying the properties of the spiritual vessels, material vessels (human beings) stimulate the desire to be similar to it. And since desire in the spiritual world constitutes action, by gradually changing ourselves, we allow the Light to enter our vessels. While inside the vessel, the Light purifies it because the Light’s nature is “to bestow.” Through this property, the Light gradually modifies the characteristics of the vessel as well.
The First Restriction (Tzimtzum Aleph) is a ban, an oath that the first, collective spiritual vessel imposed on itself immediately after its appearance. It means that although the Creator’s sole desire is to fill the vessel with delight, the vessel imposed a condition on itself that it will not enjoy for itself, but only for the Creator.
Thus, only the thought changed, not the action itself. This means that the vessel receives the Light not because it wants it, but because such is the Creator’s wish. Hence, our goal is to fulfill the will to receive, to wish for pleasure the way the Creator wishes for it.
Sensation is the attribute of reacting to the absence or presence of the Light, even in its infinitely small portions. In principle, our whole life consists of mere cycles of sensations. Usually, it does not matter to us what we enjoy, but we cannot live without pleasure. Recognition and fame merely provide a sensation, but pleasure is so important to us!
Our state always depends on the mood and perception of our surroundings, regardless of the world’s state. None of our sensations is the product of our inner life and the environment’s influence, for their source is the Creator Himself, as every sensation constitutes either the Light or its absence.
We feel either ourselves or the Creator or both, depending on our moral state. While feeling only ourselves, we can believe that the Creator exists and influences us. The fact that we perceive ourselves as independent creatures, and even believe that only we exist, is a result of our spiritual disparity from the Creator, and of our remoteness from Him.
Intention (Kavana) is the single most important thing in every action that a person makes. This is so because in the spiritual world, a thought constitutes an action. Similarly, in our corporeal world, one who cuts another with a knife intending to inflict harm is punished, while another uses a knife with the aim to heal – as in surgery – and is awarded.
If sentence is passed according to the absolute laws of the spiritual worlds, then for every evil thought a person should be spiritually punished. Indeed, in spirituality this is exactly what happens.
Our mood and our health also depend on our intentions, but not on the difficulty or character of our work or financial state. It should be noted that while we can only control our physical actions, we can only change our feelings through the spiritual world.
This is why prayer is of such paramount importance; it essentially constitutes every appeal (even wordless ones, coming from the heart) to The Source of all that exists, the Creator, for whom all created beings are equal and desired.