3. The Dining Table
In a brightly lit house with spacious rooms, a pleasant-looking man is busy in the kitchen. He is preparing a meal for his long-awaited guest. While hovering over the pots and pans, he reminds himself of the delicacies his guest so enjoys.
The host’s joyous anticipation is very evident. Gracefully, with the moves of a dancer, he fills the table with five different courses. Next to the table are two cushioned chairs.
There is a knock on the door, and the guest enters. The host’s face brightens at the sight of the guest and he invites him to sit at the dining table. The guest sits down and the host looks at him fondly.
The guest regards the delicacies in front of him and sniffs them from a courteous distance. It is apparent that he likes what he sees, but he expresses his admiration with tactful restraint, not revealing that he knows the food is meant for him.
Host: Do sit down. I’ve made these things especially for you because I know how much you like them. We both know how familiar I am with your tastes and dining habits. I know you’re hungry and I know how much you can eat, so I’ve prepared everything exactly the way you like it, in the exact amount that you can finish without leaving a crumb.
Narrator: If there were any food left when the guest was satiated, both Host and Guest would be unhappy. The host would be unhappy because that would mean he wants to give his guest more than his guest wants to receive.
The guest would be disappointed at not being able to fulfill the host’s wish that he would consume it all. The guest would also regret if he were full while there were still more delicacies left over, and was unable to enjoy any more of them. It would mean that the guest lacked enough desire for all the pleasure being offered.
Guest (solemnly): Indeed, you have prepared exactly what I’d like to see and eat at my dinner table. Even the amount is just right. This is all I could ever want out of life: to enjoy all this. For me, it would be the ultimate divine pleasure.
Host: Please, have it all and enjoy it. It will delight me.
The guest begins to eat.
Guest (obviously enjoying and with his mouth full, yet looking somewhat troubled): Why is it that the more I eat, the less I enjoy the food? The pleasure I receive extinguishes the hunger and I enjoy it less and less. The nearer I get to feeling full, the less I enjoy my meal.
And when I’ve received all the food, I’m left with nothing but the memory of the pleasure, not the pleasure itself. The pleasure was there only while I was hungry. When the hunger faded away, so did the joy. I received what I longed for, and here I am left with neither pleasure nor joy. I don’t want anything any more, and I have nothing to bring me joy.
Host (a little resentful): I’ve done all I could to please you. It isn’t my fault that the very receiving of pleasure extinguishes the sensation of delight because the yearning is gone. In any case, you’re now full of what I have prepared for you.
Guest (defending himself): By receiving all that you’ve prepared for me, I can’t even thank you because I’ve stopped enjoying the abundance you’ve given me. The main thing I feel is that youhave given me a great deal, while Ihave given you nothing in return. As a result, you’ve caused me to feel shame by thoughtlessly showing that you are the giver and I am the taker.
Host: I didn’t show you that you’re the taker and I’m the giver. But the very fact that you’ve received something from me without returning anything made you feel guilty, despite the fact that kindness is my nature.
I want nothing more than to have you accept my food. I can’t change that. For example: I raise fish. They don’t care who feeds and nourishes them. I also tend to Bob, my cat. He, too, couldn’t care less whose hand fed him. But Rex, my dog, doescare. He will not take food from just anyone.
Narrator: People are built in such a way that there are some who receive without sensing that someone is giving to them, and they just take. Some even steal with no remorse! But when people develop a sense of self, they know when they are being given to, and it awakens their awareness that they are the takers. That brings with it shame, self-reproach and agony.
Guest (somewhat appeased): But what can I do to receive pleasure on the one hand, without perceiving myself as the taker? How can I neutralize the feeling within me that you are the giver and I’m the taker? If there’s a give-and-take situation, and it brings up this shame in me, what can I do to avoid it?
Perhaps you can act in such a way that I will not feel like the receiver! But that’s possible only if I’m unaware of your existence (just like your fish) or if I sensed you, but did not understand that you were giving to me (like a cat or an underdeveloped human).
Host (narrowing his eyes in concentration and speaking thoughtfully): I think there’s a solution after all. Perhaps you’ll be able to find a way to neutralize the sensation of reception within you?
Guest (his eyes light up): Oh, I’ve got it! You’ve always wanted to have me as your guest. So tomorrow, I will come here and behave in such a way that will make you feel like the receiver. I will still be the receiver, of course, eating all that you’ve prepared, but I will regardmyself as the giver.
The next day, in the same room, the host has prepared a fresh meal with exactly the same delicacies as the day before. He sits at the table and the guest enters, wearing an unfamiliar, somewhat secretive expression on his face.
Host (smiling brightly, unaware of the change): I’ve been waiting for you. I’m so happy to see you. Do sit down.
The guest sits at the table and politely smells the food.
Guest (looking at the food): All this is for me?
Host: But of course! Only for you! I would be delighted if you were willing to receive all that from me.
Guest: Thanks, butI don’t really want it all that much.
Host: Well, that’s not true! You do want it and I know that for a fact! Why won’t you have it?
Guest: I can’t take all this from you. It makes me feel uneasy.
Host: What do you mean, uneasy? I want so much for you to have all this! Who do you think I’ve prepared this for? It would give me so much pleasure if you were to eat it all.
Guest: Perhaps you’re right, but I don’t want to eat all this food.
Host: But you’re not just receiving a meal; you’re also doing me a favor by sitting at my table enjoying what I have prepared. I’ve prepared all of it not for you, but because I enjoy your receiving it from me.
That’s why your consent to eat would be doing me a favor. You’d be receiving all that for me! You wouldn’t be taking, but rather, giving me great joy. In fact, it would not be you who would receive from my meal, but rather I who would be getting great joy from you. You’d be the one giving to me, and not the other way around.
The Host imploringly slides the fragrant plate in front of his reluctant guest. The Guest pushes it away. The Host again slides it near his Guest, and again he’s turned down. The Host sighs, his whole appearance revealing how much he wants his Guest to accept the food. The Guest now takes the attitude of the giver who’s doing the Host a favor.
Host: I implore you! Please, make me happy.
The guest starts to eat, then pauses to think. Then he starts again, and again he pauses. Each time the guest pauses, the host encourages him to continue. Only after some persuasion does the guest continue. The host keeps placing new delicacies in front of his guest, each time begging him to please him by accepting them.
Guest: If I can be sure that I’m eating because it gives you pleasure, and not because Iwant it, then you’ve become the receiver and I’ve become the giver of pleasure. But for that to be so, I must be sure that I’m eating for your sake alone, and not for mine.
Host: But of course you’re eating only for me. After all, you sat at the table and wouldn’t taste a thing until I proved to you that you’re not just eating, but rather rendering me great joy. You’ve come here to give me pleasure.
Guest: But if I were to accept something I did not initially desire, I would not enjoy receiving it, and you would not enjoy watching me willingly accept your offering. So it turns out that you can receive pleasure only to the extent that I enjoy your offering.
Host: I know exactly how much you like this food and how much of each dish you can eat. Therefore, I’ve prepared these five courses. After all, I know your desire for this and that dish and not for any other thing in your life.
Knowing how much you enjoy them evokes the sensation of your pleasure in me. It also pleases me that you enjoy my dishes. I have no doubt that the pleasure I receive from you is genuine.
Guest: How can I be sure that I am enjoying these dishes only because you want me to, and because you’ve prepared all this for me? How can I be sure that I shouldn’t turn you down because by receiving from you I will actually be giving you joy?
Host: Quite simple! Because you totally refused my offers until you were sure that you were doing it for my pleasure. Then you accepted. After each bite you take, you will feel you’re eating for my pleasure, and you will sense the joy you bring to me.
Guest: I can get rid of the shame and take pride in giving you pleasure if I think, each time I receive, that I’m receiving it for you.
Host: So eat it all! You want it all, and thus you’ll be giving me every bit of pleasure you can!
Guest (eating with pleasure and finishing every last dish, but afterwards, realizing he is still not satisfied): So now I’ve eaten it all and enjoyed it. There is no more food to enjoy. My pleasure has gone because I’m not hungry anymore. I can’t bring any of us any joy right now. So what do I do next?
Host: I don’t know. You’ve given me great pleasure by receiving from me. What else can I do for you, so that you’ll enjoy again and again? How can you want to eat again, if you’ve eaten it all? Where will you get a new appetite?
Guest: True, my desire to enjoy has turned into a desire to bestow joy upon you, and if now I can’t enjoy, how can I bring you pleasure? After all, I can’t create within me an appetite for another five-course meal!
Host: I have not prepared any more than you desired. I’ve done everything I can to please you. Your problem is: "How can I not stop wanting more, while I receive more and more."
Guest: But if the pleasure doesn’t satisfy my hunger, I can’t feel it as pleasure. The sensation of pleasure comes when I satisfy my needs. If I weren’t hungry, I couldn’t enjoy the food and hence could not have bestowed joy upon you. What can I do to remain in constant want, and constantly render you joy by showing you my pleasure?
Host: For that, you need a different source of want and a different means of satisfaction. By using your hunger to receive both food and the joy from eating it, you extinguish them both.
Guest: I’ve got it! The problem is that I prevented myself from feeling joy if I felt you would benefit from it. I refused to such an extent that, although the whole meal was set before me, I couldn’t accept it because of my shame in receiving it. That shame was so intense that I was willing to starve, if only to avoid feeling the shame of being the recipient.
Host: But then, once you were convinced that you weren’t receiving for yourself, you began to receive for my sake. Because of that, you enjoyed both the food and the pleasure you were giving me. That’s why eating the food should be in accordance with your will. After all, without pleasure from the food, what pleasure could you render me?
Guest: But it’s not enough to receive for you, knowing that you enjoy doing this for me. If my pleasure comes from your joy, then the source of my pleasure is not the food, but you! I have to feel your joy.
Host: That should be easy, since I’m totally open about it.
Guest: Yes, but what does my pleasure depend on? It depends on you, the one I’m giving pleasure to. That means that my pleasure depends on how strongly I wish to bestow joy upon you; that is, to the extent that I sense your greatness.
Host: So what can I do?
Guest: If I knew more of you, if I had a more intimate knowledge of you, if you really were great, then your greatness and almightiness would have been revealed to me. Then I would have enjoyed both giving you pleasure, being aware of who was receiving it. Then, my pleasure would have been proportional to the disclosing of your greatness.
Host: Is it up to me?
Guest: Look, if I give, it’s important for me to know how much I am giving and to whom. If it is to beloved ones, such as my children, then I am willing to give to the extent of my love for them. This gives me joy. But if someone off the street comes to my house, I will give that person something because I can empathize with being in need, and hope that when I’m in dire need, someone will help me.
Host: This principle is what lies beneath the whole concept of social welfare. People realized that if there were no mutual assistance, they would all suffer. That is, they would themselves suffer when they became the needy ones. Egoism forces people to give, but it is not true giving. It is simply a way of assuring one’s survival.
Guest: I really don’t think this kind of giving is genuine. All our “generosity” is nothing more than a way for us to receive pleasure by satisfying ourselves and those we love.
Host: So how can I give you pleasure that goes beyond the pleasure found in your food?
Guest: That is not up to you, but to me. If the person coming to my house were not a common person, but a very important personality, I would receive greater pleasure in giving to that person than to an ordinary person. That means that my pleasure depends not on the food, but on who prepared it!
Host: So what can I do to make you respect me more?
Guest: Because I receive for your benefit, not mine, the more respect I have for you, the more pleasure I will get knowing to whom I’m giving it.
Host: So how can I deepen your esteem of me?
Guest: Tell me about yourself, show me who you are! Then I could get pleasure not merely from receiving the food, but also from knowing who is giving it to me, knowing with whom I have a relationship. The smallest portion of food I receive from a great figure will give me a much greater amount of pleasure. You see, the pleasure will grow in proportion to how great I consider you to be.
Host: That means that for the pleasure to become great, I must open myself up and you must develop a likeness of me in you.
Guest: Exactly! That is what creates a new hunger in me – the desire to give to you grows in proportion to your greatness. It is not because I want to escape the sensation of shame, because the shame won’t let me satisfy my hunger.
Host: That way you begin to sense not the hunger, but my greatness and your desire to render me pleasure. So are you saying that you wish not to fulfill my appetite, but to bask in my greatness and your desire to please me?
Guest: And what’s wrong with that? I can receive pleasure from the food many times more than the food itself can actually give, because I add to the hunger a second desire: a will to bestow upon you.
Host: That, too, I must fulfill.
Guest: No. The will to do this – and its fulfillment – I will create in myself. For that I need only to know you. Reveal yourself to me and I will create within me a craving to bestow upon you. I will also receive pleasure from the giving, and not from the elimination of shame.
Host: What will you gain from knowing me, aside from the fact that your pleasure will increase?
Guest (clearly hinting that that’s the point of it all): There’s another major benefit. If I create in me a new will, apart from the inherent hunger, I can become the master of that will. I can always increase it, always fill it with pleasure, and always bestow it upon you by receiving pleasure.
Host: Won’t you lose that will when it is filled, just as you lost your hunger?
Guest: No, because I can always create within me a greater impression of you. I can always create new desires to bestow upon you, and by receiving from you I will carry out these desires. That process can go on indefinitely.
Host: What does it depend on?
Guest: It depends on constantly discovering new virtues in you and sensing your greatness.
Host: That means that, for constant self-indulgence – that even when receiving selfish pleasure the hunger will not cease but rather increase by that reception – a creation of a new hunger must be formed: the will to feel the giver.
Guest: Yes, in addition to receiving pleasure (the delicacies), the receiver will develop a sense of the giver’s greatness. The discovery of the host and the delicacies therefore becomes the same. In other words, the pleasure itself creates an awareness of the giver. The giver, the food and the attributes of the giver are one and the same.
Host: SoIt turns out that what you initially wanted, subconsciously, was for the giver to be revealed. For you this is, in fact, a filling up and nothing else.
Guest: In the beginning I didn’t even understand that this was what I wanted. I only saw the food and thought that that was what I wanted.
Host: I did it on purpose, so that gradually you would develop your own independent will that you would supposedly create yourself, so that you would fill it by yourself. You would be taking the place of both guest and host simultaneously.
Guest: Why is it all built like that?
Host: For the purpose of bringing you to completeness. So that you will want each thing in totality and will attain maximum fulfillment. So that you can enjoy each desire to the fullest and so that the pleasure would be unbounded.
Guest: So why didn’t I know about it to begin with? All I saw around me were objects I desired, without suspecting that what I really wanted all that time was you.
Host: It’s specifically done so that while you might be in a situation in which you weren’t feeling me. You would come to me by yourself and would create that inner will on your own.
Guest (bewildered): But if I can create that will within me, where are you in the picture?
Host: It is I who created the simple egotistical will in you to begin with, and I continue to develop it by constantly surrounding you with new objects of delight.
Guest: But what is it all for?
Host: For the purpose of convincing you that chasing pleasure will never satisfy you completely.
Guest: can see that: The minute I get what I want, the pleasure is instantly gone, and again I long for something, either bigger or altogether different. Thus, I’m on a constant pleasure hunt, but never quite attain it; the minute I get my hands on it, it slips away.
Host: And that is precisely why you should develop your sense of self and become aware of the futility of this type of existence.
Guest: But if you were to develop in me the picture of how things really are, I would understand the meaning and purpose of all that was taking place!
Host: That picture will be revealed only after you are totally convinced of the purposelessness of your egoistical existence, and become aware that a new form of conduct is required. You need to know your roots and the meaning of your life.
Guest: But that process lasts thousands of years. When does it end?
Host: Nothing is created needlessly. All that exists is there for the sole purpose of revealing to creations a different form of existence. That process is slow because every little desire needs to appear and be recognized as unworthy of use in its preliminary form.
Guest: And are there many such desires?
Host: A great many, and in direct proportion to the pleasure you will receive in the future. But the pleasure from receiving the food doesn’t change. You can’t eat more than one lunch a day. The capacity of your stomach will not change. Therefore, the amount that comes from me and is received by you doesn’t change.
But when you dine at my table in order to please me, that very thought creates in you a new will to eat and a new pleasure, apart from the pleasure for the food. That pleasure is measured in size and power, or in quantity and quality, according to the amount of pleasure you get from dining at my table in order to please me.
Guest: So how do I increase my desire to receive pleasure for your sake?
Host: That depends on your appreciation of, and respect for, Me. It depends on how great you consider me to be.
Guest: So how can I increase my appreciation of you?
Host: For that you simply need to know more about me – to see me in every action that I make, to observe and be convinced of how great I really am, and to be convinced that I am almighty, merciful and kind.
Guest: Then show yourself!
Host: If your request stems from a desire to bestow upon me, I will reveal myself. But if it stems from a desire to please yourself by seeing me, I will not only refrain from disclosing myself to you, but I will hide myself ever deeper.
Guest: Why? Is it not the same for you whichever way I receive from you? After all, you want me to enjoy. Why hide from me?
Host: If I disclose myself entirely, you will receive so much pleasure from the eternity, almightiness and wholeness of me, that you will not be able to accept that pleasure for my sake. That thought will not even cross your mind and you will later feel ashamed again. Besides, because the pleasure will be perpetual, it will, as we’ve seen before, eliminate your want, and again you’ll be left drained of will.
Guest (finally realizing): So that’s the reason that you hide from me, in order to help me! And I thought that it was because you didn’t want me to know you.
Host: My greatest wish is that you’ll see me and be near me. But what can I do if then you’ll not be able to sense pleasure? Wouldn’t that be the same as dying?
Guest: But if I am unaware of you, then how can I make any progress? It all depends on how much you show yourself to me.
Host: Indeed, only the feeling of my presence creates in you the ability to grow and to receive. Without that sense, you just swallow everything up and immediately stop sensing any pleasure. That’s why, when I appear before you, you feel shame, the sensation of one who gives, and a will to receive the same attributes as the giver.
Guest: So reveal yourself to me as soon as possible.
Host: I will, but only to the extent that you will benefit from it, although I’d always like to show myself to you. After all, I hid myself on purpose to create conditions of free choice for you. In this way, you can be free to act and choose how to think independently of my presence. There will be no pressure on the part of the host.
Guest: So how do you reveal yourself to me?
Host: I do it slowly and gradually. Each degree of disclosure is called a “World,” from the most hidden degree to the most exposed.
From here it follows that our main objective is to elevate the importance of the Creator in our own eyes, i.e., to acquire faith in His greatness and might. We must do this because this is our only possible means of escaping from the prison of personal egoism and entering into the higher worlds.
As mentioned earlier, we can experience extreme difficulty when we decide to follow the path of faith and to abandon all concern for the self. We then feel isolated from the whole world, suspended in nothingness, without the support of common sense, reason or prior experience to support us.
It is also as if we have abandoned our own environment, family, and friends for the sake of being united with the Creator. These sensations arise when we lack faith in the Creator, when we cannot sense Him, or His presence, or His rule over all creation. At these times, we can feel an absence of the object of faith.
However, once we begin to sense the Creator’s presence, we are ready to submit fully to His power and to follow the Creator blindly, always prepared to nullify ourselves completely to Him, disparaging our own intellect almost instinctively. For this reason, the most important problem confronting us is how to perceive the presence of the Creator.
Therefore, whenever such doubts arise, it is worthwhile to dedicate all our energy and thoughts for the sake of the Creator. We must immediately aspire to cling to the Creator with every fiber of our being. This feeling about the Creator is called “faith.”
The process can be accelerated if we make this an important objective. The more important it is to us, the faster we can achieve faith; i.e., our awareness of the Creator.
Furthermore, the more importance we assign to perceiving the Creator, the stronger the perception will be, until it becomes part of our being. Luck (mazal in Hebrew) is a special manner of Providence that we cannot influence in any way. But it is dictated from Above that we, as individuals, are responsible for trying to change our own nature.Afterwards, the Creator will evaluate our efforts in this direction, and eventually He will alter our nature, as well as elevate us above our world.
Therefore, before we make any efforts, we should realize that we cannot expect the Upper Forces, luck, or some other special treatment from Above to intervene on our behalf. Rather, we must begin by fully recognizing that if we ourselves do not take action, we will not arrive at what we desire.
However, once we complete a task, or engage in study, or exert any other effort, we should reach the following conclusion:
Everything that we have achieved as a result of our efforts would have come about anyway, even without exerting any effort, since the result has been predetermined by the Creator.
Thus, if we yearn to comprehend true Providence, we must early on try in every undertaking to assimilate these contradictions in ourselves.
For instance, in the morning we should start our daily routine of study and work, leaving behind all thoughts of the Creator’s divine rule over the world and over its inhabitants. Each of us must work as if the final result depended only on us.
But at the end of the day, under no circumstances should we allow ourselves to imagine that what we have achieved is the result of our own efforts. We must realize that even if we stayed in bed all day, we would still arrive at the same result, because that result has been pre-determined by the Creator.
Therefore, one who wishes to live a life of truth must, on the one hand, obey the laws of society and of nature just like everyone else, but on the other hand, must also believe in the Creator’s absolute rule over the world.
All of our deeds can be divided into good, neutral or evil. Our task is to elevate our neutral deeds to the level of good ones.
We can accomplish this by being aware that, even as we are performing the deeds, ultimately, the will of the Creator shall rule. For example, when we are ill, while we are aware that a cure is completely in the hands of the Creator, we should take the medication prescribed by an established physician and believe that the doctor’s skill will help us overcome our condition. But when, after taking the medicine in strict accordance with the doctor’s orders, we recover, we must believe that we would have recovered anyway because it was in the Creator’s plan.
Therefore, instead of thanking the doctor, we must thank the Creator. In this way, we are converting a neutral act into a spiritual one, and by repeating this procedure in regard to all our neutral acts, we can gradually “spiritualize” all of our thoughts.
The examples and explanations given above are important because they may actually become serious stumbling blocks that can impede our spiritual elevation. The problem sometimes escalates because we think we understand the principles of Divine rule. We will concentrate our energies, artificially, on strengthening our belief in the omnipresence of the Creator, instead of working hard on ourselves.
Often, in order to demonstrate our faith in the Creator, or simply out of laziness, we assume that we need not work on ourselves, since all is in the Creator’s power. Or, we may close our eyes and rely on blind faith alone, at the same time eluding vital questions about real faith.
However, by avoiding answering these questions, we rob ourselves of the possibility of spiritual progress. It is said of our world, "Thou shall earn thy bread by the sweat of thy brow." Yet, once we have earned something, it is hard for us to admit that the result did not result from our hard work or abilities, but was instead the work of the Creator.
We must strive by the sweat of our brow to strengthen our faith in the Creator’s absolute rule. But in order to grow and experience new spiritual sensations, we must make an effort to understand and accept the contradictory nature of Divine rule (which only appears contradictory due to our blindness).
Only then will we know exactly what is required of us and can grow to experience new spiritual sensations.