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35. The Evil Inclination

According to Kabbalah, our bodies are only a temporary casing for an eternal soul that descends from Above, and that the cycle of life and death can be compared to the change of clothing by a person in our world. The soul changes one body for another just as easily as a person changes one set of clothes for another.

The definition of the Creator’s selfless fulfillment of His Will, as well as the definition of being an altruist in both thought and action, embodies the process of self-evaluation and self-assessment, regardless of unpleasant events, feelings, or incidents that are purposely sent by the Creator to the person.

The process of self-evaluation should bring one to see how low one’s state truly is, yet keep that person committed to the fulfillment of the Creator’s Will, and to the aspiration of carrying out the direct and just laws of the spiritual world, contrary to one’s "personal" well-being.

The desire to be similar to the Creator in one’s qualities may derive from the suffering and trials one experiences, but it can also emanate from the perception of the Creator’s grandeur. Then, an individual’s choice involves asking the Creator for advancement by means of Kabbalah.

All the actions we undertake must be motivated by our intention to perceive the grandeur of the Creator, so that the perception and the realization of this aspect could help us become purer and more spiritual.

In order to advance spiritually, we must, at every level, be concerned with the development within us of our perception of the Creator’s grandeur. We must realize that to attain spiritual perfection or even to remain at the spiritual level at which we exist, we need to cultivate a deeper understanding of the Creator’s grandeur.

The worth of the gift is determined by the importance of the one who gives it. This is true to a great degree. For instance, an object that belongs to someone considered famous and important by society is often worth millions.

The worth of Kabbalah is also determined by the prominence of the One Who awards us the Kabbalah. If one does not believe in the Creator, then Kabbalah is worth no more to that person than any other historical or literary document. But if one does believe in the power of Kabbalah and in its usefulness because one believes in the Upper Power, then the value of Kabbalah is immeasurably higher.

The more we believe in the Creator, the more value Kabbalah presents for us.

Consequently, every time we voluntarily submit to the dominion of the Creator in accordance with the magnitude of our faith in Him, we also grasp the significance of Kabbalah and its inner meaning. In this manner, it can be said that each consecutive time we reach a higher spiritual level, we receive a new Kabbalah (Light), as if from a new Creator.

The above process refers only to those who receive a new revelation of the Creator’s Light as they ascend on the spiritual ladder. For this reason, it is said that "The righteous person lives by his faith" – the magnitude of one’s faith determines the amount of the perceived Light.

It is written in the books of Kabbalah, "Every day is he awarding of the new Light." For a Kabbalist, every "day" (the time when the Light of the Creator radiates) is a new Light.

We may be brought up to observe the commandments, but it is impossible to educate us with the need to assign our actions particular altruistic intentions, since this cannot become part of our egoistic nature that could automatically be carried out just like our physical needs.

If we are permeated by the feeling that our war against egoism is a war against the forces of darkness, against the qualities that are opposite to those of the Creator, then in this manner we remove these forces from ourselves, and do not associate oneself with them; avoid them in our thoughts, as if departing from the desires of our own bodies.

Continuing to feel these desires, we begin to despise them, as one despises an enemy. In this manner, we can triumph over egoism, and at the same time find comfort from its suffering. An action of this type is known as “the war of vengeance for the sake of the Creator” (nikmat hashem). Gradually, we can get used to perceiving the right goals, thoughts, and intentions, regardless of the desires and egoistic demands of the body.

If, while studying, we do not see any personal benefit and begin to suffer from this lack of perceived benefit, this is known as “the evil inclination(yetzer ra). The degree of evil is determined by our level of perception of evil, by the extent of our suffering from our lack of attraction to spirituality, unless we perceive in it a personal benefit.

The more we suffer from the unchanging situation, the greater the degree of our perception of evil. If we understand by reason that we are not yet succeeding in spiritual advancement, but this does not cause us pain, it means that we do not yet have an evil inclination (yetzer ra), since we are not yet suffering from evil.

If we do not feel evil, we must engage in the study of Kabbalah. But if we perceive evil in ourselves, we need to rid ourselves of it by faith above reason.

The definitions given above require explanations. It is written in the books of Kabbalah: "I created the evil inclination (force, desire) and I also created the Torah as a tavlin ("spice") for it (for its correction). Tavlin means spices, additives, supplements that make the food tasty and acceptable for consumption.

We see that the primary creation is the evil, the egoism. Kabbalah is only an addition to it, that is, the means that allows us to taste and to use evil. This is very peculiar, because it is also stated that the commandments are given only for the purpose of purifying the soul with their aid. This implies that once a person is purified, there will no longer be a need for commandments (spiritual acts in order to correct).

The true goal of creation is for the Creator to give pleasures to His created beings. For this purpose, the creatures are endowed with the desire to receive pleasure. In order for the creations not to experience feelings of shame when they receive pleasure, which would spoil the pleasure itself, the creations are given the opportunity to correct the feelings of shame.

This can be achieved if the created beings wish to receive nothing for themselves, but wish only to please the Creator. Only then will they not feel shame at receiving pleasure, since they will receive it for the sake of the Creator, rather than for their own gratification.

But what can be given to the Creator that would give Him pleasure? For this, the Creator gave us Kabbalah and the spiritual laws, so that we could observe them "for His sake." Then He can send us pleasures we can receive, that will not be diminished by feelings of shame and the insinuations of charity.

If we behave according to the spiritual laws, i.e. for the sake of the Creator, we are similar to the Creator in our actions, which are aimed at giving us pleasure. As our desires, acts, and qualities gain greater resemblance to those of the Creator, we and the Creator advance closer to one another. The Creator desires that we should give to Him, as He gives to us, in order for our pleasures not to be overshadowed by shame, and not to be seen as charity.

The spiritual desire--a desire that possesses all the conditions necessary to receive the Light determines the magnitude and type of pleasure that is received, because the Light of the Creator includes everything in itself, each one of our desires to be gratified by something. It isolates from the entire Light that which we desire.

The Creator prescribes precisely 613 commandments for the correction of the evil (in us) into the good (for us), because He created our desire for gratification from precisely 613 parts, and each commandment corrects a certain part or quality. For this reason it says, "I created the evil, and the Torah for its correction."

But what is the purpose of observing the Torah (the spiritual laws) after the correction of evil? The spiritual laws are given to us:

  1. When we are still under the enslavement of our own nature and are unable to act for the sake of the Creator, because we remain distant from the Creator, due to the disparity in qualities. The 613 spiritual laws allow us to have the strength to depart from egoism.

  2. At the end of the correction, when we are in a state of unity with the Creator due to the congruence of qualities and desires, we then become worthy of the light of the Torah: 613 spiritual laws become a part of our spiritual body; they become the vessel of our soul, and into each of the 613 desires, we receive the light of pleasure.

As we see, at this stage, spiritual laws transform from the means of correction to the "place" of receiving pleasure (the vessel, kli).

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