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Michael Laitman, PhD

Chapter 4.1 – About the Study

Who Is Permitted to Study?

Every person, regardless of sex, is permitted to study the wisdom of Kabbalah. For that reason, Kabbalists have always tried to circulate this wisdom in both Israel and the world over, to bring this option to everyone’s awareness. This is especially true of those whose souls are ripe for the study of the wisdom of Kabbalah. Through study, they can correct themselves and attain the purpose of Creation. Others who still don’t feel it necessary to study Kabbalah should be aware of this system, should they want to study it later. This allows them to accelerate their progress toward the correction phase.

If we read The Study of the Ten Sefirot, one of Kabbalah’s most prominent works, written by Baal HaSulam in the previous century, we will see that from the very first page, Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag (Baal HaSulam) explains that every individual can and should study Kabbalah. It is absolutely necessary for those who have a single question burning in their hearts: “What is the meaning of my life?”

Although the wisdom of Kabbalah is a vast and complex science, Rabbi Ashlag opens his book with a simple, human question, one we can all recognize. Those who feel dissatisfied with the answers can find the answer in the wisdom of Kabbalah, and only there. There is no other way! A person who does not ask, "What is the meaning of my life?" will not benefit from the wisdom of Kabbalah.

Past Prohibitions

In the past, men under forty years of age who were not married, and women, were forbidden to study Kabbalah. But it was the Ari who determined that from his generation onward, the Kabbalah is permitted to al men, women and children, provided they are imbued with a desire for spirituality, testifying to the maturity of their souls.

Our desire and passion for spirituality, and our search for the meaning of life are the only testimonials to our readiness to study the wisdom of Kabbalah. Moreover, Rabbi Kook answered the question of, “Who can study Kabbalah?” with the simple words: “Anyone who wishes it.”

Prior Knowledge

There is no need for any prior knowledge in order to study Kabbalah. It is a science that deals with one’s spiritual contact with the Creator. If one feels a need to study the Upper World, the knowledge acquired in this world will be of little help. The students wish to understand the laws of the Upper World, not the laws of this world. Therefore, such people should not be met with demands or prior conditions of certain courses needed before they can begin their studies.

The only requirement is to read the right books and to have a genuine desire for spirituality. That is, the Light is attained only by the desire for the correction of the desire. The human mind acts as an aid to carry out our egoistic desires. If we try to understand the Torah only through the intellect, we will be able to perceive the science of it, but not the Light.

Therefore, people who learn only about the practical laws of the Torah and perform them mechanically, without correcting their hearts, are called Gentiles. They have the knowledge, but not the Light. The Torah is the light of the Creator that enters one’s corrected vessels, while the knowledge is a proficiency in what is written where and how. One can be proficient in the entire Torah, know the entire Talmud by heart, but still not have any real spiritual attainment.

This phenomenon exists in the study of Kabbalah too: one can be proficient in all the texts of Kabbalah and master the text like a university professor, but that does not mean that all one's desires have been corrected, or that one has replaced egoism with altruism.

That is the true purpose of our Creation and the purpose of the giving of the Torah. If we learn and apply the test we study, we correct our nature. Only then is it considered to be studying Torah. But if we learn only to acquire knowledge, this is all we are considered doing.

Therefore, a real teacher does not demand proficiency from his students. On the contrary, he wants to see their doubts, their weakness, their sensation of lack of understanding, and their dependency on the Creator. These signs testify to the beginning of the process of equalizing with the Upper Forces.

If beginning students becomes proud of their knowledge and demonstrate confidence and self-esteem, it is because the more they learn the more proficient they become, just as in any other knowledge. However, the wisdom of Kabbalah, unlike any other study, and against common sense, should not increase one’s knowledge, but the sensation of the lack of it.

During The Study

Baal HaSulam, Introduction to the Study of the Ten Sefirot, item 155:

“Therefore we must ask, why then, did the Kabbalists obligate each person to delve in the wisdom of Kabbalah? Indeed there is a weighty thing here, worthy of being publicized, that there is a magnificent, invaluable remedy, to those who delve in the wisdom of Kabbalah. Although they do not understand what they are learning, through yearning and the great desire to understand what they are learning, they awaken upon themselves the Lights that surround their souls.

This means that every man from Israel is guaranteed the ultimate attainment of all these wonderful attainments that God resolved, in the Thought of Creation, to grant each creature. But he who has not attained it in this life will attain it in the next and so on, until he has completed that which He preliminary thought of.

And while man has not attained perfection, these Lights, that are destined to come to him, are deemed Surrounding Lights. That means that they stand ready for him, awaiting his attainment of the vessels of reception. Then these Lights will clothe within the able vessels.

Thus, even when the vessels are absent, when we delve in this wisdom, mentioning the names of the Lights and the vessels related to our souls, we are immediately illuminated to a certain degree. However, they illuminate us without dressing in the internality of our souls, since we do not have the vessels needed to receive them. Indeed, the illumination we receive time and again when studying, draws to us grace from Above, imparting us with a bounty of sanctity and purity, greatly furthering us toward our perfection.”

A Spiritual Guide

It is hard to tell a genuine spiritual teacher from one who pretends to be such. These days, everyone wants cheap and easy fun, quick answers, and quick solutions. People can easily be misled by eloquent speakers and overlook the properties of spiritual guidance, which by nature are not theatrical.

If that is the case, how can we identify a spiritual teacher in this generation? A spiritual teacher may be proficient in many fields–science, religious laws and customs, education etc.

However, it is not enough to know what is written in the Kabbalah books to become a spiritual guide. Such a person can only understand the wisdom, and our sages warn us: “Wisdom in the Gentiles, believe, Torah (Light) in the Gentiles, do not believe.”

The word "gentile" refers not to a non-Jew, but to an egoist yet to be corrected. Such a person may display impressive knowledge in Kabbalah and boast about it before one's students, displaying knowledge with accurate citations from the texts, etc.

This display of knowledge may at first lead beginners to consider this rabbi a spiritual person. This is because beginning students cannot see what spirituality is, and without it there is no way to examine its absence or presence in anyone. A beginner goes through such fundamental changes in the beginning of the journey that it is difficult to understand what is going on within, much less assess another person correctly.

A beginning student is illiterate even with regard to the written Torah, and might take any person for a great teacher. However, there is a fundamental difference between a Kabbalist and a person proficient in the Torah: in Kabbalah, a rabbi is more than just a rabbi, he is a spiritual guide. The meaning of the Hebrew word Rabbi is "Great." The teacher and the student experience the spiritual path simultaneously.

The purpose of the teacher is not that his students will fear and respect him; on the contrary, he wants them to study in such a way that they will develop fear, respect and love for the Creator; he wants to place them face to face with His power. He wants to teach them how to turn directly to the Creator. Those who go through spiritual development will feel at some point the sensation of ignobility, weakness, egoism, and the vileness of their own desires.

After we experience these feelings, we can no longer be proud of ourselves, since we begin to see that everything we receive comes form the Creator. That is why a Kabbalah teacher is a modest person who lives a daily life just like every one of us, not a sage who is disconnected from this world.

That is why neither a Kabbalistic teacher nor his students are arrogant; they do not force their ideas on others, nor do they preach. The purpose of the rabbi is to turn the student toward the Creator in every single matter, not toward himself. In all other methods, even when they pretend to be a Kabbalist, students begin to feel awe toward the teacher, not toward the Creator.

The wisdom of Kabbalah is the most practical science of all. Everything is subject for experimentation by the student. That is why a Kabbalistic spiritual guide is not just any rabbi, but a guide, a coach who works alongside his student. Even when the student does not feel it, the rabbi always helps him and directs him.

Where is a Teacher Found?

Finding a spiritual guide is a pretty tough task. I’ve already pointed out the fact that finding my rabbi was a great miracle. Our world is headed toward correction, whether we like it or not. The general design of the Creator is carried out even against our will. He has developed us to the point where we can listen to what He wants to tell us.

For that to happen, we had to develop our mind and technology to believe the possibility of an infinite speed, of energy and thoughts traveling great distances, and of one substance being turned into another. We had to be brought to the point where we could believe in the possibility of space warps and time warps, and other once unimaginable scenarios.

Mankind achieved this, and now is on the border of understanding his egoistic desire. We think that there are advantages to this development, but we are approaching the exact opposite: the understanding that evolution should be internal, spiritual, and not external.

The Creator makes us develop our technology while sustaining our internal evolution, both as individuals and in the whole of mankind. The Creator uses messengers for that purpose, secret Kabbalists who live among us.

While we are unaware of their existence, they are around us, next to us, working and living just like we do. They absorb our desires, thoughts, pleasures and pains, mingle our egoistic egos with their altruistic desires and thus pass the correction on, so as to bring each and every one of us to listen and accept spiritual ideas.

The spiritual altruistic desires of these secret Kabbalists and their vessels are huge compared to our egoistic desires, because their desire is to give everything to the Creator, whereas ours is only to delight in what we find before our eyes in this world. Thus, a secret Kabbalist can easily absorb the desires of millions of people, correct them on a general level and promote them to a state where each of them will begin his or her individual correction.

Furthermore, and this is difficult to understand, our world exists because of these people. These individuals need kindergartens for their children, books, clothes etc. Those needs justify the existence of these items in our world.

In fact, this is the justification for the existence of anything. That is why all these things exists and become corrected later on. These words may sound untrue, exaggerated or disconnected from reality, but time will prove that this is precisely how the world is managed.

It is impossible to find these Kabbalists because it is their task to stay in hiding and work secretly with all mankind. So how does one find a teacher? Everyone must search for himself. Where one ends up is where that person belongs.

The most important thing about this search is not to lie to yourself that you are in the right place at this time. Do not make compromises with yourself and do not follow others' examples. The only way for a person to find the right place for himself is to listen to himself and not to others. One must examine one's soul to see if that is where one feels at ease, if that is where the soul finds its nourishment.

There are people among us who look at others and try to follow them; they silence the voice of their soul' demands for spiritual evolution. They shut their eyes and settle for academic wisdom instead of spiritual development.

Naturally, as soon as one mingles with the collective, one feels confidence, but that is self-deceit, as that is self-deceit, as this feeling should only come from a direct and personal contact with the Creator!

Therefore, those who take the path of individual growth feel less secure and more dependent. These sensations are sent by the Creator precisely so that one will need Him! Then one’s own egoism will seek the connection with the Creator, attempting to find confidence and peace, and connection with the Creator is indeed the purpose of creation.

A Wise Disciple

A wise disciple is a person who wishes to learn from the Creator Himself. But what can we learn from the Creator? The Creator’s sole property is His desire to delight His creatures. To the extent that one wishes to acquire this precise property, meaning delight the Creator, one merits the title “a wise disciple,” meaning the disciple of the Wise (the Creator).

Students must labor intensely in the spiritual work in order for their prayers to equalize their attributes with those of the Creator to be heard. Those whose hearts are empty and who seemingly want to attain spirituality, but only display their work before others, will receive nothing! One cannot deceive the Creator or one’s own heart.

When we want nothing but the Creator and make every effort possible to attain this goal, then our desires will be granted by the Creator.

Those who take the spiritual path are forbidden to speak about the degree they have achieved, because where feeling begins, words end. They must first and foremost know what they need for their correction, because we still don’t understand the nature of the vessel that is worthy of receiving the Upper Light, or even the nature of the Light itself.

Those who attend lessons gradually begin to feel that they do not understand anything. That is already the attainment of a basic truth. The Creator gives him that feeling because He wants to bring them near to Him. When the Creator does not want someone near Him, He gives him satisfaction in life, in his family, and in work. In fact, it is only possible to evolve through a perpetual sensation of dissatisfaction.

There is another way to evolve, or better phrased, "to be educated": by developing a sense of completeness within. In that way, the educator prevents any ascents or descents from the disciple. This is the basis for the traditional upbringing. When one has a sense of completeness, one is tempted to halt one's progress, as the ego is satisfied.

It is the intensity of the dissatisfaction that creates the desire to break one's indolent routine. This is important in spirituality, for dissatisfaction is the power that pushes us toward the spiritual growth. Only sufficient effort and labor in both quality and quantity, unique to each person, can bring us to our desired goal. Therefore, any form of teaching Kabbalah and circulating the wisdom will benefit those who practice it, because practitioners act as tubes through which the knowledge of the Creator pours to our world.

Kabbalistic knowledge is not valid before it goes through one’s heart, one’s emotions. We may study any science in the world without changing our attributes; there is not a single science that demands scientists to change their views and correct themselves. This is because all sciences revolve around accumulating knowledge about the outer part of our world, though even science is beginning to find out about the dependency between the results of an experiment and the attributes of the scientist who held it. In the future, scientists will discover that any real knowledge can be attained only if the researcher equalizes his own properties with those of the subject of study.

Therefore, if we wish to understand the structure of the world in the degree where these events are formed, where our souls dwell before they come down to this world, and to where they ultimately return, if we want to see the picture of reality as it is, without depending on time, which controls our lives (the dream of many physicists), then we must come to be like that Upper Reality by ourselves.

Kabbalah teaches us how we can learn to sense the upper layers of reality. A Light of Wisdom can be felt only by a vessel that has been made ready for it, by progress in a state called “faith above reason”. The interesting and beautiful thing about this entire process is that a spiritual vessel originates only when one actually performs actions aimed at bestowal. But those who study and remain at the level of his own reason, and with the knowledge they had acquired at the animate level, will find that their knowledge only feeds his egoism, and does not support the creation of a vessel with a screen.

We should monitor the desires that surface within us. Our every desire is sent to us from Above, including the desire for the Light, or for honor, for money, knowledge and so on. Each of us must scrutinize the desires that surface in us every single moment and choose the one we must realize not according to the principles of Kabbalah, and not according to our "gut feelings."

It appears to be extremely difficult for us to give up the pleasures of this world when we are offered them so abundantly that all we have to do is to reach out and grab them. It doesn’t seem possible that we can give them up in favor of some future spiritual pleasure we don’t understand.

However, once our properties are a little closer to those of the Creator, we will see the illusion of our worldly pleasures, the futility and meaninglessness of them compared to even the tiniest drop we receive through our adhesion with the Creator. At that point, we will naturally prefer the egoistic spiritual delight to the egoistic corporeal delight.

We are all given many chances to begin our progress in the right direction. It is important to identify them and not miss out any that we are given by the Creator. We must strive for Him alone and try to see His guidance in everything that happens to us, in every thought that comes to our mind.

The greatest Kabbalists wrote of how one must advance toward the spiritual world. The Creator gives us so much more than we need to advance; we must be thankful to Him and to the Kabbalists for having given all this to us.

The teachers that have conveyed to us the desire of the Creator and the purpose of His Guidance, were at such a high spiritual degree, it is beyond our imagination, all the more so before we attain even the first and lowest spiritual degrees.

The concept of receiving for myself doesn’t even exist in the degrees our spiritual leaders have achieved. They find pleasure from the contact with Him back to Him! The great Kabbalists found special words to describe the operations of the Creator for us; they clothed His light and His actions in words and phrases. The Kabbalists wrote on a level we could understand at the beginning of our journeys, so that afterwards, through our hard work and by delving into the text, we will be able to feel His Light directly and completely.

The Learning Environment

According to the design of creation, we must come to a state where we can live by spiritual laws. The troubles we all experience, the global disasters and catastrophes, all come in order to bring each of us as individuals, and mankind as a whole, to keep the spiritual commandments while still living in this world.

Baal HaSulam writes about Kabbalah that it is a method for, “the revelation of His Godliness to His creatures in this world” (The Revelation of Godliness). He doesn’t write about what happens after death, but specifically of what must happen to us while we are here in this world. Kabbalah is only about the things we need in this world, the things we must attain if we don’t want our lives to be wasted and to have to reincarnate and finish what we did not finish before. That is why the wisdom of Kabbalah is the most practical and necessary science there is.

It is inescapable; life itself compels us to operate this way, and at the end of all the suffering, we still have to complete our individual correction. It is not as if anything will really change at the end of correction; it will be the same universe, with the same stars, the same birds, and the same trees. But our consciousness will change! Our perception of the world around us will change because we will be different inside. Nothing else needs to change, but need only continue naturally, guided by the Creator. The only difference will that man will become a real Man, instead of the beast he is today.

This can be attained by studying in a special group, with the right books and guided by a real spiritual guide. It is written that the more a teacher's students understand what their teacher is required to do, the closer both students and teacher are to achieving perfection. That is what Baal HaSulam writes about; he describes how we should be in our corrected state.

First, we learn about the concatenation of the worlds, Partzufim and Sefirot from Above downward. Second phase, one must begin to climb the spiritual degrees that have been prepared in advance from below, in order to achieve correction while living in our world. Altogether, there are 125 degrees that separate us from the Creator and that we must ascend in the spiritual worlds. Those degrees are the phases of the attainment of the Creator.

In my current state I operate according to the understanding of my egoistic nature. I regard this or that thing as good or bad; I learn from my environment and act accordingly.

The more I connect with my surroundings, the freer I feel in this world, and I see that the world around us changes according to how we want to see it.

Every generation is characterized by its unique souls. We see how different each generation is by seeing how different our parents are from us. That is because souls accumulate more and more experience in every life cycle, and their demands increase, compared to the former generation. Because of that, each generation wants new discoveries, which induce even greater progress in every generation.

When we begin to question our spiritual world, we begin to want to move our environment and the entire world toward equivalence with the Creator. The last phase of this change will be that the world will attain absolute equivalence with the Creator. That generation is called, “the last generation,” not because there won’t be anything afterwards, but because this generation is the most perfect, one that needs no further correction.

Kabbalah does not speak about the evolution that will come after that; this part belongs to the secrets of Torah. The Torah (Kabbalah) speaks only about how to climb the 125 degrees of the attainment of the Creator.

On the one hand, one’s environment is the place where we keep the spiritual laws and change our surroundings. On the other hand, we can always change ourselves along with the environmental changes. Changes to our environment affect us in proportion to the number of people in that environment. For example, a group of students is both a place for correction and a source of power for each of its members. Even if someone is not strong and cannot to the group at a given time, that member will still receive strength from the group towards self-correction.

That is why each person must build the right personal environment. In this way, one can receive forces for spiritual correction and can ascend after each descent. In a group that is not yet able to provide sufficient forces for correction, there will be many low-spirited people who haven’t the strength for progress. In an able environment, though these situations do appear, they do not last.

Each degree consists of the following: "on the right" is the altruistic power of the Creator; "on the left" is the egoistic force of desire that is created by Him. In between there is the creature. Now the creature must take the right amount of forces from the right and left sides and use them to rise to the next degree.

The terms “right” and “left” are symbolic, as are all other Kabbalistic symbols, but we use them to help define characteristics of the Upper Worlds.

This process of right, left and middle continues until the 125th degree. These degrees are divided into five worlds, with twenty-five inner degrees in each. The first spiritual world from the bottom, the one that is above us, is called the world of Assiya. Above it there are the worlds of Yetzira, Beria, Atzilut and finally Adam Kadmon. Our world is below the lowest degree of the world of Assiya and is separated from it by the barrier.

The powers of both "right" and "left" help us overcome difficulties in our passage from one degree to the next. When we begin to work against our egoism, we feel the power and desire to ascend. This is the first phase, the right side, that of the powers of the Creator.

The second phase is simply when one turns to the "left" and add more egoism to work with. Now, we are in a completely opposite state than in the "right": we are low-spirited, depressed, and weak. However, being on the "right" side depends on the Creator, not on us.

It is necessary to be on the "left" side so as to feel egoism, but the time we remain there depends solely on us. We can shorten it to the minimum.

The length of time that we'll feel bad depends on how long we remain in the "left line." If we understand that our present "bad" state comes only to correct our future, we will regard the situation as good, and we will experience any pain as a necessity and therefore good.

This is how our perception of good and bad will change: The group and the environment can help correct these feelings, because we can take spiritual forces from them until we, too, have entered the spiritual world. All creations are actually parts of the body of Adam ha Rishon, and only our uncorrected desires, or bodies, separate us from Him.

When egoism is removed, we can receive knowledge from other souls. We can feel them because everyone is willing to do whatever is needed for each other. A group must be built with only one goal in mind: to become a whole unit with a uniform spirit. An even level should be strictly kept among all members of the group. Everyone should be willing to help each other and mingle with one another at all times.

We actually receive a spiritual "charge" from our group to the extent that we are willing to nullify our own egos before each member and before the group as a whole. A lower may receive from the upper, but for that to happen, each member must regard the others as higher than himself.

The focus of the group should always be "the greatness of the Creator." That goal must dictate every move. When that happens, everyone will be able to receive the spiritual charge from the group and the descents will pass by smoothly.

Each degree of souls builds for itself the right environment for its degree. It all depends on the degree, meaning on the inner level of the souls.

A good group is a flexible one, enabling the principle of change to dominate it, even if that means constant changes that indicate its progress. Life, work, family, the physical life in the corporeal body, all must change according to the spirituality of the members of the group. That is what the Creator wants from us.

Our bodies will be in this world, while our soul will be in the spiritual world. The more frequently the soul performs spiritual, the better the physical body will accustom itself to the spiritual laws. At the end of our spiritual development, family and group member relationships must be built according to the laws of the world of Atzilut.

Adam ha Rishon was deliberately made with its body-desire consisting of nine Sefirot, and the Malchut divided to a part that can absorb and adopt the properties of the upper nine Sefirot. These include the properties of the Creator, and a part that cannot adopt these properties, called “the stony heart”.

Adam ha Rishon sinned hoping to receive the Light into Malchut from the upper nine Sefirot in order to bestow to the Creator. However, because Malchut was unable to acquire that property, that altruistic aim, he received the Light in order to receive. As a result, his soul disintegrated into 600,000 separate souls that cannot feel the complete soul that they comprised, or one another.

Each part of that soul is a will to receive pleasure. It is called “ego” and needs to be corrected. It is corrected by raising it by 125 degrees, meaning each correction is a correction of 1/125 in each of the 600,000 souls-desires. Each time a part goes from the right side to the left and the returns to the middle, it takes the power of the Creator from the right, meaning the will to bestow, and acquires a will to receive from the left. The middle line is the summation: a will to receive in order to bestow.

One always gets sufficient power from Above with which to overpower the egoism of the left side, correcting the relevant egoistic part from working in order to receive, to working in order to bestow. One gets only what one can take. If an individual does not get the strength from Above, a bad situation will not b sent to that person.

If a member of the group wishes to become more spirituality, that member must always be able to take from the group both spiritual power and egoism. For that reason, these two properties must always go hand in hand in the group.

A person who comes to Kabbalah is normally very egoistic and very independent. That person needs time to begin to want the Creator and understand the importance of the purpose of Creation. Only then can the ego begin to lessen before the group in order for one to both give to it and receive from it.

At first, there might be unwillingness to contribute to the group, but the collective cause must obligate each member to do so. If everyone understands that there is nothing more important than the purpose of Creation, it will be easier for all to become beneficial to the group.

If one still cares more about worldly pleasures and cannot break free from them, it means that the time has not yet come for membership in the group. This person's soul isn't ready yet to take upon itself the spiritual laws. When one finishes all the pleasures of this world, then one is pushed to spirituality. There is no need to have every possible experience in this world before deciding one doesn't need them. This knowledge is attained by receiving proof from Above of the baseness of the beastly pleasure hunt.

What attracts us about spirituality is the relatively greater pleasure that we find in it, compared to the corporeal world. That is the reason we want it, and it is genuine. Our entire world exists and is nourished by only a tiny spark of spiritual Light that broke through the barrier and penetrated our world. Now, picture a spiritual world that is completely filled with Light, billions and billions of times greater than the spark of this world. Imagine what pleasures exist there!

But how do we get over there? We know that to do so, we need to alter our entire egoistic natures from a will to receive to a will to bestow. But what we don’t understand is this will to bestow. I personally haven't the words to explain it. Our minds simply doesn’t have the "curves" to help us perceive something like that, because our minds operates in an egoistic system.

Furthermore, we are told that it is enough to change the aim of the desire, not the desire itself, in order to obtain the pleasure. This means that we are discussing a completely psychological concept, yet we will receive pleasure anyway. So what is the difference, and for whom do I receive it?

This brings up the question of "Where is that valve I need to turn, in order to receive it? The "valve" is in the border between the egoism of our world and the altruism of the spiritual world. It is called, “the barrier”.

When we cross the barrier, we have completed our preparations. Our emotions are now ripe for the spiritual world. In order to come to such a state, we needs a group and perseverance in the studies.

We need our group to help us develop the necessary intensity of desire for spirituality. Then, there is an inner breakthrough and we begin to receive the spiritual power and knowledge from Above.


In every generation, the Creator sends special souls to this world whose goal is to rectify it and convey His Knowledge to humanity. It is said that, “The Creator saw that there were not enough sages, so He planted them in every generation.” That is why there are leaders and spiritual guides in every generation who adapt the wisdom of Kabbalah to the unique properties of their time.

There are hundreds of books that were written over the years on the subject of the wisdom of Kabbalah. These began with the very first book on the wisdom of Kabbalah, Raziel HaMalaach (The Angel Raziel), written by Adam ha Rishon, and the second book, Sefer Yetzira (Book of Creation), written by Abraham the Patriarch. However, the most popular book in the wisdom of Kabbalah is the Book of Zohar. It was written in the third century AD by Rabbi Shimon Bar-Yochay.

The contemporary Kabbalist, Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag (1884-1954) wrote a commentary on the Zohar and on all the writings of the Ari in a contemporary language so that we could understand it. Today, the souls that descend to our world are such that only the Zohar and the books of the Ari, with the commentaries of Baal HaSulam (Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag) and his own books, can help us enter the spiritual world.

The commentary of Rabbi Ashlag is called the Sulam (Ladder) commentary because when one studies by the Book of Zohar, one ascends spiritually from below as if on a ladder. The commentary that Rabbi Ashlag wrote on the Ari’s Tree Of Life is called, The Study of the Ten Sefirot. In addition, Rabbi Ashlag wrote a great number of complementary books, including Matan Torah (The Giving of the Torah), The Book of Introductions, Beit Shaar Hakavanot (Gatehouse of Intentions), and others.

I recommend studying Kabbalah only according to the books of this great Kabbalist, because they are written in a simple and clear language, and offer insight to all the hidden knowledge of the Zohar and the sources that preceded it. I also recommend reading the books of Rabbi Baruch Ashlag and the books that I published. I don’t recommend reading other sources for fear the text will be misunderstood.

However, once a student acquires the basics of the wisdom of Kabbalah through studies in the books of Rabbi Ashlag, any available literature can be read on Kabbalah, because the reader will know if the book is spiritual or not. The content of the book will be clear, and true sources will easily be distinguished from the false.

The correct order of reading the books of Baal HaSulam is: Matan Torah, Preface to the Zohar, Inner Reflection of the first part of The Study of the Ten Sefirot, Preface to the wisdom of Kabbalah, Introduction to the Study of the Ten Sefirot.

Language of Kabbalistic Texts

Kabbalists normally wrote in Hebrew or in Aramaic, so it is very difficult to study Kabbalah without knowing Hebrew. The Hebrew language has a special meaning. Each word, a combination of letters or a form of writing, conceals spiritual knowledge that cannot be translated to another language. One can only understand the Hebrew words and sentences according to the degree of one's spiritual development. That is because understanding relates to one’s equivalence of properties with the hidden meaning of the words.

It is impossible to convey that information with a simple translation to another language, but it is certainly possible to begin the study of the wisdom of Kabbalah in a foreign language. Only afterwards will Hebrew be needed, according to one's spiritual progress. Having said that, students will be able to feel the spiritual progress they are undergoing and understand them even without a language. For, as it is said, "One’s soul shall teach him.”

Most major Kabbalah texts were written in Hebrew. A profound study of these texts does require a minimal knowledge of Hebrew. However, Kabbalah can be written in any language. The Zohar, for example, was written in Aramaic, which was the spoken language in ancient Persia two thousand years ago. Kabbalah speaks of emotions and experiences we undergo, and these can be explained in any language, or even without it, such as through music or other means.

Everyone learns languages: musicians must know a little Italian, doctors need some basic Latin, and computer personnel must know English. Each science has its own language. The language of Kabbalah is Hebrew, though it could have been explained in other languages, as well.

When to Study?

The Kabbalah is studied at night when others are normally asleep and there are no obstructions from their egoistic thoughts. The efforts to awaken the physical body and subdue it for the spiritual purpose are rewarded from Above, and students obtain altruistic properties.

Kabbalist behave according to their objectives: they either isolate themselves and remain in hiding, or expose themselves to everyone with wide publicity in order to attract students and raise the next generation of Kabbalists. In the latter case, they establish a group of students. Group study is much more beneficial than is individual study.

It is said in the Introduction to The Study of the Ten Sefirot, item 155, that there is Surrounding Light that shines around every person who studies Kabbalah, which purifies and prepares his soul to receive the Inner Light. The intensity of that Light depends on the intensity of one’s desire to attain the text being read.

You may have noticed that when we are in a group, we begin to take interest in the things that interest the people around us, just as our appetite increase when we watch someone else eating. A person who sees friends studying Kabbalah becomes envious of them. This promotes the development of spiritual desires and increases the power of one's Surrounding Light.

In addition, if a number of people study together, it does not mean that they are simply sitting in the same room reading from the same book. They share the same desires and the same intentions, and an aspiration to break free from their egoism and relate to their friends as they do to themselves. In that case, their desires for spiritual development unite and extend an immense amount of Surrounding Light, which affects every one of them. That is why it is so much easier to obtain good results in a group than when alone.

The Study Method

The study method should be based on group work, and at the same time emphasize individual work. Baal HaSulam and Rabash wrote a great deal about how we must be attentive to the thoughts and desires of our friends. If a friend asks a question during class, each of the participants must try and understand that thought. It is called Hitkalelut (mingling, mixing) of one with the other. This way, the entire group lives inside each of its members.

In order to come to that, we must lessen our own value in our eyes compared to that of our friends, so that we can collect the others’ thoughts, desires, and internal and spiritual properties. Thus, each of them will gain and enrich himself. It is unadvisable to speak of spiritual issues when not in class. If you do speak, you can explain spiritual processes in the language of Kabbalah: Partzufim, Sefirot, worlds, which Lights goes where, etc. It is all a science, and all knowledge.

That knowledge can be explained because it doesn’t impose anything on anyone. You can convey your understanding of Kabbalah to others, but not your inner feelings and desires. At first, one wants things like health and wealth from the study, promotion at work and so on. One thinks, “Perhaps Kabbalah will help me tell the future so I could win the lottery.”

In short, we want to better our lives. We seek self-gratification in everything we do in this world; that is our nature. Even when someone commits suicide, they do it because they don’t want to feel pain, meaning they seek to better their situation.

The considerations keep changing, but the most important thing is to understand why we do what we do.

The Course of Development

When we are at a certain degree, we determine how we are relating to what fills our vessels (what we want), meaning which desires are pure (altruistic) and which are not (egoistic). It is this examination that determines our spiritual degrees. By doing so, we improve our inner properties.

We do not climb up or down any ladder of spiritual degrees; all that changes is the ratio between the corrected and the uncorrected part. That is what determines our degrees and levels of our spiritual development. In the physical sense, everyone remains the same, but inside, everything changes. It is inside that we rise from this world to the world of Assiya, Yetzira and so on up to the world of Ein Sof.

There are five holy (pure) worlds, meaning five degrees in the evolution of the vessel, the screen: Shoresh, Aleph, Bet, Gimel, and Dalet. It is written in the Introduction to the Study of the Ten Sefirot that if one learns by the right method and makes every effort with the right intent, the spiritual world can be attained in three to five years.

This means we can correct ourselves and begin our actual spiritual ascent according to our actual abilities. It doesn't mean we must stop all other activities. On the contrary, we must work, study, raise families, and experience the problems and difficulties that life poses. That is how we evolve.

We must only labor as much as we can. It is not as if we are demanded to do something that is beyond our abilities. Let us say that we need 6-7 hours of sleep a day. We work about 8 hours, waste about two hours getting back and forth from work, eats, bathe and gives time to our families.

This is not what the Kabbalah requires from us. Kabbalah requires the time that remains after all the necessary occupations have been carried out. If we invest all our free time in Kabbalah, that will certainly be enough.

The most important thing about studying is to dedicate two or three hours in the morning before we go to work to these endeavors. We take that time only from ourselves. These 2-3 hours are enough. It is important to learn with the right intention; ask yourselves why you do it. Aim is the single most important thing!

As we mentioned earlier, spirituality can be attained within three to five years. However, that process may also take six years or longer. In any case, attaining spirituality is a must, because if we don't do it in this life, then we will do it in the lifetimes to come.

We must think what we are living for–every effort we makes in this work, every thought is added to the general accounting of our spiritual labors. When the amount of labor is sufficient, we receives a "push" from Above and enters the spiritual world.

Demanding Reward

Why do I need to study, work, live, and where will all this ultimately take me?

We should regard the Creator in our every act and always want Him and cleave to Him. We must constantly think and examine what He wants from us. That purpose should be right in front of us every single moment. If the goal is always clear, that will turn one into a Kabbalist and we can begin to feel the knowledge from the spiritual worlds.

Learning more or less of the text is of little importance. We use the knowledge to connect with the material; the more we study, the greater our demand for the Creator becomes and the more intense the question: “Why have I still got nothing? Where is the result of my efforts? I have put in so many hours of work, lost a lot of money because I don’t work when I learn, I don’t give enough time to my family, I could have had more fun in other places...” All those arguments only increase our egoistic demand of the Creator: “Why have I still got nothing?”

For that reason, we must claim reward for every minute, every second that we put into Kabbalah. We should not say: “I am here because I am an altruist.” We can be altruistic elsewhere, but in Kabbalah we should be completely stingy. We must question every minute given to Kabbalah: "Why? What for?"

Only then will we focus directly on the goal. If we do not demand reward for every minute, it means that we do not need the next minute, that we make no demands from our studies. If that is the case, we will be left empty-handed.

Examination of the reasons for our actions every minute is our greatest asset. Our minds and bodies vehemently revolt against it. We would do anything: draw pictures, learn meticulously about the Sefirot, the worlds, write articles about Kabbalah, anything to escape examining the aim, the primary question of his connection with the Creator.

The entire egoism is in the exact point between man and the Creator. You will have to extinguish your egoism to the exact measure that you want to cleave to Him. The Creator can be felt only where the egoism is extinguished. That sums up our entire work, and that is precisely what we are forbidden to speak of to one another. We are forbidden to speak of the intent, the reasons for what exactly is it that we demand of the study. However, we can talk as much as we want about the study – the Partzufim, the Sefirot.

It is not important if our friend knows the material or not. Do not be afraid of being told something incorrect, it is meaningless. The important thing is that you learned a little, and mainly that you did it with a friend. Therefore, if someone asks you something, do give the answer. Don't be afraid of being wrong, because it’s not important.

However, do not slight your knowledge. This knowledge is very important because the result of the study will be a unification of the experiences, and the inner feeling of the text being studied. You will begin to understand what a screen is, a desire, a Light, pleasure; you will begin to see how Light enters and how it leaves and pushes, and you will begin to feel these actions inside you. That is why we have to learn, because in the end, the study, the inner work, and the feelings will unite to create one big experience.

But in the beginning, when your studies is disconnected from your feelings, it is meaningless if someone knows more or less than you, or is correct or not. However, when the study becomes something you feel, then it is forbidden to pass it onto others! You might convey knowledge, but never feelings and emotions.

On the whole, only general topics should be discussed. Problems that relate to one’s aim are personal problems, not topics for discussion. My students come only if he is completely bewildered. But if they turn their questions to others, they harms themselves and they harm their friends.

Man is born a tiny egoist. After labor, there is a little creature, made of sheer egoism, lying in bed howling. At this stage, man it is no different from any young animal. He develops using his five senses, lives, attains things in this world, perhaps becomes a scientist, is happy, and needs nothing more than that.

There are, however, a few differences between humans and animals: man wants to become rich and gain power and control, honor and knowledge. One doesn’t need the Creator to attain these things, but if permeated with a little root of the future spiritual vessel from Above, one begins to seek something with which to fill this vessel.

The Creator seemingly implants the idea of a little source of Light, or a little need for Light, which is in fact the same. Blood cannot fill the need for Light and neither can wealth or power or honor. That need and its fulfillment do not belong to this world, but to the spiritual world. In every degree there is a special desire and its fulfilling. If one is permeated with corporeal desires, these desires can be satisfied in this world. It is not important if the filling is great or small, the important thing is that the filling exists in this world.

If one is permeated with desires that are not from this world, then one begins to search. One can search anywhere with this desire and still not satisfy it. There is no worldly satisfaction for this need. It is given from Above, and therefore it is from here that its satiation must come.

One occasionally succeeds in shutting this desire off and going into a coma, which is how most of people live. But something still nags: what can one do?

If one cannot contain this desire inside, the search begins and the seeker will ultimately find Kabbalah. From the moment one begins to study Kabbalah, problems begin. It takes work to fill a desire with pleasure. Let us say that in order to gain a certain amount of money, one must work hard for a certain number of years.

But to achieve fame, one must add another 20-30 years. It all depends on the level one is seeking. Any achievement requires effort. The efforts that we make in our world, along with the pleasures and desires that await us in the future, all appear to be on the same line–the more I do, the closer I become to what I want to get.

Another month, another year, another ten years, it is not important. I am headed toward it, I can see the picture clearly, and I can even say when I will accomplish my goal.

In Kabbalah is also a desire, but for what? That is something we don’t know. The pleasure is in a higher level than our own. It is like giving a certain animal a desire for knowledge. In fact, this is even closer than the desire we are given.

When we are permeated with spiritual desire, we don’t realize the kind of efforts we will need to make to realize it. We do not see the final outcome of that desire, and we cannot even see what we need it for. We may feel our souls' desire, but if asked what we want, we cannot quite say. We only know we feel bad because we cannot satisfy ourselves.

It gets even worse when we try to realize this desire and we immediately get the opposite result of what we’d hoped for. We doesn’t see any connection between the efforts we make and the goal we wants to attain.

Normally, the closer we come to the goal, the clearer we sees it, but that is not the case in Kabbalah. Things that were once clear suddenly become confusing, a good nature suddenly turns into a bad temper and nothing seems certain anymore.

We think we are taking the right path and expect to receive greater things in return for the pleasures of this world that we relinquish. After all, if our desire are that great, so should be our pleasure. We agree to work more than we do for this world, but in the end we must still see what it is we will receive.

But Kabbalah works in the exact opposite manner. One constantly gets bad responses and becomes depressed. Although we may be originally optimistic that things will work out, they don't. Instead of finding one's destination in Kabbalah, one either completely vanishes, or the studies become insipid for him, confusing and strange.

This turmoil is necessary in order to go from the level of the desires of this world to the level of the desires of the spiritual world. Man must become completely detached from any self-interest in the outcome of his work; this is true altruism. That is why one must experience a phase of complete discrepancy between effort and results.

Man's corporeal egoism has now been instilled with spiritual egoism, a spark of Light inside his egoism. The egoism abides by different rules in the spiritual world. For the spiritual egoism to be fulfilled, we must reject our current level of egoism and ascend, so to speak, to the level of that spiritual desire.

When we are given a spiritual desire, no other feeling exists besides the absence of pleasure; it is the vessel in its purest form. For that reason, all the operations, all the efforts are only possible with the help of the body. It is the body that awakens us early in the morning, takes him to bed only late at night, and encourages reading and the occupying of our minds.

We work with bodies that belong to this level and it is in this level that the body wants to be rewarded. It immediately begins to present a just and natural claim–“What have I got for all my trouble?” Perhaps one has advanced in the spiritual level, but that is not an answer for the corporeal body; it cannot feel it. For the time being, it cannot even feel anything of the spiritual desire that was given from Above.

The bottom line is that one works, progresses, learns, but feels no concrete results in the mind or in the soul. That naturally brings the body to a state of depression, perplexity, and a lack of justification or reasoning that will enable the seeker to continue.

Sensations & Emotions

When one comes to that point, pain and torment result. The pain is given deliberately; if one overcomes this, a greater closeness to the truth will come. Overcoming means that even under the most unbearable corporeal pain, one must try and find the contact with the Creator, the Source of everything, and the One who can fulfill us all. These painful situations are crucial. They can become turning points along the way. After all these immense efforts, we receive a real reward!

There is only one reward: the sensation of the truth. If one wants only that, and cares nothing of physical pains, or the fact that no spiritual rewards have yet manifested, and instead focuses on attaining a greater sensation of truth than before, that person can progress and finally become a Kabbalist.

The road will be a hard one, you can be sure of that. Work, family, something will always go wrong, a feeling that everything is bad and a future that holds no promise. That feeling is given from Above deliberately so we will try to overcome these situations through the group and the books. There are times when one does not need to read books, but simply be with our thoughts.

In those moments, it is most important to simply keep oneself on track. What the mind can’t heal, time will. One must be very strict: “I cannot see a thing, I cannot hear a thing, I feel bad, but all that doesn’t matter. I study like an automatic machine, but I do.”

This effort will bear the greatest spiritual fruits. There are situations when one is revived, when the Light begins to shine a little and we understand that he we have found a real answer, though from a distance. Then as efforts are increased, rewards arrive. However, this is followed by depression, as there is nothing in the world that pleases us, while we possess nothing of the spiritual world, either. This seesaw continues back and forth.

We must understand that the reward that we get for our efforts in this world is the sensation of truth; it is not the pleasure that we are used to receiving. That is how the Creator accustoms us to love the truth more than anything, to go forward until we want to reject the entire corporeal egoism in favor of the truth.

Then we can ascend to the degree from which we were given spiritual desire. From this moment on, we will begin to receive spiritual knowledge, pleasure, and satisfaction from that degree. We will become a Kabbalist and be born into the spiritual world. Therefore, if we choose to sense the truth over the corporeal reward, we will become Kabbalists.

We cannot control our thoughts; they are sent to us deliberately from Above. We can only try and react to them correctly. But what does reacting correctly really mean? A student came to me recently saying he did not know anything anymore, he could not see anything, he felt bad, hesitant, nothing was working out for him. He wanted me to calm him down, pat him on the head, and tell him that there was a shining Light in his future.

But I cannot tell him anything about his future. Any answer in these situations is like stealing what one is being given from Above. I have no right to extinguish the desire in him; In fact, I am forbidden to even soothe his disappointment a little. Yet all this is good; it is necessary and desirable. The only recommendation I could give him was to keep doing what he was doing mechanically, as he was doing it when he was in the good situation.

One gets all kinds of thoughts when he’s at home, at work or with family. Sometimes these thoughts obstruct the work. When that happens, one must disconnect from the thoughts about the purpose of Creation.

When I asked my rabbi the same question, he replied: “You see, that is why I was a construction worker, then a cobbler, and always tried to be a simple worker. I would rise at 1:00 a.m. and begin to study Kabbalah before work. When I was a clerk for the government, the truth is that sometimes I would fall asleep at work and spoil a report that I was working on, but what could I do? I was offered executive offices, but I knew that in a higher office they would take away my mind and my soul. For that reason, I kept choosing jobs that kept me to myself, though I could have earned more money. I have been poor my whole life. I kept trying to find a job that would keep my mind clean on the one hand, and would secure my future on the other, a job that would give me the minimal wages.”

We live in a world where it is sometimes very difficult to choose the kind of work we want to do. Besides, man is a creative creature who tries to find sparks of creativity in what he does.

Sometimes the understanding that we are occupied with unnecessary things is taken away from us and then returned, and we suddenly asks: “What was I thinking of?” But these situations are given on purpose, so that we will see our actual situation, our real nature and degree. We must see what we must detach from and where we should go. We should acknowledge the lack of our own strength and our need for a connection with the Creator in order to save ourselves.

You will probably forget everything I am saying now in just a little while because it can only be absorbed though personal experience. I only want to stress one point: if you learn by the right books, you will always be a step ahead, whatever happens. We are forbidden to know everything in advance, but we must remember this: I was told to read these books, that’s it!

Our desires come from Above. If there is some spiritual affect of these desires, then we begin to feel the Upper Force of the Creator controlling us. We begin to feel the entire reality and the One Who controls it.

Sensations do not have a language. We just call them by names such as sour, bitter, pleasant, or unpleasant. We cannot clearly define each of these sensations. Similarly, we cannot compare the feelings of different individuals. That is the problem with psychology and psychiatry. We are unable to accurately measure what we feel, duplicate it, repeat it, and compare it between different people.

As we've already said, only routine and persistent work without caring for our inner feelings will produce spiritual results. Baal HaSulam writes a story about it in item 133 of the Introduction to the Study of the Ten Sefirot:

There was a king who wanted to choose his most loyal and loving subjects in order to surround himself with them. He sent messengers throughout his kingdom to declare that anyone who wanted to work inside the king’s palace doing special work was to come to the palace.

Explanation: it is like a person who gets a certain desire to draw nearer to the Creator, though without understanding the essence of that desire. Thus begins to search. It can be said that everyone in the world asked himself at least once about the purpose of his life. The answer to that question is the attainment of the spiritual world, meaning the attainment of the Creator.

Going back to our story: In order to find who really loved him, the kind placed guards on the roads leading to the palace to deliberately confuse and mislead the people who came there. Their job was to scare them and explain to them that it was not worth it to work for the king. When the people heard about the possibility of working for the king, they immediately began to move toward the palace. (This is like people who want to attain apparent greater pleasures, instead of the little or no pleasure they have today).

If there is nothing that can satisfy your new desire, it means you need greater pleasure. When that happens, you will be willing to make all kinds of efforts that you would not make to satisfy other desires, such as leaving a good office, or giving up future progress or wealth, in order to attain spirituality.

The guards rejected the people who came to the king’s palace, but many still managed to come close to the palace and would not listen to the scary stories of the guards that it was not worthwhile to work for the king. Our egos convinces us that it is not worthwhile to serve the Creator. The Creator does it on purpose, because this is how the new vessel is built, precisely through these inner problems and observations. This is very important, and that is why these things must not be discussed outwardly with others. Even the rabbi is forbidden to explain anything to students about these situations. The student must experience this on his own, inside, however difficult it may be.

The guards at the gate were even crueler. They would not let anyone approach the gate. They rudely rejected anyone who tried to come near. The truth is that in the last phases before the entrance to spirituality, one feels rougher and rougher rejections despite the accumulated experience. But this experience does not disappear, it is not taken away. One falls once, twice, and a third time; it accumulates. After some time, one gets used to these falls and no longer regards them as unbearable, because the need for them has become clear. These situations even bring some joy because they also bring the feeling that there is truth in the experience.

Only the most persistent of all continued to try and approach the king. They retreated under the pressure of the cruel guards and then struck again, trying to approach the king. These attempts to reach the king, followed by retreats under the influence of the cruel guards that them that it was not worthwhile to work in the king’s palace, lasted many years. Finally, the people weakened and left.

Only the strongest among them, whose patience endured, who kept trying (patience, not any knowledge or philosophies), kept trying and defeated the cruel guards, opened the gates, and were immediately honored with seeing the King Himself, who gave each of them his rightful office. That is precisely what Baal HaSulam writes: “them, whose patience endured defeated,” meaning those who kept studying patiently. Nothing else helps because this is the only way to accumulate experience in the physical body.

Everything that happens in our world is done especially for us; we have no control over what happens. However, we must always think that we can choose our future actions. Here is where one should say to ourselves that we do have the freedom to choose. After we rise to a higher degree, we see that, in fact, we had no freedom of choice whatsoever.

In other words, as long as we are in a state where we must choose between alternatives, we must resolve whatever problems we are facing alone, and not say that it is the Creator’s job to do this, that it is His Problem, not mine. That problem was given to me by the Creator, true. Do we really have a choice in any of it or is it done by properties that the Creator permeated in us, or by social influence? All that should not interest us now. We must see what is ahead of us and resolve the problems with the means at our disposal.

We should always try and work out our problems by ourselves, and only afterwards, regardless of the result, should we think that all this came to us from the Creator and that the resolution was preordained. The contrast between the beginning and the end creates great confusion in our feelings.

We cannot understand how to relate to all that because we are conditioned by concepts such as past, present and future. As long as we are confined by the boundaries of this world, and as long as our consciousness works by the principle of cause and effect, we will not be able to understand what eternity is in our animate degree, where nothing ever changes. Thus, while we are in that state, we must behave as though we know nothing, as though we own the situations and must do everything by ourselves.

If I Am Not For Me, Who Is For Me?

It is written: “If I am not for me, who is for me?” On the other hand, it says, “I do nothing and everything is done not by me but by the Creator.” These sentences seem to contradict each other, but when we examine them closely we will see that they can and even must exist under one roof.

Baal Shem Tov, a great Kabbalist from the 18th century, wrote that one should get up in the morning and go to work as though there were no Creator and he were on his own, as though there were no One Above to help him. And although he believes in the Creator, he should say that the Creator doesn’t affect his behavior. Meaning, he should say, “I am the master of my own future.”

There can only be one master to the world–is it man, or the Creator? In a place where I can choose, I am also the master; the Creator is not in it. This is how we should operate during the day. But in the evening, when we come home with earnings in hand, we should never say that it was we who earned it and it was we who was fortunate. The Creator planned it all in advance, and even if he’d been laying all day long in bed, we’d still have everything we earned.

But our minds cannot understand it and unite these two apparently contradicting ideas. Only after attaining spiritual properties can we unite these two primary, yet contradicting concepts.

The next day we should do the same. The next day, meaning the next moment, when faced with a choice, we must relate to it the same way: “It all depends on me.” After our choice is realized without expectations and faith in God, however it turned out, we must say: “It was all done by the Creator.”

There must be a clear separation as though these are two different people, one who believes and another who does not, before the decision and after it.

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