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Michael Laitman, PhD

Chapter 4.2 – The Beginning of a Kabbalist’s Way

When I first came to Rabbi Baruch Ashlag, he sent me to study with Hillel, his senior disciple. Before that, I tried studying with many other teachers but never received explanations that satisfied me. However, I was very pleased with studying with Hillel, because his explanations made sense and were clear and rational. At first it all seemed very clear to me: I thought that all I had to do was memorize the six volumes of The Study of the Ten Sefirot and that would be enough to take part in the upper leadership of myself and the entire world.

Then came the time when Rabbi Ashlag summoned me to participate in his classes. From that moment, everything I thought I understood became completely incomprehensible. New questions came up and remained unanswered. Not only did studying with Rabbi Ashlag not help me understand the text, it led me to recognize the fact that I understood nothing to begin with.

It took me a long time to realize that Rabbi Ashlag first provided theoretical knowledge to his students and only afterwards instructed them on how to take part in the leadership. Since the passage to active participation in the upper leadership is not a rational process, and each person must attain it alone, that situation created an atmosphere of complete misunderstanding.

The rabbi did not teach his students for the purpose of accumulating theoretical knowledge of the names of spiritual concepts, or for the purpose of philosophizing without understanding the nature of things. Instead, he wanted to bring his students to a state where they would feel these concepts. This is an entirely different method than a theoretical study. In that method, the purpose is not the quantity of knowledge that the student acquires, but its quality, meaning, the extent to which the things the student hears help him approach the things he reads about by himself.

The rabbi did not teach beginners. Instead, he would send them to other students and monitor their progress. Students who are willing and diligent were summoned to study with him.

The human desire to understand, manage, and control is a very positive desire, because it makes additional desires add to one’s original desires. However, the only key that we should really acquire in order for one to enter spirituality is the screen and the Returning Light.

Baal HaSulam wrote The Study of the Ten Sefirot deliberately so that the more one reads, the more questions arise. It is necessary for one to be able to labor in something while maintaining a certain aim. The labor comes from below, from man, but the aim is given from Above, from the Creator.

However, the aim does not come before one feels that every effort has been exhausted and there is nowhere else to turn, that one is completely cornered. Only then does one sincerely ask the Creator to help, and then his prayer is answered.

The most important thing in the spiritual work is to maintain determination and patience. Our prayers are defined by the state we are in and depend on the presence or absence of the sparks. Before we attain spirituality, we think that the less we strain ourselves, the better. But after we attain spirituality, we regret having done so little to attain it.

The way to attain spirituality involves our making an act of restriction. But what does it mean to restrict? Weight-watchers, for example, are people interested in losing weight. They understand that the pleasure that they will derive from losing weight is greater than the pleasure they will derive from the food. There are cases where the food actually becomes an enemy for them, to the point of real hatred. For weight-watchers, maintaining a strict diet is about restricting the desire.

The most important factor in restricting something is the recognition of evil. That is why we are given the Torah. It contains within it that wondrous power that enables us to understand the enemies and the obstacles on our way to attain spirituality.

All of us must overcome many difficulties in life, to the point where we feel that there is no purpose to our work, as long as we do not understand where the truth is. As long as we do not make that restriction, we cannot even begin to know where the truth is. However, once we attain spirituality, we're in good hands, and no longer need the explanation, because we can see everything for ourselves.

Before we receive the right aim from Above, he must labor in physical actions, even if for ourselves, hoping to change our situations. But the effort is not needed in and of itself, because the goal of Creation is pleasure, and effort means pain, or the absence of something. If we could switch to the aim to bestow to the Creator, or receive spiritual pleasure without any effort, that would be wonderful. There is no necessity to look for hardship in our world.

However, if the effort is pleasurable, it stops being an effort. It is like a mother who feeds her baby and enjoys it. If the effort to think of the Creator was first laborious and false, suddenly becomes enjoyable, vital and important. From the moment it becomes a pleasure, no effort is required. The effort is needed only to cross that spiritual barrier.

When we begin to practice spirituality, our work changes and we receive a different kind of reward, though people around us will not notice it. If, for example, spiritual music were to be performed by the best musicians, they would make it sound like any other music. People who do not practice spirituality might consider a spiritual composition less elevated than it is, placing it on the level of nice, but ordinary music.

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