Chapter 6.2 - Abraham the Patriarch
In Genesis: “Now the Lord said unto Abram: 'Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto the land that I will show thee. And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and be thou a blessing. And I will bless them that bless thee, and him that curseth thee will I curse; and in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed.'
So Abram went, as the Lord had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him; and Abram was seventy five years old when he departed out of Haran. And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother's son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan” (Genesis 12:1-5).
“And the Lord appeared unto Abram, and said: 'Unto thy seed will I give this land; and he built there an altar unto the Lord, who appeared unto him” (Genesis 12, 7). “And there was a famine in the land; and Abram went down into Egypt to sojourn there; for the famine was sore in the land” (Genesis 12, 10).
Does the Torah speak of immigration to a better country, meaning Egypt, and does the Creator Himself compels Abraham to go there? Why did the Creator choose Abraham? At that time he was the same as all the other people who lived in the area that spread from east of Syria to Mesopotamia. Abraham did not go to Egypt right away. Rather, he first went to Beit-El, made a sacrifice to the Creator, and seemed to be soothed afterwards.
It is written that this was followed by a famine, and only then did he go down to Egypt. A question comes to mind: was it the famine that made him go to Egypt, or was it the Creator?
If we relate to the Torah as a historic narrative, we will see that it is not that different from the history of other nations. But the Torah does not deal with the past, rather it deals with us. It deals with each and everyone of us; with who we are and what we are and what we must do with our lives. That is how the Torah explains the entire system of Creation.
Man contains every thing that exists in all the worlds inside him, including our own world. Besides man, there is only the Creator. Man is the representative of Creation and of all the other worlds.
The Creator turns to Abraham, meaning to a specific attribute in us, which is like all other properties (“Nations”) in man (the name Abraham means the "Father of the Nation" in Hebrew – Av Ha’am) and tells him: I now separate this specific trait in you, which is called Abraham, and you must leave your country, meaning your situation, all the desires that you are currently in, from your homeland, and break free from the desires you were born with.
In other words, you must exit your original state, the state you were born into. It is neither good nor bad, but you must leave it, leave the home of your father. I (the Creator) am inside your primary egoistic desires and you must leave them and go to the land that I will show you. There is where you will find Me. The words, “that I will show thee” mean desires that the Creator will show and in them He will appear. The Creator only appears before Abraham in order to compel him to take the path at the end of which He will appear before him in completeness. In that state, the entire Creation will appear before Abraham and he will obtain the opposite properties: eternity and completeness, and the degree of the Creator Himself.
The Creator appears before every single one of us. We have all felt an inner voice, an inner power, at least once in our lives urging us to live in a different way. We feel the desire to think more of timeless, meaningful things, leaving all the petty dealings and routines in life, and slowly rising above them all.
As for Abraham, there is no interest whatsoever in speaking of him as a person who lived 5,000 years ago, who was picked out by the Creator. Rather I would like to focus on the quality of Abraham that is in each and every one of us. How does the Creator turn to it and use it to attract us, saying: “Leave your desires, the substance you were created in and have been immersed in, and go to another desire, one that I will show you.”
The Creator does not show us that we must ascend spiritually. Rather, He says that we must first go down to Egypt, to the gutter of our darkest and fiercest egoistic desires. These desires are so egoistic that they are like those of the Egyptians, who knew how to use egoism so perfectly that they could mummify their bodies and preserve them for centuries. They made idols of their dead and remained tied to their bodies after death.
The Creator does not tell Abraham that he must aspire upward in order to cross to the other desire, which is where he will find the Creator, Who will then fill him with Light.
That means that the most perfect state is when Abraham has already been through Egypt. The Creator doesn't even say that Abraham must go through Egypt, He simply tells him to go there. This sounds like an unreasonable commandment. After all, Abraham is an ordinary person who lives his daily life in the bosom of his family, a shepherd.
Suddenly, he is compelled to experience terrible states of decline in order to attain the spiritual state, and those situations are called "Egypt". One never wants to go down to Egypt, so Abraham builds an altar and thanks the Creator for having noticed him, choosing to remain where he is. Though Abraham goes to Beit-El, he thinks that there he is closer to the Creator, but in fact the Creator drives him away from there.
Abraham goes as far as Beit-El. He is like a man who attains spirituality and begins to be attracted to the books that concern that subject. He reads them, perhaps even begins to study Kabbalah, and thinks that this is the House of the Lord (Beit-El). When he sacrifices to the Creator and begins to examine what life really asks of him, what the Creator and his inner voice want him to do, he suddenly begins to feel hunger. That hunger is so intense that it drives him off to Egypt.
Similarly, during the preliminary reading of the books before him, man begins to feel ever-growing pains, accompanied by a greater still spiritual hunger. He begins to see himself through his innermost feelings as lower and lower and meaner than ever. The world appears so petty that this feeling is the same as when one feels when he goes down to Egypt, meaning to his lowest desires.
The phase when one feels oneself is the best and most vital for one’s progress. The intensity or quality of the sensation is of no importance; it can be good or bad, uplifting or depressing. One cannot obtain the correct desires under the direct instruction of the Creator, without being in Egypt.
Our initial desires are very small, and even if we stretch them to the limit they can only bring us as far as Beit-El. That is, we can practice the ordinary Torah and feel as one who has already entered the house of God, and the Garden of Eden. But in fact, this is not the case! The Torah should bring us first to the recognition of evil, to the feeling that we are complete egoists, and that all our desires are completely opposite to spirituality.
If we experience that state, if we understands and internalizes it, not only because that is what the books say, then we can accept that that is also our own situation. Our recognition of our egos must be an emotional, tangible experience. To the extent that we feel this way, we will begin to want to correct ourselves. Therefore, recognizing our egos as evil is a very long phase.
The exile in Egypt is not intended for Abraham, but rather for Jacob and his family (Josef and his brothers), who went down to Egypt. The exile was to be 400 years long, but in fact it lasted less than that. Baal HaSulam writes that because they did not complete the 400 years, the entire nation that left Egypt was forced to experience another exile, the one that has been ongoing for the past 2000 years.
In order to feel who you are and what your properties are, you must feel at least a little bit of what spirituality is like. You must experience these feelings to the fullest and examine them in every way. When the process is completed, you will be granted exodus from Egypt.
Abraham is only the first phase. When we begin to study the wisdom of Kabbalah, we begin to feel that we are much worse than before. However, this feeling passes. It is a small entrance to Egypt. Afterwards Abraham returns to Beit-El.
On the second visit to Egypt, he takes his family with him. This means that once he has accumulated a substantial amount of desires, and has already acquired a clear notion of the way, he must go toward spirituality. At this stage, he is already in a certain degree of spiritual development, and has already absorbed it. Only after that is he granted the second descent to Egypt.
Abraham immediately went there, but only reached as far as Beit-El. That is because one can only be pushed ahead by pain.
We are indeed immersed in our egoistic desires. “Thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house” are one’s entire being. We cannot exit these states, at least we thinks we can’t, because it is our nature, and we cannot imagine a different way of thinking, much less a different way of action. We cannot imagine what is not within us to begin with, what we never felt, and even what our fathers and our forefathers never felt.
Because of that, it is only possible to bring us out of that state and throw us into the state of acquiring new desires through immense spiritual hunger. That hunger can only be developed and amplified in a group with a teacher and some very special books.
If one reads these books in the wrong order, it is very easy to be misled and deviate from the right path, which means a temporary halt in spiritual evolution. We must always maintain a careful watch, verifying that we are on the right track. But in fact, if we stand still, yet at the same wants spirituality, then the Creator Himself will push us, using that hunger.
Abraham is a spiritual property that seems to be the basis of all our properties. It is a general spiritual attribute that is the first to be approached by the Creator. People don’t come to the wisdom of Kabbalah because they were sent here, but because the Creator approached them first. He begins to haunt them and make them hungry, and only then they come.
We will never chase something without a reason or a special need for it. Only the sensation of hunger pushes us out of our country. Love and hunger rule the world, meaning that the feeling that we're missing something is the only thing that pulls us. That sensation is called "Abram," and it is to him that the Creator turns and says, "Do you really want to fulfill your feelings and attain the truth? If you do, you must leave this feeling altogether and move onto another feeling called 'Egypt' ".
That means that you really must examine your egoistic desires from within. If you correct them, you will attain Me; I will be revealed to you in them. The Creator appears precisely in those desires we call "Egypt." Only afterwards are they corrected.
Let us take this man, Abraham. In a different degree we might have referred to him as a prophet. A prophet is a person who has attained such a degree that he is now in direct contact with the Creator. There are prophets that only speak to the Creator, meaning they attain the level of spiritual speech.
Naturally, they do not hear any horns blowing in the sky, as the Torah writes, and the voice of God does not sound from Mount Sinai from gigantic speakers to the whole of mankind. It is the inner voice of the one who obtains an evident contact with the Creator. There are prophets who see and hear, and there are those who only see and hear afterwards.
The books of the prophets demonstrate the versatility of the connections of the prophets with the Creator, and how and when He appears before them, meaning in which degree one can reach which prophet. The prophecy degrees, as all other degrees of our forefathers, are inside us. Each of us must experience them all. We must go the entire way while being in our corporeal world. Everything that the Torah speaks of must be attained by us from beginning to end.
Only then is one completely united with the Creator and reaches the final point of development that constitutes the purpose of Creation and its preliminary design.
In fact, the Torah provides us with this entire plan, but tells us about it in a special way. The Torah can be perceived as a historic narrative, or as pictures from people’s ordinary lives, both are of course completely incorrect. Our Torah is Holy; it is not just another novel.
Is Sefer Yetzira (Book of Creation) that Abraham wrote, studied equally with the Zohar?
The Book of Creation that Abraham wrote was written in précis, as though in brevity. The book writes simply: “This world was created in apparent, semi apparent and concealed form, in thirty-two paths of wisdom.” It can take years to understand even the first sentence properly. This book was written succinctly, as though according to a certain code. It is written for a person in the same spiritual degree, or close to it but lower, but it is not meant for us.
The rest of the Kabbalists, especially the more contemporary ones, address us directly. The farther the generation is from the time a certain Kabbalah book was written, the more the book has the right to be discovered in our time. Since the Ari, there is a clear directive from Above to open everything and teach everyone.
As a result of that spiritual commandment, books are written in a language that is much easier to understand, so that the need for interpreters decreases. However, we still need teachers. Without a teacher it is impossible to understand anything, although the material itself is already much more accessible.
If the Creator turns to you, you feel it as that unique property called "Abraham." That inner voice that you feel, that addresses you is called "the Creator." The effort to understand it, the voices, and indeed yourself, that is what the Torah aspires to, nothing more.