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Michael Laitman, PhD

Chapter 7.1 – Prayer

A talk at a banquet in memory of Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag,
Baal HaSulam marking the 40th anniversary of his departure

It is written in the Torah that prayer is the ‘work of the heart’. This refers to desires that come from the heart and one cannot control. We are built in such a way that, in most cases, we are unable to expose and know precisely what our desires are. Even our own prayers are concealed from us.

The words written in the prayer book describe situations that one must go through on our own. If we works on ourselves to correct our thoughts and desires, he will be able to reach the same desires and pleas as those of the members of the great assembly, the authors of the Jewish payer book who published it some two thousand years ago, in the beginning of our long exile.

There are dozens of phases of recognition of evil that we must go through if we want to equalize with the desires of the members of the great assembly. We will have to understand its makings, and that we are all made of egoism, which is the root of all evil. We must not only understand it, but feel it in our every bone.

But for that we need the revelation of the Creator. That is because every thing is learned by comparing it with its opposite. The gap between the properties of the Creator and our own will enables us to feel our insignificance compared to the greatness of the Creator. We must perceive and feel Who He is and that everything depends on Him. It is not enough to point to the heavens and say, “I believe.” Faith is the sensation of the Creator inside me, and my presence inside the Creator.

There are several states to the soul:

  1. Before we come into the world.

  2. When we receive additional egoism, something the souls feel as clothing in a corporeal body. Because of it, all the worlds of the soul contract to the dimensions of “our world”.

  3. When the souls feel themselves and the entire spiritual world after the end of correction.

The situation the souls are in before they descend to our world is called the world of “Ein Sof”. In that state, the soul receives the unlimited Light of the Creator. Afterwards, it receives additional egoism which weakens the contact between the soul and spirituality until the soul is finally clothed in a human body.

Now it no longer feels spirituality and therefore does not believe that it exists, meaning one does not feel the Creator. In other words, the soul no longer feels something that not long ago was its entire world.

“This world” is the sensation of the current state we are in. This name refers to that part of reality of the system of Creation and the Creator that I now feel through my ego.

The next degree is higher because it is attained by correcting my senses, and therefore the perception of reality is wider in my next degree from the degree that I have attained thus far. Because of that, this degree is called my “next world”. When I reach tomorrow, I will feel myself again as being in this world and name the degree I have now attained, “this world,” and I will name what will appear as my tomorrow regarding my present state, my "next world”.

There are a few letters of Baal HaSulam that we must study and memorize until we recall them by heart. At the right moment, we will be able to remind ourselves of them and identify our situation, seeing the letters merge into one:

We must ask then, how can these three terms, which seem completely disconnected, be one and the same thing? The purpose of Creation is to bring man to exist both in his corporeal envelope and in this body, while attaining complete adhesion and sameness with the Creator. To be more precise, all the worlds will combine inside us to a point where we and the Creator will form one reality as we merge and uniting with Him; taking His Paths, and keeping His Commandments.

In order for us to attain that perfect and eternal state, meaning the purpose of Creation, we are given the Torah in this world. That is why the Torah was only given to man after he came into this world, after he had sunk into the egoism, into his corporeal body. The Torah was given to people, not to angels. Because man consists of evident and total egoism.

If we take upon ourselves the path of Torah, we will eventually be able to neutralize our egoistic bodies, meaning our desires, in a way that they will no longer stand between us and the Creator. Then we will become one with the Creator just as it was before our souls came down to this world and received the addition of egoism.

Furthermore, by correcting egoism and precisely because of it, we will climb up the spiritual ladder and reach the degree of the Creator. All creations except for man lack egoism; therefore, they have no tools for climbing. As a result, they remain in their preliminary states.

Precisely for that reason all creations except for man are regarded as “still”. Even angels, which are forces operated by the Creator through which He governs Creation, are not independent forces with their own desires, but are simply forces that carry out His Will. It is mankind’s egoistic desire that enables us to reach the degree of the Creator by changing the form (intent) of the will to receive.

An angel is like a robot that performs a certain task in the spiritual world. It merely transfers something from one place to another. It doesn't ascend or descend in spiritual degrees like us, nor does it even "grow" in the spiritual sense. It is simply a spiritual force that operates at every spiritual degree.

The soul is a part of the Creator within each of us. Once we are wrapped in the egoistic shell, we can no longer feel spirituality, much less the Creator, because our every sense is immersed in egoism, the opposite attribute of spirituality. Replacing egoism with altruism is like taking off our egoistic "coats" and beginning to feel the entire Creation until nothing separates us from the Creator. In that state, the three terms–Creator, man, and Israel–unite.

Our purpose is to extinguish the egoistic obstacle that stands between our souls and the Creator. Of all Holy Scriptures, the Kabbalah is the most efficient in attaining that goal. It is the study with the most powerful spiritual Light that shines during the study.

There are no movements in the spiritual world. The difference between two worlds is only in my inner feelings and what my inner coating allows me to see. We never feel anything but the Creator, but we always feel Him behind our filters, meaning across from our egoistic properties. Our feeling of the Creator and Creation will intensify to the extent that we can extinguish these filters.

The degree of egoism that we remove from ourselves, or the extent of our correction, is called "the degrees of the spiritual ladder," or “worlds.” Thus, the worlds are actually the measurements of the sensation of the Creator.

The egoistic obstruction of our ability to sense Creation exists only inside us. There are no obstructions from the perspective of the Creator. He treats mankind with perfect benevolence; He does not hide Himself. It is only we who feel or do not feel that concealment. We hide the worlds from ourselves as though behind an egoistic veil.

Revoking egoism does not happen all at once. Rather, the Creator first gives us periods of time called “life in this world,” which are lives that are opportunities for us to ascend. Other than our initial awakening to spirituality, the rest is up to us. Any new life helps us remove some of our egoistic natures and draw nearer to the Creator.

These periods repeat themselves until we finally corrects ourselves in a way that our desires (named Guf in Kabbalah) will no longer be a hindrance between us and the Creator, until we cleave to the Creator with our every trait, regardless of the world we’re in.

After the physical death (something that Kabbalah regards as one’s separation from the egoistic cover), there is a rebirth in our world from the corrected parts of the collective soul. They blend and merge in a new order because they are all parts of the collective creature and all the covers are actually egoism.

The egoism, Adam ha Rishon (the only creature), broke into many pieces, or separate souls, in order to make the correction of the collective soul possible. That is because it is easier to correct each part separately then to correct the entire body. That is the reason for the reincarnations in the world and their unique order of correction.

At the end of correction, all the souls will regroup into a desire, a single collective soul that will receive the entire Light of the Creator, and thus perfection will appear.

In order to help the process of correction, the Creator brings down to our world special souls in addition to the ordinary ones, which do not leave our world after they complete their corrections. Rather, they stay and continue their spiritual work in both worlds to support us in the process of our corrections. These people, representatives, or messengers of the Creator, write books and lead and tutor students.

Once their task is accomplished, they depart to the spiritual world, but the possibility to connect with them and ask them remains. It is even possible to feel how they "clothe" us and act through us, depending on our spiritual degrees.

Anyone can feel within him the connection with these righteous people. These states are defined as “the impregnation of the soul of the righteous.” We feel them even now, indirectly, because we are following in their footsteps and learning by their books.

In fact, the only world (spiritual state) that actually exists is the world of Ein Sof, a world of absolute adhesion with the Creator. All the other sensations we feel are but sections of that complete, unlimited, and eternal feeling, known as the world of Ein Sof.

One of the sections of the world of Ein Sof is called “Adam Kadmon.” After that comes a section called “Atzilut,” then comes the world of “Beria,” then “Yetzira,” and finally “Assiya”. The smallest section of this sensation is, “this world”.

The world of Ein Sof grows narrower in the process of its perception by the egoistic senses of the creature, right down to the degree of our world. I can therefore define my progress and the spiritual world I am in according to the expansion of my sensations. It all depends on the "band width" of my sensing abilities.

Everything we learn is relative to the attaining person, beside which there is only the world of Ein Sof. There are a great many corrections that Malchut of the world of Ein Sof (the creature, or the soul) must perform. There is nothing in our world that was created without a reason.

For example, Baal HaSulam brings a tiny insect in the wood that spends its entire life in search of food and no one pays it any heed. And not only every insect, but every single atom of that insect bears a tremendous value to the attainment of the collective end of correction.

The Creator did not create anything in vain, and everything happens only according to the process of nearing to the ultimate goal. Events happen with or without our consent, regardless of how we view them. But whether or not we understand what happens and why, things still move toward the completion of the design of Creation, and the revelation of the full purpose of Creation to the creatures in this world.

Just as there are different people, different nations and nationalities, so the various parts of Malchut of Ein Sof differ in their measure of desire (and in that alone), thus creating the various degrees of nature: still, vegetative, animate and speaking. Everyone is interested in the difference between men and women in terms of the correction they must perform, but no one wants to know what is the correction that a stone must perform.

Even the stone was created in Our World, and it, too, must reach the goal of Creation. The correction of all of nature depends on the correction of mankind. It is the work of man that enlivens nature toward the end of correction. Animals and plants were not given the Torah because they have no free choice and their egoism is not under their control, hence, it is not for them to correct it.

And as for people, not all were given the same measure of practical laws of the Torah in Our World. The nations of the world were given seven Mitzvot (precepts), while the Jews were given 613 Mitzvot. This refers to the physical performance of the Mitzvot, meaning in the degree of the spiritual still. Different people perform the Mitzvot in different ways, depending on the number of corrections each soul must perform in this world.

Men and women also have corrections to perform that correlate to the origin of their souls, but the inner pull toward the Creator does not depend on one's gender. Many believer and non-believers alike never ask a single question about Creation, correction, and the purpose of Creation.

They have not received a desire for spiritual change from Above and only perform the operations they were taught to perform mechanically. There are differences between Jews and non-Jews in the mechanical operations, just as there are differences between men and women and children under thirteen years of age, or older than thirteen.

However, when we attain the spiritual world, we see that the only difference between people is that those who seek spirituality do so because the Creator gave them that desire. It is their time to grow spiritually, while others have not yet been given this desire.

Thus, it is forbidden to classify people by any external signs such as nationality or gender. The question of whether or not this or that person should study Kabbalah is irrelevant. Those who were summoned from Above, meaning those who feel a desire for Kabbalah, study.

How do we come to the world? It is as though the Creator takes a tiny part of Himself and adds egoism to it. After the complete desire that the Creator created is broken into tiny egoistic particles, they are gradually corrected and create the Upper Worlds: Atzilut, Beria, Yetzira and Assiya. The finer the fragments, the higher the worlds they comprise.

The soul of Adam ha Rishon consists of the most egoistic desire, the core of every creature, the Malchut of the world of Ein Sof. That soul also breaks into tiny particles, which are our souls.

When we begin to study Kabbalah and ask, "Does everything depend on the Creator or on me?" and, "Is He the doer or am I?" we tend, in the beginning to define the private and collective providences erroneously. Before we begin to act we must be certain that everything really does depend on us. But afterwards, we must tell ourselves that everything depended only on the Creator. If we keep to this thought, we will take the right path.

Some things can only be felt but cannot be explained, since it is impossible to express in words how spirituality is clothed in corporeality. We can explain corporeal science and spiritual science, but not how one world clothes the other. All Kabbalistic explanations end in the explanation of the breaking of Adam ha Rishon.

It is not that Kabbalists do not want to explain more elaborately; it is simply that one can feel and attain these things, but not understand them. It is also not possible to convey in words a feeling that was never felt by another.

Egoism is a very powerful spiritual force, and it is all that we can feel. We haven't any idea of what we are trying to rid ourselves because we must look at ourselves from the outside, experience something different than ourselves, and compare ourselves to something external, objective.

The only reason we can see other objects in this world is that they also, like us, consist of egoism. Otherwise, we would not be able to feel them. Egoism consists of many types and degrees, and its tiniest and simplest part is that which feels only itself.

That is precisely how we originally feel ourselves in the world. We are such small egoists that we feel absolutely nothing but ourselves, just like small children. When we mature a little, our egoism will reach beyond the limits of our world, and we will feel the Creator. That kind of egoism will be called "spiritual."

At that stage we will stop wanting the petite and petty pleasure of our world, called "Minute Light," and crave only the spiritual desires of the Light of the Creator. We will want the Creator Himself and nothing less!

Our actions follow our desires, whether we are aware of it or not. The mind serves only as an aid to analyze and examine our desires. That is why it cannot exceed them. As human beings, we actually follow our desires and emotions. That means that we first act, and only then "perceive," meaning analyze intellectually.

The Creator implements His Guidance through our actions. This is how we can understand and analyze our actions and act in the future according to the conclusions we draw. Whether I remember what I did and act more wisely in the future, or learn through pain depends only on the Creator. He teaches us every single moment, but we are unable to make any corrections. We must only understand that we are comprised of pure, unadulterated selfishness that we will never be able to resist.

The Creator does everything else for us except give us this understanding. The further we advance in spirituality, the worse we feel about our own natures. The more evident the Creator becomes, the more we perceive our egoism, compared to Him. This is the process of spiritual advancement.

If, for example, we correct ninety-nine percent of ourselves, we still see the one remaining percent as if through a magnifying glass that makes it look as big as the ninety-nine corrected percent. We perceive that tiny grain as a horrible sin. Such people are called "righteous." The greater the Light that shines on us, the more we can perceive the bright and the dark inside us.

Therefore, when we do some work or when we study, we attain both the Creator and ourselves. If all that we can feel is our own baseness, we will despair because we cannot feel the Creator. Then, our entire world grown dark before us. But when these desperate states are over and we perceive their spiritual origin, meaning the Creator, we already have a spiritual contact with Him. Now we can ask and even demand of Him, or be mad at Him, because we understand that everything comes only from Him.

When we feel the Creator in addition to ourselves, we no longer despair because we know our situations are given from Above, that they pass, and that they are necessary for our spiritual growth.

The Creator does not care how we turn to Him. It is only important that we recognize His Existence and that He is the one who sends us all these strange desires. He does that so that we will constantly feel different things about Him, and consequently evolve.

Baal HaSulam wrote in one of his prophecies that the Creator told him that a new world would be built through him, and that from that moment he, Yehuda Ashlag, would begin to carve a new road through his books, a road for readers to follow to reach the Creator.

As a result, Baal HaSulam began to write his book, The Study of the Ten Sefirot. He understood that he would not be able to write anything if he were not connected to people because of his sublime spiritual degree, though physically he was no different than any other person. For that reason, Baal HaSulam pleaded before the Creator to lower him to a level from which he could write to people, and the Creator granted his wish.

The Study of the Ten Sefirot begins with describing the four phases of Direct Light, meaning the four phases of the creation of the initial desire. It is a description of the situation that preceded Creation. In a different place, Baal HaSulam writes that he did not write anything that he himself did not fully attain. This tells us what his actual spiritual degree was.

In one of his letters, Baal HaSulam writes that the soul of Rabbi Shimon Bay-Yochay, author of the Zohar, the soul of the Ari, and his own soul are one and the same soul that keeps returning to our world in order to make the method of the study of Kabbalah suitable for its time. This is needed because every generation, a new type of soul comes down to our world, requiring a new system of correction. Some are high souls that descend to this world in order to correct it and show us the way to the purpose of Creation. These special souls are sent to us in order to save us, and this is how we should relate to the great Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag, as the person messenger of the Creator.

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