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Eradicating Egoism

The path of Kabbalah is different from other paths. Even though there are pleasures in our world, we can break away from egoism by having faith (above reason) in the purpose of creation. In this way, we may go beyond listening to what our bodies and our reason tell us.

When we do so, we start experiencing love for the Creator, as well as feeling His love for us. This is the path of peace and joy, and of faith in the fact that the long way is, in fact, the short way without suffering. When we are not capable of receiving the Light into the self – the inner Light (Ohr Pnimi) – our spiritual development will take place only under the influence of the surrounding light (Ohr Makif).

This path of spiritual development is called “the natural way” or “the way of suffering” (Derech B'ito). This is the path of all humanity.

Another alternative for our spiritual development is to establish a personal bond with the Creator, characterized by the work in three lines. This way is called “the way of the Kabbalah” (Derech Kabbalah, Derech Ahishena). It is much shorter than the way of suffering.

Thus, the Kabbalists say that an individual who wishes to go directly toward the Creator shortens the time of correction. Although it is difficult to have faith if suffering does not force us to do so, it is very important for us to believe that the results of our work depend only on our efforts.

That is, we should believe in the Divine rule by reward and punishment. The Creator rewards an individual by awarding good thoughts and desires. We should obtain faith from fellow students and from books.

However, once we have attained faith – the perception of the Creator – we must convince ourselves that it was given to us by the Creator. The Upper Spiritual

Power may be a medicine of life if it provides strength and the will to work. However, it is considered poison if we believe that all is determined from Above and nothing depends on our efforts.

The principal effort should be the preservation of the lofty aspirations given to us from Above. First, we are sent spiritual sensations from Above. Then, we are elevated, followed by a time of hard work, and of constant effort to remain on that particular spiritual level by our own strength. We should concentrate on appreciating the value of our spiritual elevation.

As soon as we begin to disregard what we have acquired, or derive self-gratification from it, we begin to lose the attained spiritual level. All that falls under the power of egoism is situated in the central point of creation (Nekuda Emtzait).

Everything that does not wish to gratify the self is placed above that point. Thus, it is said that the line that represents the descent of the Light (Kav) makes contact (thus imperceptibly reviving the creation) and does not make contact (does not fill the creation with the Creator’s Light) with the central point.

It is said that one who aspires to advance spiritually is helped by being given a soul – a part of the Creator – the Light. As a result, one begins to feel like a part of the Creator! How does the Light of the Creator generate the desire to derive joy from Him?

For example, in our world, if a person were given unexpected honors, which were then taken away, that person would crave the familiar pleasures derived from those honors. The desire to get back the taken pleasure is known as a “vessel” (Kli). The Light gradually makes the vessel grow in order to fill it with pleasure (from the Light.

Abraham asked the Creator: "How can I be sure that You will save my descendants? How can I be sure that my children will be able to break away from egoism with the help of the Kabbalah? Why give them the Light if they have no yearning for it?"

The Creator answered that they would be given a sensation of enslavement by their egoism, and so, for contrast, they would be given a sensation of the Light. In attempting to overcome our desires, we need to recognize that our bodies do not understand the dimensions of time, and thus do not perceive the past or the future, but only the present.

For instance, if it is crucial to exert an effort for five minutes in order to be able to rest afterwards, the body will still resist putting forth that effort because it is unable to grasp the benefit that will follow shortly.

Even when we remember the pleasure we previously attained after hard work, our bodies will still withhold the necessary strength to complete the task. This can be similar to a case where a person gets paid for work prior to its completion, and does not truly want to put forth a good effort to finish the job.

Therefore, it is important not to delay the struggle against the body, but instead to use every opportunity at a given moment to counter the body with loftier thoughts.

Since we are all 100% egoists, we will never voluntarily wish to form a bond with the Creator. Only when we are convinced that this bond will bring a certain benefit will we desire connection.

Thus, we can conclude that simply seeing our own evil and understanding that only the Creator can send help is still insufficient impetus to seek help from the Creator. Only by realizing that coming closer to the Creator, and forming a bond with Him, will bring redemption will we have the incentive to seek help.

Kabbalah offers us its path, rather than the path of suffering. Time changes the conditions around us: two thousand years ago, only a precious few searched for a connection with the Creator, as in the time of Rabbi Shimon.

In the times of Ari and Ramchal, small groups were already engaged in the study of Kabbalah. In the times of Baal Shem-Tov, the number of groups grew to dozens.

Finally, in the times of Baal Sulam, the numbers increased even further. In our times, the barrier that separates the masses from Kabbalah has been obliterated altogether, and there is hardly any resistance to the teaching. If in the past only those of very strong character could attain the connection with the Creator, today beginners --and even children – can reach the same results simply by studying Kabbalah under the proper supervision.

We are unable to separate the good from the evil, just as we are unable to discern what is good for the self and what is detrimental. Only the Creator can help us in this respect by opening our eyes. Only then do we begin to see everything, which means "to choose life."

But until we come to realize our absolute necessity for the constant connection to the Creator, He will not open our eyes. In this way, He will induce us to ask for compassion.

Inside the internal sensations of the Kabbalist exist a part of the Higher Level, of the future state (AHaP). One who perceives a Higher Spiritual Level as an unattractive vacuum, rather than a state full of Light, does not receive from the Higher level.

Even though the Higher Level is full of Light, the lower level perceives the Higher only to the degree that the lower qualities permit one to do so. Since the present qualities are not sufficient to receive the Higher Light, the individual does not perceive it.

The concealment of the Creator causes each of us to put forth a tremendous effort to attain the level of existence customarily accepted by our society. We blindly move forward, guided by the quiet internal whispers of our egoism. Acting as the ego’s blind tools, we rush to carry out its commands to avoid being punished through suffering, thus propelling us to accept the ego’s will against our own will, consequently carrying out its wishes without thinking twice.

Our egoism is rooted so deeply inside us that we have begun to accept it as a basic part of our nature, one that represents our true desires.

It penetrates all the cells of our bodies and forces us to evaluate all our perceptions in accordance with its desires. It also forces us to plan our actions in accordance with its design, thus increasing its benefit from our actions.

We do not even imagine that we can shed the influence of egoism, and cleanse ourselves of it. But it is possible to expel the egoistic cloud that takes the form of our body, penetrates us, and garbs itself with our flesh. Once we have been left without these desires, the Creator will accord us His altruistic aspirations.

As long as the egoistic presence remains within us, however, we are unable to imagine any benefit that would make us want to eradicate it. Moreover, altruistic thoughts and desires appear to us as unacceptable, silly, not serious, and certainly unable to form the basis of our society, much less that of the universe.

But this takes place only because our thoughts and desires remain under the influence of egoism. In order to be objective about our own condition, we must attempt to consider egoism as something outside of our essence, as an enemy who tries to pass itself off as a friend.

We must try to see egoism as something foreign to us, which was placed in us by the Will of the Creator. Such actions are considered to be our attempts to recognize the evil that stems from the ego. But this is possible only to the extent that we can sense the Creator’s existence and perceive His light, since everything is understood merely in relation to other objects, by the perception of opposites.

Thus, rather than concentrating all our energy on the search for the evil within us, we should make the utmost effort to perceive the Light of the Creator. All creations, with the exception of human beings, operate according to the laws of altruism.

Only human beings and the world surrounding us (our world, Olam hAzeh) are created with the opposite, egoistic qualities. If by chance we got a glimpse of the Creator and of all the spiritual worlds, we would immediately understand how minute our world is in comparison to the spiritual worlds. Therefore, the egoistic laws of nature operate only in a tiny, pea-sized world.

Why, then, did the Creator conceal Himself, after placing us deliberately in a world that is full of darkness, insecurity and sadness? When the Creator was creating us, His goal was to bestow on us an eternal existence together with Him.

However, we must reach this state by our own means, in order not to feel ashamed for having unjustly acquired eternal pleasure. Thus, the Creator generated a world that was opposite to Him in nature, and that epitomized the one quality opposite to His essence: the desire to gratify oneself, or egoism.

Therefore, He endowed us with this quality. As soon as a human being is influenced by this quality, that human is born into this world, and immediately stops perceiving the Creator. The concealment of the Creator exists in order to give us the illusion that we possess free will to choose between our world and the world of the Creator – the Upper World.

If, despite our egoism, we were able to see the Creator, naturally we would prefer His world over ours, since the first contains all pleasure and no suffering.

However, freedom of choice and free will can only exist in the absence of our perception of the Creator while He is in concealment. But if, from the moment of birth, we are so strongly dominated by the ego that we cannot distinguish between the self and the ego, how can we choose to be free of the ego’s influence?

Also, what choice can there truly be if our world is full of suffering and death, whereas the world of the Creator is full of pleasure and immortality? What is left for human beings to choose?

In order to allow us to have free will, the Creator gave us two options:

  1. At times, He reveals Himself to one of us to enable that person to see His grandeur and Providence and, as a result, to experience calmness.

  2. He gave us Kabbalah – the study of which (assuming that one truly wants to come out of the present state and perceive the Creator) brings forth a hidden, surrounding, spiritual Light (Ohr Makif). The process of our connecting with the Creator, starting from the lowest level (where we live) and extending to the highest level (where the Creator dwells) can be compared to climbing the steps of a spiritual ladder.

All the steps of this ladder exist in the spiritual worlds. The Creator resides on the highest step, whereas the lowest step comes down to our world. Human beings are situated below the lowest spiritual step, since our initial egoistic level is not connected with the first spiritual state, which is completely altruistic.

We can perceive an Upper Spiritual Level when our qualities and those of the spiritual state coincide. Then, our degree of perception will be proportional to the degree of congruence between our qualities and those of the spiritual.

We can perceive the Upper Level because all the spiritual steps are arranged sequentially from lowest to highest. Moreover, the subsequent states overlap with one another; the lower half of the higher state is situated within the upper half of the lower state (AHaP of Upper falls into GE of Lower).

Thus, the lowest part of our UpperState is always present within us, but is usually not felt by us. The UpperState above us is referred to as “the Creator” because it functions as the Creator for us.

It gives birth to us and it gives us life and guidance. Since we do not have a perception of this Higher State, we often insist that the Creator does not exist.

But if we are in a state in which we clearly see the Creator’s Upper Domain over all the creations in this world, then we lose the possibility to choose freely.

We can see only One Truth, only One Force, and only One Will that operates in everything and in everyone.

Since the Will of the Creator is to grant each human being a free will, then the concealment of the Creator from His creations is necessary. Only if He is hidden can we argue that we can aspire of our free will to attach ourselves to the Creator – to act for His sake, without any trace of self-interest.

The entire process of self-correction is possible only when the Creator is concealed from us. As soon as He reveals Himself to us we immediately become His servants and fall into the control of His thought, grandeur and power.

At that point, it is impossible to determine what our true thoughts are. Thus, in order to allow us to act freely, the Creator has to conceal Himself.

On the other hand, to give us a chance to break free from the blind slavery of egoism, the Creator must reveal Himself. This is so because a human being obeys only two forces in this world: the force of egoism – the body – and the force of the Creator – altruism.

It follows, then, that alternating the two states is necessary. These states are the concealment of the Creator from us when we perceive only ourselves and the egoistic forces governing us, and the revelation of the Creator when we feel the power of the spiritual forces.

In order for one who is still under the influence of egoism to perceive the closest Upper Object (the Creator), the Creator must equalize some of His qualities with those of the lower being – the person seeking a connection with the Creator.

He will endow some of His altruistic qualities with egoistic attributes, and can then come into balance with the person seeing connection with Him.

The Upper Part elevates the Malchut-Midat Hadin to the level of His Galgalta ve Eynaim. As a result, His AHaP acquires egoistic qualities. In this manner, His AHaP “descends” to the lower part (the spiritual level of the seeker) and comes into a state of equivalence with the qualities of the lower part.

Initially the lower part was not able to perceive the UpperSpiritualState. However, because the Creator hid His highest altruistic qualities behind egoistic ones, He was able to descend to the level of the person so that the person was able to perceive Him.

Because we perceive higher qualities as being egoistic, we are unable to truly grasp their essence. It appears that there is nothing positive in the spiritual that may bring pleasure, inspiration, confidence, or tranquility.

It is precisely at this point that we have an opportunity to exercise our willpower. We may, instead, declare that the absence of pleasure and taste in the spiritual and in Kabbalah is because of the Creator’s deliberate concealment for our own sake. Because we do not yet possess the necessary spiritual qualities, it is therefore impossible for us to perceive the Upper spiritual pleasures; rather, all our earthly desires are governed by egoism.

It is crucial for beginners to understand that they are given depression and distress in order to overcome them.

They may direct their pleas for relief to the Creator, they may study, or they may do good deeds. The fact that such people do not experience pleasure or vitality from spiritual aspirations is directed from Above.

This gives them the free will to conclude that their lack of pleasure comes from a lack of appropriate altruistic qualities in themselves. Hence, the Upper One must hide His true qualities from them.

Therefore, we must remember that the first stage of perceiving the spiritual is the feeling of spiritual deprivation. If the lower part is capable of realizing that the Upper One is concealing Himself because of their incongruity of qualities, and if that lower part asks for help to correct its own egoism by raising a prayer (Ma’N), then the Upper Part partially reveals Himself (lifts His AHaP) and displays His true qualities, which prior to this moment, were disguised beneath egoism.

As a result, spiritual pleasure also becomes apparent. Thus, the lower part begins to experience the grandeur and the spiritual pleasure felt by the Higher Being, Who possesses spiritual altruistic qualities.

Because the Upper Part elevated His altruistic qualities in the eyes of the individual, He thus elevated the individual to the middle of His State (He lifted GE of the lower together with His own AHaP).

This spiritual state is known as a person’s “lesser spiritual level” (Katnut). The Upper Part, in a way, elevates the lower part to His own spiritual level by revealing both His grandeur and the grandeur of altruistic qualities. By seeing the magnificence of the spiritual and comparing it to the material, we may spiritually rise above our world.

When we perceive the spiritual, regardless of our will, our egoistic qualities are changed into altruistic ones, that is,into the qualities of the Creator. In order to allow the lower part to take complete possession of the higher first level, the Upper Part wholly reveals Himself and all His qualities to that lower part; meaning He reveals his Grandeur, makes Gadlut.

At this point, the person perceives the Upper Part as the One and Only Absolute Sovereign of everything in the universe. At the same time, the lower part grasps the highest knowledge of the purpose of creation and of the Upper’s dominion.

It becomes clear to the lower part that there is no other way to conduct oneself than in the way prescribed by Kabbalah. Thus, the lower part’s reason now requires proper action. As a result of this clear awareness of the Creator, one must deal with the contradiction between faith and knowledge, between the right and the left lines.

Now, having acquired altruistic qualities (Katnut), the lower part prefers to proceed only by means of faith in the strength of the Creator. This serves as an indication of the seeker’s sincere desire to come closer to the Creator.

However, the Creator’s revelation of His grandeur (Gadlut) now obstructs one from advancing by faith. Consequently, the individual must willingly dispense with the acquired knowledge.

When one pleads to proceed blindly, relying only on one’s faith in the magnificence of the Creator, rather than by realizing His power and grandeur, and only by using reason in proportion to one’s faith, the Creator is compelled to limit His disclosure. When such an action compels the Creator to diminish His disclosure of His general dominion, His omnipotence, and His Light (Ohr Hochma), this is called “the screen of hirik.”

Through this screen, we are able to diminish the revelation of the Upper reason (the left line) to the point at which this revelation can be balanced with faith, the right line. The correct correlation between faith and knowledge is called a “spiritual balance, “ or the middle line.

We, as individuals, determine the state we desire to be in. Once the correct correlation of faith and knowledge is in place, we can then attain perfection. This is known as “the middle line.”

The part of revealed knowledge (the left line) that we can use in proportion to our faith (the right line), by proceeding by faith above reason (the middle line), is added onto those spiritual qualities that we possessed before, in the state of Katnut. The newly acquired spiritual level is known as Gadlut, meaning big and complete.

After the first complete spiritual level has been attained, we will become equal in qualities to the very first (the lowest) state of the spiritual ladder. As was mentioned earlier, all the states, or steps of the ladder, overlap with each other.

Having reached the first level, we may discover the presence of a higher level within us. Using the same principle as when advancing to the first level, we can proceed step by step to the goal of creation – complete unification with the Creator on the highest level.

An essential part of our spiritual ascent is a special process that requires that, on discovering a greater evil within us, we ask the Creator to grant us the strength to overcome that evil. We then receive strength in the form of a greater spiritual Light.

This continues until we actually reach the original level and size of our souls: at that point, our egoism is completely corrected and filled with Light.

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