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The Way of Kabbalah

The way of Kabbalah is a long, difficult period of reevaluating one’s goals in life, of reassessing the self, clearly defining the direction of one’s desires, truthfully assessing the motivating forces of one’s actions, attempting to overcome the desires of the body and the demands of reason, as well as completely grasping the power of one’s egoism. The way of Kabbalah is, at the same time, a hard, prolonged period of suffering to search to satisfy one’s desires; it is a period of disappointment that one is unable to find a genuine "focus" of one’s aspirations; it is the time of realizing that the only escape from the ultimate source of suffering (egoism) is the shift to altruistic thoughts, which will exclude any thoughts about the self, and will gradually lead to thoughts about the Creator. The latter will, in turn, bring about such pleasant feelings of serenity that one will not want to think about anything else.

Only after we have passed through all the stages of initial spiritual development – the way of Kabbalah – do we begin to perceive the Upper Light – the Light of Kabbalah – which shines more and more strongly upon us as we ascend the steps of the spiritual ladder that lead to our ultimate merging with the Creator.

Thus, our entire path is comprised of two parts: the way of Kabbalah and the Light of Kabbalah.

The way of Kabbalah is a period of preparing for new thoughts and desires, during which we experience feelings of suffering. But once we move over this bridge that leads to the dwelling of the Creator, we enter the world of spirituality, the kingdom of Light. At this point, we reach the final goal of creation – the ultimate perception of the Creator.

The generation of the flood is called “a period of work of the heart,” whereas the generation of building the BabylonianTower is regarded as “the period of working with one’s intellect.”Each of us strives to satisfy every desire from the first moment of life up to the very last moment.

The difference between us is in the object from which we want to receive pleasure, whereas the pleasure itself is always spiritual. Only the outer shell creates the illusion of a material nature of pleasure. For this reason, subconsciously, we strive to change the outer "garments" of pleasure, hoping to receive pleasure in the pure form of the bare Light of the Creator.

However, since the difference between us is in our aspirations to different outer casings of pleasure, we judge people in accordance with the different names of these casings. Those casings, or “garments” of pleasure assumed to be “normal” are widely accepted, such as the love for children, for food, for warmth, etc. Other “garments” are much less acceptable, such as drugs, murder, or theft, so we must conceal our aspirations for these kinds of pleasure.

However, all of humanity accepts that within certain set boundaries, egoism can be utilized without any shame. Moreover, the acceptable boundaries within which egoism can be used constantly vary, as does the fashion that dictates which boundaries are better.

Each of us, in the course of our lives and under the influence of age, meaning under the general Providence of the Creator from Above – nature, also changes the “garments” we use to satisfy our need for pleasure.

Even from one individual to another, the change from one casing to the next is dramatic. For instance, a girl receives pleasure from a doll, but is not able to receive pleasure by caring for a real baby. On the other hand, her mother cannot receive any pleasure from a doll, just as she is unable to convince her daughter to find joy in taking care of a real child.

From the girl’s point of view, formed in accordance with her own perceptions, her mother works very hard looking after a real baby, and gets no pleasure from it. In the girl’s mind, no pleasure can be derived from a real child because it is not a doll. She is convinced that her mother will be compensated for her hard toil in the world to come, whereas the girl desires to receive pleasure in this world, and, thus, opts to play with the doll.

A child thinks in this manner, and one is not going to disagree with her because she is not of the age when she can derive pleasure from the real objects in this world. Therefore, she derives it from toys – from illusory, unreal objects.

All of us, being godly creations, only aspire to pleasure that emanates from the Creator. All of us can have a desire only for Him, and we all perceive life only in this aspiration.In this, we are no different from our souls prior to their descent into this world, when they garbed themselves with our bodies.

Nor are we different from our souls after they passed all the cycles of life, and finally returned to the Creator.

We are created so that we desire to be gratified by the Light that emanates from Him, and this cannot be changed, nor should it be changed!

All that is required of us is that we change the outer "garments" of our pleasure and that we replace the doll with the real baby, and thus attain real pleasure! A human being is like a child during feeding time, wishing to receive only what is desired. We humans will exert a certain effort if convinced that pleasure will follow as a result of the effort.

But if we want to engage in self-improvement and study Kabbalah, then the body immediately poses the question: Why is this necessary?

There are four answers to this question:

  1. In order to spite others. This is the worst of all possible reasons because it aims to cause suffering to another.

  2. In order to receive a good position, honor, and money; to find a promising match for oneself. This goal is better than the first because it will bring something useful to others. This is regarded as “working for others,” since other people will compensate the person expending the effort.

  3. In order to let only the Creator know about one’s studies and efforts to improve oneself, but to keep it secret from others, thus avoiding being honored by others. Only a reward from the Creator is desired. This is regarded as working for the Creator, because one awaits the reward only from the Creator.

  4. In order that the Creator will accept all the fruits of one’s labors, while the laborer expects no reward in return. And only in this case will egoism pose the question: “What will you get for this?” There is no reasonable answer that can be given to oneself, so the solution is to proceed contrary to one’s reason and feelings; that is, above one’s reason and feelings.

In this manner, one’s entire task comes down to a single effort to separate reason and feelings from the process of critically evaluating one’s own state. Consequently, one places complete trust in the Creator.

All personal efforts should involve concentrating all thoughts and feelings on the Creator and on the grandeur of spiritual life. But should the inner voice of reason challenge one, advancing arguments for refocusing on the issues of daily life, that person should answer. “All that is required is indeed being fulfilled.”

At the same time, every thought and desire should be for the benefit of the Creator. Moreover, one must refuse to accept the whole criticism of this inner voice, even when one finds oneself as if suspended in midair, without any concrete rational and mental foundation. Such a state is known as being “above reason and feelings” (lema’la me ada’at).

The greater the pleasure received from a certain possession, the more valuable one considers that possession. The more one values something, the more one fears losing it.

How can a person arrive at the realization of the importance of the spiritual without having experienced spirituality? This realization comes to one precisely while in the state of a spiritual vacuum, when one is troubled by the lack of even the smallest perception of the grandeur of the spiritual. That is, one feels far removed from the Creator; and unable to change oneself.

The efforts of one in such a state, regarded as one’s “daily work,” give rise to the importance of attaining spiritual perception, known as the Sabbath. This is a time when one no longer needs (and is actually forbidden) to work on oneself, but is only obligated to observe the Sabbath, so as not to lose this gift of the Creator.

If an individual has a personal stake in something, then that person can no longer objectively judge anything connected to it. For this reason, if one person attempts to tell another person directly that certain behavior is wrong, it is unlikely that the person will agree with these insights, since the behavior in question is convenient, and thus one is convinced that one is acting properly.

However, if that person agrees to behave in accordance with instructions from others, time will reveal that the truth lies not in one’s past actions and thoughts, but in the behavior that is suggested at present.

Since the goal of the Creator is to benefit His creations (meaning us, since everything else is created by Him only for auxiliary purposes), then until a person discerns the quintessence of receiving pleasure and stops seeing deficiencies in quality, level, etc., that person still has not attained the goal of creation.

But in order to receive pleasure, which is the goal of creation, one must first undertake the correction of one’s own desire to be gratified. One must be gratified simply because the Creator desires this.

We need not worry about receiving pleasure, since as soon as this correction is made, we will immediately feel the pleasure. Thus, we should concentrate on the task of correcting our desire to receive pleasure – our vessel.

This can be likened to the process of acquiring an apartment. We should not worry about how to get it. The concern should be how to pay for it, and how to earn the money needed for it. As soon as the financial aspect is arranged, we will own the apartment.

Therefore, all the efforts should be concentrated on the money, not on the apartment. The same can be applied to perceiving the spiritual. All efforts should be directed towards creating the conditions necessary to receive the Light, not on the Light itself. When we focus on cultivating altruistic thoughts and desires in ourselves; then we will feel the spiritual pleasure immediately.

The benefit of the progress of humanity, despite the fact that humanity appears to err constantly and never seems to learn from its own mistakes, is in the process of amassing suffering, which takes place in the eternal soul, as opposed to the temporal bodies. In this respect, not a single act of suffering is lost. It will eventually lead, in some cycle of life in this world, to realizing the necessity for turning to spiritual elevation in search of salvation from suffering.

It is correct to denote the Higher Spiritual Worlds as “anti-worlds” in relation to us, since in our world all the laws of nature are built on the basis of egoism, on striving to grab and to understand.

In contrast, the nature of the Higher Worlds is absolute altruism – the striving to give and to have faith. The foundations of the spiritual and the material natures are so diametrically opposed that there is no similarity between them.

Thus, all our attempts to imagine what takes place in the other world will not yield any result. Only by converting desires of the heart from "to grab" into "to give," and changing the desires of the intellect from "to understand" into "to believe" contrary to reason, will we receive the spiritual perceptions.

Both desires are connected to each other, even though the desire to grab is found in the heart and the desire to understand is found in the brain. This is because the foundation of both is egoism.

Kabbalah explains that the birth of the spiritual object is initiated when "the father takes the mother outside" in order to give birth to a son; the perfection "displaces" reason from analyzing the surroundings in order to receive a new, higher reason that will be independent of any desires, and, therefore, truly objective.

Mere faith in the Creator is not sufficient. This faith has to exist for the sake of the Creator, rather than for an individual’s personal benefit. A prayer is regarded as turning to the Creator in order to arouse a desire in Him to help the seeker, through prayer, attain a feeling of reverence for, and the grandeur of, the Creator.

It is only such turning towards Him that makes the Creator react by elevating the praying person to the highest world, and by revealing to this person His whole grandeur. In this way, one can receive the strength to rise above one’s own nature.

Only by receiving the Light of the Creator, which enables having sufficient strength to overcome one’s own egoistic nature, does a person have the sensation of having reached eternity and certainty.

Nothing can now change in the person. In fact, there can be no return to egoism, but instead, there will be eternal existence in the spiritual world. For this reason, such a person will perceive the present and the future as equal, thus producing the feeling of having attained eternity.

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