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Stage One

In Chapter One of his book, The Mighty Hand, Maimonides describes how there was a time when people knew that there was only one force governing the world. He explained that after some time, due to a prolonged spiritual decline, they all forgot it. Instead, people believed that there were many forces in the world, each with its own responsibilities. Some forces were responsible for food provision, some were meant to help us marry more successfully, and some were in charge of keeping us wealthy and healthy.

But one man, whom we now know as Abraham, noticed that all these forces obeyed the same rules of birth and death, budding and withering. To discover what those rules were, he began to study Nature. Abraham's research taught him that there was really only one force, and everything else was only a partial manifestation of it. This was Stage One of the spiritual evolution of humanity.


Perhaps one of the best known Native American traditions is the Council Circle. Here, the members sit in a circle, each member expressing a different aspect of the same issue. Similarly, Abraham didn’t want to see things only from his perspective. He wanted to see through everyone’s eyes, and thus discover the one force that made different people see different things.


Once Abraham discovered this truth, he began to spread the word. Challenged by having to explain a concept that contradicted everything his contemporaries believed, Abraham was forced to develop a teaching method that would help him reveal this concept to them. This was the prototype of the teaching method we now call “Kabbalah” (from the Hebrew word, Lekabel, to receive). Today, Kabbalah teaches us how to discover the force that guides us, and in doing so, receive infinite joy and pleasure.

We will talk about Abraham’s discovery in greater detail later in the book, but we should mention here that the essence of his discovery is that the universe is “obeying” a force of love and giving. This force is what Abraham and all the prophets in the Bible call “The Creator.” When Biblical figures speak of the Creator, or the Lord, or God, they speak not of a being, but of a force of love and giving, and how they perceive it. If we keep this in mind, we will find the method of Kabbalah very clear and easy to understand.

Abraham's discovery was no coincidence. It arrived just in time to counter an outbreak of egoism and selfishness that threatened to destroy both the love and unity among people, and between humankind and the Creator.

This unity was the natural way of life for humanity prior to the time of the Tower of Babel. This is what the Bible means by, “And the whole earth was of one language and of one speech” (Genesis 11:1). Everyone knew about the Creator, the force of love and giving, and all were united with it. People experienced it as part of their lives, and they didn’t need to “work” on their unity, as is done today, because no egoism was setting them apart. This is why the Bible writes that they were of “one language” and “one speech.”

But as soon as people’s egoism began to develop, they wanted to use their unity for their own benefit. This prompted the Creator’s concern. Put differently, the force of love had to act to counter humankind’s egoism-caused separation. In the words of Genesis, “The Lord said, ‘Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. …and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them’” (Genesis 11:6).

To save humanity from its own egoism, the Creator, the single force discovered by Abraham, could do one of two things: disperse humanity and thus prevent a catastrophic clash of self-interests, or teach people how to overcome their egoism.

The latter option offered an obvious benefit: if people remained united despite their egoism, they would not only retain their way of life, they would actually unite even more closely with the Creator. In other words, the efforts to bond, despite their growing egoism, would force people to become much more aligned and united with both the Creator and each other.

Here’s an illustration of this principle: Imagine you are rich and want a shiny new Jaguar. This is no big deal; you just walk into the nearest dealership and come out driving the car of your dreams. How long do you think your pleasure would last? A week? Probably even less. And how much would you really care about your new Jag, which demanded nothing more than a visit to the dealership to get it?

But if you were not well off and had to work two shifts for two whole years to get that Jaguar, you would undoubtedly love and appreciate your car very much. The effort you put into “attaching” yourself to it would make that car much more important to you.

This is the benefit of bonding with the Creator, despite growing egoism. Egoism serves an important purpose: it is there to give you something to strive to overcome, a “practice field” where you can make efforts that will make you appreciate the force of love—the Creator.

So the Creator revealed Himself to Abraham to show him how humanity could “practice” and “work” at loving the Creator, and thus become closer to Him. This is also why Abraham was such an enthusiastic disseminator of his method. He knew that time was of the essence: either he taught his people how to unite through bonding with the Creator—the force of love—or their growing egoism would alienate them from one another and they would disperse or kill each other off.


(Abraham thought): “‘How is it possible that this wheel will always steer without a driver? And who is driving it? After all, it cannot drive itself!’ And he had no teacher, and no one to let him know. Instead, he was… surrounded by idolaters, fools. And his father and his mother, and all the people were idolaters. And he, too, was idol worshipping with them. And his heart roamed and understood, until he attained the path of truth.”

–Maimonides, Yad HaHazakah (The Mighty Hand), Idolatry Rules.


As the Bible and other ancient Hebrew texts teach us, the Babylonians rejected and scorned Abraham's offer. Abraham confronted their king, Nimrod, and proved that his method could work. But instead of adopting it, Nimrod attempted to assassinate Abraham. Now, with his life at stake, Abraham fled from Babylon and began to teach his method while roaming “from town to town and from kingdom to kingdom, until he arrived in the Land of Israel” (Maimonides, The Mighty Hand, Idolatry Rules, Chapter 1).

Despite hardships and challenges, Abraham’s teachings gained some support, and his followers helped him share his knowledge with others, filling the ranks with “new recruits.” In time, the lone fighter for truth had multiplied, creating a nation whose name, “the nation of Israel,” symbolizes the one thing they had in common—their desire for the Creator. The word “Israel” is really a combination of two Hebrew words: Yashar (straight) and El (God). The people of Israel are those who have one desire in their hearts: to be like the Creator, united by altruism and love.

The collapse of the Tower of Babel was not, however, the end of the story, but only the beginning. The force of love, which Abraham had discovered, wanted to tighten its bond with humanity. But since the Creator is a force of love, and loves us as much as anyone can love another, the only tightening of the bond can come from us. Hence, this force, the Creator, keeps increasing our egoism, so we may rise above it by strengthening our ties with Him.

For those who want to remain egoists, increased egoism means greater alienation. As a result, the people who were once united split into different nations and invented new technologies with which they could create new weapons. They used these weapons to protect what they thought was their freedom, but which was actually their increased self-centeredness and alienation from the Creator and from one another.

Without noticing it, they became increasingly subjugated to their egoism while mistakenly thinking they were defending themselves from those who wanted to harm them. Their egoism made them forget that when they were united, they hadn’t needed weapons, as they had no egoism to make them feel their freedom was threatened.

But those who wanted to remain united, and even deepen their bond of love, treated their increased egoism as an opportunity for growth. To them, it was a welcome challenge, rather than a problem or crisis.

But to cope with their heightened egoism they needed to upgrade Abraham's method. This was Moses’ cue. As with the Babylonians and their king, Nimrod, overcoming the new level of egoism—this time represented by the Egyptians and their king, Pharaoh—meant escaping it.

Pharaoh wasn’t simply an evil king. He actually brought Israel (those who want the Creator) closer to the Creator. In Kabbalah, Pharaoh is the epitome of egoism, and the only way to escape him is to unite (with each other and with the Creator). As we’ve seen before, unity makes you closer (more similar) to the Creator. To defeat Pharaoh, Moses returned to Egypt after his escape, united the people around the same idea that Abraham promoted many years previously, and once again helped his people escape.

But this time, Israel defeated a much more powerful ego. Pharaoh was not like Nimrod, King of Babel; he could not be defeated by one determined man. Defeating Pharaoh required a whole, united nation. And because Moses needed to teach Abraham's method to a whole nation, he wrote a new book, an adaptation of Abraham's teachings for an entire nation: The Torah (Pentateuch).

But the Creator, being a force of love and generosity, wanted to give more than to just one nation. He wanted the whole world to know that there was only one force and that they would take the gift He wished to give humanity—Himself.

So while Moses’ Torah was a big step forward, since it helped a whole nation connect with the Creator, it was not the end of the road. The end of the road will arrive only when the whole world is in touch with Him, experiencing the bond of love and unity that the ancient Babylonians did, before the first outbreak of egoism. Put differently, the end of the road will arrive when all of humanity reclaims what it once had, and then lost.


In the article, “The Essence of the Wisdom of Kabbalah,” Kabbalist Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag describes the purpose of Creation as a “single, exalted goal described as ‘the revelation of His Godliness to His creatures in this world.’”


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