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Up the Ladder

When Kabbalists talk about spiritually evolving, they are referring to climbing up the spiritual ladder. This is why Kabbalist Yehuda Ashlag named his commentary on The Book of Zohar, Perush HaSulam (The Ladder Commentary), for which he was named Baal HaSulam (Owner of the Ladder). But climbing “up the ladder” actually means going “back to the roots.” This is because the roots of our creation, the Upper Worlds, are a part of us. In a sense, we’ve already been there, even though we’re not aware of it. Now we must figure out how to get back there by ourselves, consciously.

The root is our final goal, where we are ultimately heading. But to get there quickly and peacefully we need a great desire for it—a Kli. The desire for spirituality is what characterizes the spiritual level in our evolution.

Just as not all gifted athletes win medals, only those who are both gifted and highly motivated, to achieve spirituality, we need to be very highly motivated. To understand where highly motivated athletes get their motivation, we must look not only at the athletes, but at their environment. In many countries, there are special schools for athletes, where their lives revolve entirely around their sport, and their competitiveness is nurtured.

Similarly, to achieve spirituality, we must create an environment that will encourage us to be more spiritual. Such an environment will make us think that spirituality is the most important thing in life, and that by achieving it, we will be the happiest and most complete people on earth. Our friends will describe how great it is to be spiritual, united with the Creator, just as athletes’ friends talk to them about winning this or that race, and what it feels like to be the first at the finish line etc.. In Kabbalah, we would say that “the medal shines” for athletes with “Surrounding Light.”

Therefore, to want spirituality, we need to acquire the kind of Surrounding Light that will make us want spiritual pleasures. The more of this Light we gather, the faster we will progress. Wanting spirituality is called “raising MAN,” and we can use the same technique that athletes use to increase the desire for a medal—picture it, talk about it, read about it, think about it, and do whatever we can to focus on it. But the most powerful means to increase any desire is still our social environment.


Is there a difference between “Surrounding Light” and just “Light”?

The different titles, “Surrounding Light” and “Light,” relate to two functions of the same Light. Light that is not considered Surrounding is what we experience as pleasure, while Surrounding Light is the Light that builds our Kli, the place where the Light will finally enter. Both are actually one Light, but when we experience it as correcting and building, we call it “Surrounding Light.” When we feel it as pure pleasure, we call it “Light.”

In his “Introduction to the Study of the Ten Sefirot,” Baal HaSulam explains that until we develop a Kli, we do not receive any Light. But the Light is there, surrounding our souls, and gradually builds our Kli by increasing our desire for it.


We will talk about the environment more in Chapter Six, but for now, let’s think of it in the following way: If everyone around me wants and talks about the same thing, and there’s only one thing that’s “in,” I’m bound to want it. The more I want something, the greater are my efforts to obtain it, the more my Kli grows, and the greater the Surrounding Light I will draw.

The growing Kli encourages me to develop new means to get what I want, thus progressing faster toward my goal. The equation is simple and straightforward: The bigger the Kli, the greater the Light; the greater the Light, the quicker the correction and the reception of the Light inside the Kli.

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