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Michael Laitman, PhD

The Screen (and the Unlikely Example)

The Creator did not instill in us the wish to be like Him, however. In Phase 4, you decide that you will receive only if you understand why the Creator wants to give—until you understand what’s in it for Him.

For example, imagine that you offer to take your children to the mall to buy them whatever they want. Unlikely, granted. Now imagine that they say to you, “Why are you suggesting that? What does that do for you? If we don’t understand why you are giving, we’re not interested in the gifts.” Far more unlikely. This conditioning of not receiving for yourself is called Tzimtzum (restriction). It is the first thing we do to become non-egoistic, and the mechanism that enables the Tzimtzum is called a Masach (screen).

Once we have acquired a Masach we can begin to calculate if and how much we can receive while focusing on our parents’ pleasure instead of our own. When we acquire this ability, it is considered that we have a complete Partzuf (face).


The five phases of spiritual development correspond to five spiritual worlds, and each spiritual world contains five Partzufim (faces). To continue the ladder metaphor, the worlds begin at the top of the ladder, closest to the Creator, and continue on down. The worlds, from to bottom, are Adam Kadmon, Atzilut, Beria, Yetzira, and Assiya. The world closest to the Light and the Creator, Adam Kadmon, is also the most spiritual. The other worlds move downward, becoming more “material” and less “spiritual” as they descend.


On Course

It is important to try to understand the five worlds because the effort itself brings you closer to them, just as we feel naturally close to a person who wants to be like us. Besides, even if you don’t understand them as you study, you will understand them when you climb the spiritual ladder yourself because you will discover that these worlds already exist within you. They are part of your spiritual makeup, just as they are part of creation’s makeup.


Our task is to attain the highest degree in our advancement toward the Creator. There are 125 degrees in the spiritual ladder that move you up through these five worlds. Why the number 125? Because there are 5 worlds, and 5 Partzufim in each world, and 5 Sefirot (Keter– Malchut) in each Partzuf. Therefore, 5×5×5 equals 125. (You may have noticed that Kabbalists have a thing with numbers.)

Note that our world does not count as a spiritual degree. The degrees begin Above our world and move up. Assiya is the closest spiritual world to our own and the starting point of spiritual attainment.



Two elements make up a spiritual degree: a desire for something and the intention to use it for the Creator.


The smallest element in spirituality is called Sefira because it shines like a sapphire. We already said that there are five basic Sefirot: Keter, Hochma, Bina, Zeir Anpin, and Malchut. However, Zeir Anpin(ZA) is made of six internal Sefirot: Hesed, Gevura, Tifferet, Netzah, Hod, and Yesod. So whether we talk about the five SefirotKeter, Hochma, Bina, ZA, and Malchut—or about the 10 SefirotKeter, Hochma, Bina, Hesed, Gevura, Tifferet, Netzah, Hod, Yesod, and Malchut—it refers to the same basic structure of 10 Sefirot.

Each five Sefirot make up one Partzuf (face), and five Partzufim make up one Olam (world). Interestingly, the word Olam comes from the Hebrew word Ha’alama, which means “concealment.” The higher the Olam, the less there is Ha’alama (of the Creator). So when you get to the Higher Worlds, too, you’ll know where you are by seeing what’s around you and comparing it with the “tour guide”—the Kabbalah books.

One of the mechanisms of this progression and development is the concept of Tzimtzum (restriction), which we mentioned earlier. It works like this: if you have a desire for object A, but a much stronger desire for object B, then your desire for object A gets Tzimtzumed (restricted). For example, say you’re very tired and want to go to sleep. You tuck yourself in and cuddle under the warm blanket. Suddenly, someone knocks on your door and shouts that there is a fire and that you’d better run for your life. Naturally, your desire to save yourself is stronger than your desire to sleep. At that moment the fatigue vanishes as if it never existed. In truth, it does exist, and you will feel it again when the danger has passed, but the desire to live restricts it and covers it completely.

Turning back to our topic, to move from degree x to degree x + 1, we need to want degree x + 1 more than our present x degree.

In The Study of the Ten Sefirot, Baal HaSulam says that even though Malchut, the Sefira that represents the future us, wanted to receive the Creator’s Light very much, she couldn’t. Malchut didn’t know how to receive the Light with the intention to give (remember the mall example from earlier in this chapter). Without the intention to give, she would become different from the Creator and, therefore, separated from Him. Because she did not want to become separated from the Creator, she restricted her desire to receive so she could stay close to the Creator.

This is why the first thing you must learn when entering the spiritual world is how to restrict your egoistic desires. If you can’t do that, the doors to spirituality remain closed, which brings us to the Barrier.

The Fifth Level and the Barrier

The sole purpose of everything that happens in our world is to take you across the barrier between our world and the spiritual world. Once you cross it, you can start advancing in spirituality.

Where did this barrier come from? You may recall that contact with the Creator can exist only if you, like Him, have the intention to give. Because He created you without the intention to give, you are separated from Him. This separation is called a barrier because it bars you from direct contact with Him. The good news is that you can cross the barrier and meet the Creator “face to face” simply by wanting the intention to give.

Kabbalah has many divisions. One division is into Sefirot, another is into worlds, and another is into levels of vitality. So spiritual as well as corporal life is divided into five levels of vitality:

  1. Still (inanimate)

  2. Vegetative

  3. Animate (alive)

  4. Speaking (human)

  5. Spiritual (point in the heart)

Every being has all five levels, but the predominant level determines its category. Animals, for example, have some characteristics that are typically human, such as the ability to plan for the future, but this is not their predominant trait. Humans have animalistic characteristics, too, but we are still fundamentally different from animals.

What makes people human in the spiritual sense is their ability to experience a uniquely human state: the desire to be spiritual (like the Creator), the point in the heart. This is the highest state, where you can cross the barrier into the spiritual realm.

Achieving this stage involves different factors than the first four levels of vitality, which are based on biological factors. Levels 1-4 evolve through pressures from nature that push evolution along unconsciously. But evolution to the fifth level is voluntary and conscious, made out of one’s own free choice. A desire for it is the first step to crossing the barrier. It’s the desire mentioned in the beginning of this book, the desire to ask what life is about, the desire upon which Kabbalah itself is based.



The voluntary and conscious evolution at the human level is what we call “free choice.” Free choice makes us similar to the Creator because we choose to be like Him.


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