When the Goal Disappears, Continue Moving Forward
Q: Why is it that after years of studying Kabbalah, the goal of life becomes “routine?” Those special thoughts seem to disappear, and it sometimes feels as if there is no movement or attainment. Sometimes the goal itself disappears. Is this a temporary state?
A: Yes, this is temporary. In fact, it is when we feel absolute emptiness, which occurs only when we strive for attainment with all our might, that we make real progress.
Our struggle may be made under the most desperate of situations and after years of disappointments and perpetual reawakening of aspirations for the goal. Then, gradually, it becomes clear that only the Creator can change our situations.
However, such a situation can occur only by total devotion despite the fact that the shells, meaning the egoistic desires to enjoy the Light of the Creator, constantly tell him that he can still do things by himself. Only then, and without any warning, comes the help of the Creator, like a dream come true, at the least expected moment.
Here is what Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag writes in his book, Pri Hacham - Igrot Kodesh, page 161: “… There is no happier moment in a man’s life than the moment he finds himself in complete desperation with his own strength, meaning when he has already toiled and done everything he possibly could by himself, but found no remedy.
Because then he is worthy of an honest prayer for His help, for he knows for certain that his own work will bring him nothing, and as long as he feels that he has some strength of his own, his prayer is not complete. That is because the evil inclination always puts itself first and tells him that he must first do anything that is in his power, and only then will the Lord welcome him.
It’s been written in that regard: “The Lord is high and the low will see” (Psalms 138, 6). This is because, once man has toiled in all sorts of works to no avail, he becomes truly low. He knows he is the lowest of men; that there is nothing good about his body, and then his prayer is sincere and His generous Hand answers him.
The writing refers to this as follows: “and the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage, and they cried, and their cry rose up to God….” (Exodus 2, 23), because at that time, Israel was desperate from the work, as he who draws water from the well in a punctured bucket. He draws water all day long and still has not a drop of water with which to soothe his thirst. So were the sons of Israel in Egypt; everything they built was buried right there in the ground.
So it is with those who have not attained His love. Everything they do for the purification of their souls the day before, is lost entirely today, and each moment and each day they must start anew as though they had never done anything in their life. And then, “The children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage” because they clearly saw that they were incapable of ever benefiting from their work. That is why their cry was complete, and thus rose up to God. God hears all prayers, but He waits for the sincere one.
In fact, anything, small or large, is attained only through prayer, and we work and toil only to discover our lack of strength and our lowness, that we are worthy of nothing on our own. Only then can we pray an honest prayer to Him.
We cannot simply declare that we are not worthy of anything and therefore should not trouble ourselves with toil. There is a rule in nature that there is none wiser than he who is experienced, and without trying to do what we can, we cannot achieve true lowness in the required measure.
Therefore, we must toil in purification and holiness, as our sages say: “Whatsoever thy hand attaineth to do by thy strength, that do.” Understand this, for it is most profound.
I have not revealed that truth to you in order to weaken your heart, and you must not give up on mercy. Although you cannot yet see a thing, when the work is done, then is the time for prayer.
And until that point, believe in our sages who said, “You toiled but haven’t found, do not believe.” And when the work is done, your prayer will be complete and the Lord will respond generously, as our sages said, “You labored and found, believe.” Before this, you are not worthy of the prayer, and the Lord hears only the prayer.”