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Michael Laitman, PhD

At the King’s Table

Q: How does a person who feels attracted to spirituality begin to learn?

A: The attraction toward spirituality begins when a person begins to feel the Creator. But as soon as one begins to feel spirituality and the Creator, one also feels Him as the Giver, and herein lies the problem. The presence of the Giver makes us feel that we are only taking and think only of how to take from this world for our own pleasure.

Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag used to tell a story about this situation, called “The Host and the Guest.” It is an authentic Kabbalistic story that all Kabbalists tell. Let’s assume that you are a host and I’m a visitor at your house. You know me perfectly well, as the Creator knows man.

This means that you, as the homeowner, know all the things I like, all my secret desires, with which you set the table. I, the guest, come to your house and see that the table is indeed set exactly the way I like. Naturally, I want everything I see before me.

The host warmheartedly invites me in. “Please come in, I have prepared your favorite delicacies.” I sit at the table. What am I supposed to feel? I understand that the homeowner wants me to enjoy with all his heart, but that, unfortunately, does not put my mind at rest, because his very presence prevents me from enjoying. If I hadn’t seen him and if the table had been mine, I could enjoy the delicacies and, would eat them without a second thought!

Similarly, the Creator has set a table for us. Then, he retreated – that is our present feeling. As soon as the Creator (the host) reveals himself, the problem arises because I see Him, the Giver, and I begin to feel like the ‘taker.’ That sensation of charity eradicates any pleasure I might receive.

Q: Isn’t it important that the homeowner prepared everything out of the kindness of his heart?

A: It’s not important. Even if the homeowner wants to give us everything, we would still remain the receiver and the Creator, the Giver. We cannot compensate for that difference. Only if we study the doctrine introduced by Kabbalah will our problem be solved.

The essence of the doctrine is that there is the Creator, the homeowner, who has a desire to give. As we see, He, too, has a need: He hungers for our joy. He suffers if we are not happy, just as the guest suffers when the feeling of shame stops him from eating the delicacies. At that point, everything depends on the guest.

Can he enjoy a complete and endless pleasure? On the one hand, if he eats the delicacies on the table, he will merely enjoy the food and that will be the end of it. On the other hand, he can rise to a higher degree of pleasure, to more sublime sensations, and by that equalize with the host.

How? By deciding to refrain from taking anything from the host! However, the result of the guest’s refusal is to throw the host into torment. He tries to persuade the guest to taste some of the food, and that opens up a possibility of doing something for the host, to give to him, instead of receiving from him.

How? By receiving from him, but only with the intent in mind to please him. Simply put, the guest does him a favor. By enjoying himself, the guest gives the host pleasure, thus moving from receiver to giver.

The guest uses his own hunger along with the fact that the host has prepared the food for him, that he wants to please him. He also uses the shame, without which the guest could never have stopped himself. The guest needs all those things in order to enjoy, and at the same time to give the host joy.

When the guest tastes the delicacies, he feels his host’s joy at his pleasure. This way, both become equal and mutually dependent!

That is the essence of the connection with the Creator. Man must gradually prepare himself, even before he begins to feel the Creator, and as soon as he’s ready, the Creator opens up to him and there evolves a process where man becomes the giver to the Creator - just as the Creator gives to him.

Let’s assume that the Creator wants to give man a hundred kilograms of pleasure, but man is only capable of receiving twenty, and the other eighty kilograms cannot be accepted, because if he receives them, it’ll be only for his own pleasure and that would reawaken the shame.

When we visit someone’s house, we feel the same sensations. “I can take this, but I cannot take that. I don’t feel comfortable taking this, but I do feel comfortable taking that,” etc. It is an automatic behavioral response that occurs every time we cannot escape feeling like the receiver .

Man equalizes with the Creator to the extent that he can receive, in order to please the Creator. If, for example, I can receive twenty percent of the food from you, then it would be correct to say that in that twenty percent I have equalized with you.

In the spiritual world, equalizing with something means sensing it to the fullest - its spiritual state, its thoughts, and its sensitivities. In other words, man receives the delicacies at the king's table as much as he is equal to the King, the Creator.

The ladder of the spiritual world is built according to that very principle: man receives more and more for the pleasure of the Creator, thus rising on the ladder until he can receive the entire one hundred percent. At that point, he can give to the Creator one hundred percent, just as the Creator gives him one hundred percent. Both are interdependent, taking and giving one another pleasure.

That is called a Zivug De Hakaa (spiritual mating) of man and Maker. That state is also called “the end of correction.” This is the state that we should strive to achieve.

It is an astonishing situation. Even the smallest connection with the Creator opens before man unlimited possibilities to attain perfection second to none, compared to the things we know in our present condition.

There is a constant standoff between the host and the guest, because the host wants the guest to receive the full one hundred percent, whereas the guest feels that he must overcome a dreadful feeling of shame stemming from the very presence of the host. This makes it impossible for the guest to enjoy the delights that the host had prepared for him.

This situation also exists in our world. The more spiritually evolved one is, the greater is the shame one feels, to the point that one might be willing to die if only to avoid the sensation of self-degradation.

Most of the time, we are afraid of contacting the Creator. The entire method of preparing man using Kabbalah is based on building that contact with the Creator, as well as man’s expectation that the contact will be pleasurable.

Q: We talked about feeling the greatness of the Creator. What is the meaning of the presence of the host for you, if you’re the visitor?

A: I feel him as the giver in every course, in every bite I take. What, for example, has changed in the salad, if the host is or is not next to you? The only thing that has changed is its inner content. The salad becomes more than a source of pleasure; it becomes a vessel by which I can make spiritual contact with something higher than myself.

Then, the nature, the will to receive all the delights becomes a means to attain something completely different, and a person sets sail into the spiritual sphere.

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