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Michael Laitman, PhD

Where’s the “I”?

Q: It is said that in the beginning of every act I should say: “If I’m not for me, who is for me?” and at the end I should say: “There is none else beside Him.” How do I relate to emotions during the act, and where am I in my decisions?

A: Exactly because we still lack the sensation of the sameness between our “self” and the Creator, we should artificially awaken a situation where we are, so to speak, completely cleaved to the Creator, as though there is no difference between us and the Creator.

Then there cannot be the question, “Who is the performer, me or the Creator?” By awakening the state of adhesion and with our power of will and yearning for the Creator, we will begin to, over time, actually feel that state.

But that does not conclude our work. Progress is possible only through contradictions. Therefore, during the act and before it, we should ignore the existence of the Creator and force ourselves to act, not in false pretense, but as though the Creator is really gone.

These exercises are necessary because suddenly, in that phase, we begin to “believe in the Creator,” “to be righteous,” although we cannot actually feel the Creator.

Q: Why does man prefer to believe, rather than to act directly and realistically?

A: It is because the evil forces, the shells (our corrupted desires) that are not cleaved to the Creator intentionally stop us from acting. This makes it possible for us to try to correct these thoughts and desires.

You might say that all these obstacles originate in the Creator: in the beginning, He sends us thoughts that He exists. It is His obstacles that prevent us from acting. At the end, He sends us thoughts that He does not exist, and those, too, are obstacles that we must overcome.

All these obstacles regarding the presence or absence of the Creator exist solely to give us a chance to make an effort. That effort corrects our thoughts and our intentions.

Ultimately, man sticks with the thoughts of the Creator. He does not follow the thoughts of the Creator, but rather cleaves to them, meaning that man’s thoughts and the Creator’s become identical.

Baal HaSulam once wrote about it in a letter:

“I have already said on behalf of the Baal Shem Tov, that before a Mitzva is performed one mustn’t think of private providence, but on the contrary, one should say,” If I’m not for me, then who is for me?”

But when the act is done, he must believe that it is not by the might of my hand that I deed that Mitzva, but only through the grace of God, who planned it for me in advance, and I was compelled to obey.

So it is with matters of this world, because spirituality and worldliness are alike. Therefore, before a man goes out to the market to earn his daily bread, he should remove his thoughts from Providence and say: “If I’m not for me, who is for me?” and do everything other people do in order to make their daily living.

But at night, when he comes home with his pay in his hand, God forbid that he should think that because of his ingenuity he made that profit. Even if he had been lying in the basement the entire day, he would still have made that same amount, because that is what the Creator had in mind for him and that is the way it must be.

And although these ideas seem to contradict one another and are unacceptable, still man must believe them, because that is what the Lord had stated about him.

And that is the secret of the unification of HaVaYaH Elokim. HaVaYaH is private Providence, where God is everything and needs not the help of dwellers of clay houses. “Elokim,” in Hebrew numerology equals “nature,” where man behaves according to the nature that He had imprinted in the corporeal heaven and earth.

When man keeps their laws as all other animals, but along with that believes in HaVaYaH, that is in Private Providence. By that he is found to be uniting the two in one, and thus brings great contentment to his Maker and illumination in all the worlds.”

Now we can understand the three aspects: Mitzva, sin and choice. The Mitzva is the place of holiness, the sin - the place of the evil side, and the choice, which is neither Mitzva nor sin is what holiness and the evil side fight over.

When man makes choices that do not fall into holiness, he makes that whole place fall in the hands of the evil side. And when he gets stronger and performs unifications with holiness, he makes the area of the choice a holy place again.

I have interpreted the words of our sages - “the healer has been given permission to heal” - according to that, meaning even though the healing is undoubtedly in the hands of the Lord and no human counsel shall move Himfrom his place, still the holy Torah tells us that He “shall cause him to be thoroughly healed (Exodus 21, 19)”, meaning to tell you that it is a choice, the place of battle between holiness and sin.

So we find that we are obliged to take over that choice and turn it over to holiness. And how is it taken over? When we go to see a doctor, and the doctor gives us a remedy that has been tested a thousand times, and when the medicine works and we are cured, we must still believe that without that doctor the Lord would still heal us, because the length of our lives has been predetermined, and instead of praising the human doctor, we should praise and thank the Lord. By doing that we take over the choice under the authority of holiness.

Other matters of choice fall into that category, too, which is how the boundaries of holiness are expanded, until we suddenly see our full stature and we are all in the holy palace.

I have explained that matter to you several times before, because that issue is an obstacle to many people who have no clear concept of private Providence. They want to trust instead of work, and furthermore, they want to eradicate the questions from their faith and receive signs and omens above nature, and for that they are heavily punished.

That is because since the sin of the first man, the Lord has presented a correction for that sin by uniting HaVaYaH and Elokim, as I have explained. That is the meaning of the words: “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread (Genesis 3, 19).”

It is natural that what one attains with great efforts, one finds hard to say that it is a gift from the Creator. Thus, there is room for one to make an effort to completely believe in Private Providence, and decide that even without these efforts, one would still achieve all that. By that that sin is sweetened.”

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