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Humankind vs. Human Kindness

'Man's heart is evil from his youth' (Genesis 8:21). Kabbalists explain that evil means egoism. So if egoism is bad, why did the Creator make us egoistic?

 

In the 1930s, Kabbalist Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag (Baal HaSulam) published a series of articles concerning the state of the people of Israel and the state of the world. In these articles, he outlined the principles by which he believed society could succeed. This short article is based primarily on his writings and those of his son and successor, Rabbi Baruch Ashlag.
    
The basis of human nature is egoism. This is hardly a secret. In fact, the Bible acknowledges this condition almost at the very beginning - "man's heart is evil from his youth" (Genesis 8:21) - and Kabbalists explain that the evil inclination is our egoism. The question this brings to mind is: "If egoism is so bad, why did the Creator place it in us and make us evil from our youth?"
    
Practically every religion and every teaching tackles the challenge of egoism. Religions in general tell us to suppress it, and Eastern philosophies tell us that we need to diminish it. In the words of the famous Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu, "Manifest plainness; embrace simplicity; reduce selfishness; have few desires" (The Way of Lao-tzu).
    
These modes of coping with the human inclination toward egoism worked well for many years. But today, our egoism is soaring to unprecedented levels, and for many people, the familiar ways of coping with it just don't seem to work.
    
This would not be such a problem if only a few were affected by it. But when it occurs in great numbers and in many countries simultaneously, we have a global challenge. In such a state, we need a different mode of thinking, one that acknowledges the fact that we cannot defeat our egoism because it is our very nature. Therefore, we need to find a way to use it to our benefit, rather than abolish it.
    
In his article "Peace in the World," Baal HaSulam uses the section "Using the Nature of Singularity as a Subject of Evolution in the Collective and in the Individual" to introduce a solution he believes will work. His method is really quite simple and very practical - he suggests that since we are already individualists, we should not try to change this, but instead use our personal skills and abilities for the common good.
    
In other words, he says we cannot and should not change our individualistic nature. Instead, we should use our personal skills, develop them to the maximum, and work with them in a way that benefits the whole of society. If we use our desires to contribute to society, and everyone else uses their skills to contribute to each other, Earth very quickly will become nothing less than Paradise.
    
At the moment, explains Baal HaSulam, we are using our skills for two purposes: to develop ourselves and to hinder the development of others. This may not be easy to detect on a personal level because we are naturally reluctant to examine ourselves objectively, but we can see it happening among nations, as well as among rival ethnic groups within nations. The result is that we are spending huge amounts of time, energy and money just to undo what others are doing to us.
    
Imagine the kinds of achievements we could attain if, instead, we only used these resources to further our own development. Even better, imagine if every person now using their resources to hinder others' progress used them to help each other and promote others' development in every way possible.
    
Negative concepts that are so common in today's international, financial and, alas, personal relationships would simply cease to exist. They would become redundant. Suspicion, concealment of information and mistrust would all vanish, and we would turn our energy to productive avenues. We would feel that we want to contribute to everyone, and everyone would feel that they wanted to contribute to each other. In that state, the whole of humanity would be one.

 

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