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"Kabbalah Revealed" Episode 13: Defining the Goal


Kabbalists define the goal of studying Kabbalah as the goal of why we were created: to reach equivalence of form with the Creator. All the work in Kabbalah is aimed only at this goal, and in this lecture Anthony Kosinec illuminates some aspects of this work.


Kabbalah Revealed #13
Defining the Goal

Lecture presented for the American television channel, Shalom TV
Anthony Kosinec

•    Bold and indented: Original text of Baal HaSulam
•    Regular: Commentaries of Tony Kosinec
•    lowercase italics: emphasized words
•    Capitalized Italics: transliteration from Hebrew

Hello again and welcome to Kabbalah Revealed. I’m Tony Kosinec.

Over the past twelve weeks, we have been looking at important concepts in Kabbalah. We haven’t covered all of them, but it’s time now to take what we have been looking at, and to focus on what the goal really is, figure out what the target it.

You see, in coming to study Kabbalah, the first part of the process is about defining the goal, eliminating things that are of no use to us, defining those things that we can use, and then, how to use it. And really, the whole process even after that is a refinement of keeping the aim on the target.

Last week we talked structurally about prayer, what prayer consists of. Now, let’s look at what prayer is from a feeling state, the inner part, what a person experiences.

Let’s define the target now in the work of Kabbalah by taking a look at what it is that we are actually asked to do to change in our inner state in order to reach what we call, “equivalence of form with the Creator,” and what does it mean to go “above reason” in the work? We have seen that in various articles. What does it mean to build a second nature, above the nature that we were given by the Creator? To go in the work by opposing the dictates of our lower nature, that control everything that we do.

We are going to investigate this by looking at the article, Lishma, by Baal HaSulam. Lishma means “For Her Sake, For her Names sake.” Lishma means the state that we need to reach in order to attain equivalence of form with the Creator.

He begins:

In order for a person to obtain Lishma, one needs an awakening from Above, because that is an illumination from Above, and it is not for the human mind to understand. But he that tastes knows. It is said about that, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.”

In the first place, this thing that we have to attain is not within our nature, and our nature is defined as “the will to receive for myself alone.” That is, no matter what action it is that we find ourselves taking, no matter how it appears in this world, no matter how altruistic its outward quality is as an action; we’re still doing it based only on the parameters of our nature.

That the nature of Lishma requires awakening from Above, means that because it’s not in our nature, it is something that we have to obtain outside of it. And there is no way for us to truly understand what this is within our nature. That is, we can’t really use our mind, what we call our reason in order to proceed in this process. We don’t disregard the normal things that our mind tells us, but it’s purpose in spiritual ascent is completely different from its purpose in our day to day lives, at getting the things that have to do with our survival and the happiness of our lower level, which is our animal.

It won’t be by means of our mind that we are going to proceed here. The only way that we can proceed is as he says, “Taste and see that the Lord is Good.” That it is going to have to be something not in the mind, but something yet tangible to us—how we experience things, what the overall feeling is, what the greater experience within us actually is.

He continues:

Because of that, upon accepting the burden of the kingdom of heaven one needs for it to be in utter completeness, meaning only to bestow and not at all to receive.

Very, very important.

When a person determines that they are going to begin this work of a direct contact with the Creator, a very clear line needs to be drawn as to what it is that we are trying to achieve. This state of Lishma is not sometimes to give and sometimes to take. It has to be a complete grasp, you must enter the state totally. So the desire for it also has to be complete. When a person decides to do this, they aim at not fooling themselves; they aim at looking very carefully what their actual responses are to things.

He continues:

And if a person sees that his organs do not agree with that idea, he has no other counsel except for prayer, to pour his heart to the Lord to help him make his body consent to enslaving itself to the Creator.

Don’t get put off by the word “enslaved.” Baal HaSulam is writing all the time about how it feels within our experience. So from the will to receive, the idea that we would move to a state where our inner intentions would only be in order to receive in order to bestow, that is, not for myself, at the beginning of the path this feels like, “Ahh, Ahh,” you know, this is enslavement or I will disappear or so on, but you must keep in mind that we are not talking ever about trying to control the normal desires of our animal level.

These things we don’t have to deal with. It will confuse you to start thinking that way. All of those things that you need for your survival, for your daily life, for your family, the simple pleasures of your existence, these things don’t have to change. We are not speaking about taking a special diet or making external actions or “don’t do this and do this...”

We cannot control about what is placed before us that compels us to have to act, even our own desires. The question is not “What am I doing?” the question is “Why am I doing it?

If we can’t depend either on the circumstances or our own intelligence, it is clear that the whole purpose of these things happening for us is simply so that we should realize that we require Light from Above, that this awakening from Above can only come as a result of the fact that we decided to make a whole attempt at something that in the end must be whole. That is Lishma is not partial and neither is the desire to reach it partial. So, this way of progressing means that out of a person’s own set of desires, his own longing to reach this, he must reach a place of wholeness within himself towards it.

If the only thing that he wants is this, and if he realizes that the capacity to do it is not within himself but only Above, he must rely on the Upper Force to change him. This is what we call “drawing” the Light, or Ohr Makif (the Surrounding Light) drawn by effort. But what is the effort?

And do not say that if Lishma is a gift from Above, then what good is one’s surmounting and efforts and all the remedies and corrections that one performs in order to come to Lishma, if it depends on the Lord? Our sages said with that regard, “You are not free to rid yourself of it.” Rather, one must offer the awakening from below, and that is the prayer. There cannot be a genuine prayer, if he does not know in advance that without prayer it cannot be attained.

Everything that comes to a person as a result of this is the ladder; it is what needs to be surmounted, and unless there is this attempt to surmount it, regardless of the fact that everything is in the Creator’s hands, there is no place for the Creator to give the gift. So this desire for this is really prayer.

What does it feel like to have that desire? If a person attempts it, they try to look at their actual intention when they are doing something, when they are receiving a pleasure, when they think about another person and they do some kind of act for it, if they are honest, they will look into that intention deeply and they will begin to see where they are unlike it. The feeling that there is more, that I’m unlike this quality that I want to reach, feels both as an aspiration and as a disappointment. Remember, we can’t proceed in this without a need.

How do we sense needs? We feel that there’s something lacking, right? You may not even know what it is, but in the case of a Kabbalist, and somebody on the path, no matter what it is that’s occurring, we know what it is. The only thing that it can be is that I lack the pleasure that I actually seek here, which is the direct contact with the Creator.

A prayer feels like a lack, a loss, a need, an emptiness. And it’s not something that comes from within our reason—“Well if I do this, then I’ll get this; I hope God didn’t here me say that.” Either the feeling is there, either the need exists within us or it doesn’t; and that is the awakening from below. That is also the Kli; that is the preparation for the entry of the Light.

Therefore the acts and the remedies that he performs in order to obtain Lishma, create the corrected vessels to want to receive the Lishma. Then, after all the deeds and the remedies, can he pray in earnest, because he has seen that all his deeds brought him no benefit. Only then can he pray an honest prayer from the bottom of his heart, and the Creator hears his prayer and gives him the gift of Lishma.

We should also know, that by attaining Lishma, one puts the evil inclination to death, because the evil inclination is called receiving for himself, whereas by attaining the aim to bestow, one cancels the thought of his own good. And the death of the evil inclination means that one no longer uses one’s vessels of reception for himself, and since they are no longer operative, they are considered dead.

We must know first that we don’t want to feel this at all. That is what he means by “it is put to death.” And the process is that slowly, as these comparisons are done between what we really feel, at a proper unchanging target, like a fixed goal that we have, that the sensation within the Kli, within the person’s sensation, actually changes. And the desire to receive, in order to feel some kind of personal satisfaction, it wanes, it changes; slowly it goes through a transformation as long as it is by a process of real prayer and real need.

It is as the Magid (Sayer) from Dubna says regarding the verse, “Though has not called upon me oh Jacob, neither has thou worried thyself about me oh Israel.” Meaning that he who works for the Creator has no effort. On the contrary, one is content and high-spirited.

But he who does not work for the Creator, but for other purposes, cannot complain to the Creator for not giving him livelihood in the work, since he worked for another cause. One can only complain to the one he works for, and demand of him to give him vitality and pleasure in the work. It is said about such people: “Anyone that trusts them, shall be like them that maketh them.” [He is speaking here about idols].

The work that has to be done, needs to be done only for this goal of Lishma, for the reaching of complete intention of bestowal. If the work is done for any other reason, then you can’t complain to the Upper Force that It is not answering your prayer, that there should be some kind of a fulfillment.

Also, it is only work here in our lower nature for which we require some kind of payment or personal fulfillment. The work done for Lishma in reaching a sensation—imagine it— reaching a sensation of experiencing everything for the benefit of others, without a thought for oneself. This is in our intention. What possible payment could anybody ask except the fulfillment of reaching that desire? Because there, all boundaries disappear, all suffering ends, not just for me, that is, not just for the person on the path, but for everybody around them. One hundred percent effort, external, internal, is being put into the well-being of all life. And so the payment for on the path of Lishma, even though we find ourselves differing from this quality and maybe feeling a kind of an emptiness or suffering at the moment that we realize, “Oh no, I’m still not at my goal; I still haven’t reached that place.” It’s payment, it’s excitement, it’s “high spirits” as he says, because you know you are on the adventure, you are on the path, you are on the hunt to hit that bullseye.

Do not be surprised that when one takes upon oneself the burden of the Kingdom of Heaven, meaning when he wants to work only to bestow to the Creator, that he still feels no vitality at all. This vitality would compel one to accept the burden of the Kingdom of Heaven, and one should accept it coercively, against his better judgment.

Meaning, even if you are on the path, what should happen is that your sensation of being fulfilled by anything other than that, it just wanes. A person proceeds “against their better judgement.” This is what is meant by “above reason in the work.” If you listen to the ground rules of the will to receive, your body basically, it will say, “What are you doing this for? This doesn’t make any sense; you are just screwing everything up here for me.”
This is always the argument. And a person will always see and here everything around them working against it, but this is in order for us to be able to—he says, “accept (the work) coercively.” He means, do not listen to what the will to receive says, but understand that this doubt that comes before us from the will to receive actually enables us to make this choice by free will. I’m not being controlled either by my lower nature, nor is the Upper Force saying, “I’m going to make this easy for you and just pull you like this and you are going to feel wonderful, and a payment.”  No. Now you are in a place where free will really exists. You are neither controlled by your lower nature, nor by the Creator; you are working in what is called a “middle line.” That is, it is up to you and your own intention, an individual uncoerced intention to become like the Creator. And this is the only way—when this exists as a matter of free will within the person—to choose that path, where there is no payment either way—this is the real achievement. This is the trick. And this is the reason why all of this is hidden from us because it is so completely opposite to our normal way of functioning through the control of our will to receive.

Meaning, the body should not agree to this enslavement, for why does the Creator not shower him with vitality and delight?

In fact, this is a great correction. If it were not for that, and the will to receive would have agreed to this work one would never have been able to attain Lishma. Rather, he would always work for his own good, to satisfy his own desires. It is as people say, that the thief himself cries, “Catch the thief,” and then you cannot tell which is the real thief in order to catch him and reclaim the theft.

If things function the way that they do here and we receive some kind of an egoistic fulfillment from this work, we would become slaves. This is where the real enslavement would occur. We would become machines and we would never be able to go beyond that, to reach any point of freedom whatsoever.

But when the thief, meaning the will to receive, does not find the work of accepting the burden of the Kingdom of Heaven tasteful, since the body accustoms itself to work against its own desire, one has the means by which to come to work only in order to bring contentment to one’s Maker.

To work against our nature, it means to get a sensation of what is required for us on our next level. When we feel a difficulty, usually in the form of a doubt or a temptation, not of doing a certain kind of action—Kabbalists don’t deal with the physical level of actions—but when the temptation is to believe that my life would be better if I simply pursue this for myself, that I see the people around me successful who pursue this, when the doubt comes to say that it should be this other way.

Working against nature means not to use that level of reason. Recognize it. It is the only thing that the animate level within the person can say. What do you expect it to be? It can’t be anything other than that.

The speaking level, the higher level, the one that a person is attempting to give birth to, from this point in the heart that you felt at the beginning of this path, that is like a spiritual embryo, now is going to become a person. If that is going to happen, then the reason, the thinking, the logic behind how you will proceed, has to be the logic of the Creator. It’s an opposite logic. So we can immediately sense what the next thing is that has to occur for us by the doubt that comes up. It’s like a radar system that immediately shows us precisely the thing that has to be worked on. And then it is impossible to proceed except by faith here. This is what is meant by faith. Not a belief, not like, “Well some wise guy told me that this is the way that it should be so what the heck, I’ll do it and everything will be okay.” No. It must be that the desire to feel the Upper mind, means that I will not allow myself to be guided by my desire to receive for myself either spiritually or corporeally, that I will make the effort anyway, I’ll do it as an experiment and I will see what the results are. I will put that effort in.

What will the effort give me? The effort will give me a need—a big reward. It’s a huge reward actually. The need will be a need specifically for what it is that I couldn’t achieve. It will raise the person above the doubt. It will create not a physical vessel, but now a spiritual vessel that exists above the will to receive. A second nature begins to be built there. That is, desires not for this physical level which were already perfected, done. “We don’t have to deal with that. The Creator did that.” But here we begin to build and grow “a man”: a spiritual creature that is made up of a desire—because that is what a creature is, it is just a desire—but it is a specific desire only for the Creator’s mind, towards everything else, towards what now begins to be below the person. These are real sensations. This is something that a person actually feels—an attainment, an enlightenment, a spiritual ascent in which reality appears very differently to that person.

One’s intention should be only for the Lord, as it says, “Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord.” Thus, when first he served the Lord he did not sense any pleasure in the work. Rather it was done by coercion. Now that one has accustomed oneself to work in order to bestow, one merits delighting in the Lord. The work itself renders one with pleasure and vitality, and this is considered that the pleasure is aimed at the Creator.

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