In Kabbalah, Adam (from the Bible) has a “surname”: ha Rishon (the First). This doesn’t mean that he was the first man on Earth, or that he was the first human male to be a ‘man.’ Adam ha Rishon (The First Man) means that he was the first person in whom the desire to discover life’s purpose appeared. Adam discovered that life’s purpose is to become similar to the Creator -- the altruistic force that creates all life -- and he achieved this goal. In fact, his name testifies to the fact that he achieved it because the name Adam comes from the Hebrew words, Adameh LaElyon, “I will be like the Most High” (Isaiah 14:14). In other words, Adam was the first person in the history of humankind to consciously perceive the Creator, or as Kabbalists put it, to attain Him.
Today, the question of the purpose of our lives is awakening in growing numbers of people. Their inability to find the answer to this question brings many people to despair, disappointment, divorce, and even suicide.
If Adam were alive today, he wouldn’t be alone in his quest. Today, there is a surge of people asking the same question Adam asked himself nearly 6,000 years ago. Moreover, the increase in depression cases, suicides, and violence (domestic, racial, and international) are largely attributed to our inability to answer the one question: “What is the meaning of my life?”
In that regard, Kabbalist Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag writes in one of his most important compositions, The Study of the Ten Sefirot, that his book is intended for any person who is asking, “What is the meaning of my life?” Ashlag explains that the only reason the wisdom of Kabbalah appeared in this world was to help us answer this one question.
A Light That Reforms
In the introduction to The Study of the Ten Sefirot, Rabbi Ashlag asked why Kabbalists stated that every person must study Kabbalah. He answers was that anyone who reads the books of Kabbalah, even without understanding them, draws a Light from above that shines in one’s soul. This Upper Light is really a different name for the force that created all our souls, the which will eventually correct us and fill us with pleasure.
When the Light first “touches” the soul, it evokes a sensation of wanting to correct “my evil desires.” This is why this Light is called “the Light that reforms.” But in the beginning, we don’t really know what is evil about our desires. As we continue to study, the Light “shows” us that there is nothing wrong with our desires in and of themselves. The only thing that’s wrong with us is that the Creator is an altruistic force that creates life, and we are not. And since life’s purpose is to become similar to the Creator, we feel dissatisfied when we are different from Him.
This is when the next function of the Light comes into play: Once we’ve learned that we are different from Him, and begin to want correction, the Light “grants” our wish and begins to correct us. In other words, the Light teaches us not only who we are, but also who the Creator is, and how we can become more like Him.
To Understand Means to Feel
When we study Kabbalah, we must become completely detached from everything we have known so far. We should be open to a whole new set of concepts because this is the only way we will be able to walk on the path Kabbalists have prepared for us. For example, Kabbalists often add a little suffix to their sentences: “and understand that well.” When they write that we should understand something, they don’t mean that we should understand it with our intellect. They mean that we should experience and feel the reality they are describing, live it.
The Benefit of Studying Kabbalah
But Kabbalists said that the study shouldn’t be restricted only to those who are asking about the meaning of their lives and those who want correction. On the contrary, they opened it to everyone. They explain that whatever your desire maybe, the Upper Light shines on anyone who is reading a Kabbalistic text. Even if a desire for spirituality has not awakened in you, as you read, the Light shines and subconsciously moves you closer to the Creator.
If our goal in life is to become like the Creator, and becoming like the Creator is what Kabbalah teaches, studying Kabbalah will “fast-forward” us toward this end, and hence spare us hardships. In fact, simply studying the material makes dilemmas and problems dissipate before they even surface in our awareness. At the end of the day, every dilemma is about life’s purpose. So when we work directly toward this end, all other problems simply vanish.
The Books (and Other Good Stuff)
Now here’s a free tip: in our generation, the books that draw the greatest “Light that reforms” are the books of Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag. His books, which interpret the writings of these giant Kabbalists, can help us study Kabbalah in a way that draws the most powerful Lights to us. Because Ashlag keeps us focused and aware, his books help our generation avoid suffering and achieve tranquility and peace.
Thanks to modern technology, the study of Kabbalah can take place at any time and any place. If you can’t read a book, download a video and watch it in the comfort of your home, or read a column on UPI.com. In English, the material is available at www.kabbalah.info and it’s all free. So have fun, and may the Force be with you.