Our sense of hearing is called “faith,” because if we wish to accept what we hear as true, we must believe what we have heard. Eyesight is called “knowledge,” for we do not have to take anything on trust, but can see for ourselves. However, until we have received altruistic qualities from Above, we are unable to see, since whatever we see, we perceive with our egoistic senses.
This makes it all the more difficult for us to break away from egoism. Therefore, at first we must walk blindly, while conquering what our egos tell us to do. Then, having acquired faith, we will start acquiring higher knowledge.
In order to replace our egoism with altruism, and our reason with faith, we must truly appreciate the greatness and grandeur of the spiritual, as compared to our pitiful, material, temporary existence. We must realize how insignificant it is to serve ourselves compared to serving the Creator.
We must also see how much more beneficial and enjoyable it is to please the Creator than to please our insignificant egos (our bodies). The ego, in fact, can never be satisfied and can show appreciation only by awarding us fleeting pleasure.
When we compare the human body to the Creator, we must decide for whose sake we should work, whose slave we should become. There is no other alternative. The more we understand our own insignificance, the easier it will be for us to choose the Creator.
There are four aspects of a desire to receive: inanimate, organic, animate and speaking.
The aspect of inanimate nature represents completeness. The sense of perfection originates in the surrounding Light coming from afar, and this distant Light shines on those of our world, even though the qualities of this world are opposite to those of the Creator.
In the same way, one who is spiritually inanimate maintains one’s existence as is. This individual has the same desires as others who are similar. This person is incapable and unwilling to make any spiritual effort of his own.
Just as the organic world is built upon the foundation of inanimate nature, the spiritual world also requires a prior inanimate base. A person has no other choice but to begin with the inanimate level.
However, those who wish to ascend from the spiritually inanimate level must find a new reason to replace what previously motivated them to commit their actions: force of habit, upbringing, and environment.
A person who wants to grow further, to come alive spiritually, to make spiritual strides independently, refuses to blindly follow others, but moves forward irrespective of the opinion of others, or the habits or education of society.
This decision to stop performing mechanical acts gives rise to the root of a new,organic spiritual state. Just as a seed must first decompose in the soil in order to grow, so, too, must a person cease to feel any spiritual life among the inanimate masses. Instead, an inanimate life should be perceived as death. This sensation will in itself constitute a prayer for change.
In order to become organic and capable of individual spiritual growth, we must perform several kinds of work on ourselves, starting with “tilling” the inanimate soil. Spiritual progress can be made only by counteracting our desires for self-gratification.
Therefore, if we aspire to advance toward the Creator, we must regularly check our own desires and decide which pleasures we can accept. Since the Creator wishes to please His creations, we must accept certain pleasures.
However, we must exclude all pleasures that are not for the sake of the Creator. In the language of Kabbalah, this can be described in the following way: Our willpower, a screen located in the mind (peh de rosh), calculates the amount of pleasure that we can experience in order to bring joy to the Creator, and in accordance with our exact amount of love for Him. We can experience precisely this amount. However, any other amount of pleasure we experience that is not meant for the sake of the Creator is not out of fear of upsetting the Creator.
Thus, our actions should be determined by our desire to please the Creator, rather than by our desire to advance closer to Him, or out of fear of being distanced from Him. The latter two are considered to be egoistic aspirations, as compared to selfless unconditional love.
The desire to please the Creator or the fear of upsetting Him represent altruistic yearnings. We experience strong emotions such as joy, grief, pleasure and fear with our whole bodies, rather than with some part of them. If we wish to check our desires, we must determine if every part of our bodies agrees with our thoughts.
For example, when praying, we must make sure that all of our thoughts, desires, and body organs are in agreement with what we are saying. We must also be aware of whether we are simply uttering words automatically, without paying attention to their meaning.
A “mechanical reading” occurs when we wish to avoid the discomfort from a conflict between our bodies and the meaning of prayer. It can also arise from a lack of understanding of how prayer can be of benefit when derived from mechanically uttered pleas from the prayer book.
It is worthwhile to ask our hearts what they want to pray for.
A prayer is not what our lips say mechanically, but what the whole body and reason desire.
Thus it is said that “a prayer is the work of the heart,” meaning that the heart is in absolute agreement with what the lips are saying.
Only if we work with the entire body will we receive a response from it, signifying that not a single organ desires to rid itself of egoism or to ask the Creator for help in this endeavor. Only then will we be able to direct a sincere prayer to the Creator, asking for redemption from our spiritual exile.
We must strive to make the reason for an act correspond to the actual mechanical act of carrying out the Creator’s Will. Just as the body acts as a robot, carrying out the Creator’s Will without understanding the reason for it, or without seeing any immediate benefit from it, so must the reason for observing His Will be “because such is the Will of the Creator.”
There is an easy way to check the motivation behind an individual’s act. If it is “for the sake of the Creator,” then a person’s body is incapable of making even the slightest movement. Yet, if it is for one’s own benefit in this or the world to come, then the more one thinks of one’s reward, the more energy is expended for taking action.
All the above makes it clear that it is our motivation (kavana) that determines the quality of our acts. An increase in the number of our acts does not necessarily improve their quality. All that happens occurs under the influence of upper spiritual forces. And we, down here in our world, have been observing the cause-and-effect relationship of spiritual forces for centuries.
A person who can see the consequences of events in advance, and therefore predict and avert undesirable consequences, is called a “Kabbalist.” Our world is the world of consequential manifestations of the spiritual forces, whereas the actual arena of interaction between these forces is situated above and beyond our perceptions.
Only a Kabbalist has the ability to foresee events before they manifest themselves in this world, and possibly even prevent their manifestation.
However, since all these events are sent in order to allow us to correct ourselves, and since we need this correction in order to reach the ultimate goal of creation, no one can help us in this endeavor but ourselves.
The Creator does not send us suffering, but rather sends the means we need to accelerate our spiritual progress. A Kabbalist is not a wizard who performs miracles, but is one whose mission is to help people in general, to assist us in elevating our consciousness to the level necessary to initiate the process of self-correction.
Finally, the Kabbalist is there to help people individually if they desire it.
We have no power whatsoever over our hearts, no matter how strong or intelligent or capable we might be. Therefore, all we can do is mechanically perform good deeds and implore the Creator to replace our hearts with new ones. (The word “heart” usually denotes all of our desires).
All that is required of us as individuals is to have one great desire, rather than numerous desires. The desire that an individual perceives in the heart is a prayer. Thus, a great, wholehearted desire leaves no room for any others.
We can create this great desire in our hearts only by persistent, continuous efforts. In the process, we must overcome numerous obstacles. We must proceed even though we clearly realize that we are far from our goal, and that our study of the Kabbalah is for our personal benefit and not for the sake of the Creator.
The obstacles to be overcome include: the body’s arguments that it is weak; the conflict between spiritual and egoistic efforts; the belief that, when the time is right, the Creator will bring the desired result, just as He brought a person to this particular state, and the theory that one must test one’s achievements, as should all work be tested.
They also include the belief that things have worsened since study of the Kabbalah began; the belief that others’ studies are going more successfully than one’s own and thus ad infinitum—complaints, reproaches, accusations, coming both from one’s own body and from one’s family.
Only by overcoming these difficulties will a person develop a true desire for spirituality. There is but one way we can overcome these obstacles: by “knocking out” egoism as the Kabbalah prescribes.
We can either ignore the ego’s demands, or reply: “I am going ahead without any explanations or tests, for those could only be based on egoism, which I must leave behind. And since I do not yet have any other senses, I cannot listen to you, but only to those great sages who have already entered the higher worlds and know how a person should act. And if my heart is becoming even more selfish, it means that I have made progress and thus deserve to have a little more of my true egoism revealed to me from heaven.”
In response, the Creator will reveal Himself to us, so that we will feel His greatness and will involuntarily become His slave. At that point, we will no longer experience any temptations of the body. This process signifies the replacement of the “stone” heart, which is aware only of itself, with a “flesh” one that is aware of others.