Rabbi Akiva

Rabbi Akiva lived in the first and second centuries CE; he was the most prominent sage of his time. He was a leading pedagogue, the foremost Kabbalist of his time, and participated in the writing of the essential spiritual texts of his time—the Mishnah and the Halacha. At the same time, he was the spiritual leader of the Bar-Kokheva revolt, and was the man who revealed to the world the law of love.

Until the age of forty, Rabbi Akiva was an illiterate shepherd who led an ordinary life. He never dreamed that one day all of this would change dramatically.


Until that turning point, Rabbi Akiva worked as the shepherd for Kalba Savua. Around age forty, he began to feel an uncontrollable urge to know the meaning of life and to discover the rules that govern it. At that time, he was romantically involved with Rachel, the daughter of Kalba Savua, one of the wealthiest and most respected men in Jerusalem at the time. The girl’s father was not happy with his daughter’s infatuation with a “simpleton.” But as the best stories go, love prevailed, and the lovers married against her father’s will.

According to the Talmud (a commentary on the Mishnah), it was Rachel who encouraged Rabbi Akiva to leave his home and go study Kabbalah from the greatest Kabbalists of the time. Her heart told her that only in this way would her husband find the answer to his questions. She made him swear he would not return before he has attained the laws of the Upper World. And thus, with his wife’s blessings, Rabbi Akiva’s spiritual path began.

Rabbi Akiva studied under three Kabbalists: Rabbi Elazar, Rabbi Yehoshua, and Nahum, Man of Gamzu. He climbed the rungs of the spiritual ladder degree by degree, and slowly surpassed his teachers, finally becoming the leading Kabbalist of his generation.

Once he had learned all he could from his mentors, Rabbi Akiva established his own seminary. Word of his wisdom spread quickly, and 24,000 students from all over the country came to learn from him.


Rabbi Akiva’s unique teaching methods established brotherly love among his students. The physical reality obeys the same law of love, the Creator, which governs the spiritual realms. Therefore, when a person operates according to the law of love, he or she is in balance with Nature and feels as whole and eternal as Nature. But when we act out of self-love instead of brotherly love, we suffer and feel unhappy.


Happiness or unhappiness don’t come to us from outside ourselves; they are a direct result of our similarity to Nature (the Creator). The Creator gives us nothing but good things because He is a force of love. But if we are opposite from Him, we cannot receive them. This is the cause of every pain and misfortune in the world.


Rabbi Akiva discovered that the law of Nature, the law of love, is constant and unchanging. He learned that when we change our attitude to others, we suddenly feel the whole of reality change, too. He recognized that egoistic relationships are the cause of every form of suffering in the world.

The ego, or as Kabbalists call it, “self-love,” locks us within the limited reality we sense, and doesn’t let us into the eternal, spiritual realm of life. The only way to experience the eternal is by changing our attitude toward others. Rabbi Akiva summarized his findings in his famous maxim, “Love thy friend as thyself; this is a great rule in the Torah (teaching).”


In the year 132 CE, under the leadership of Shimon Bar-Kokheva, the Kingdom of Judea rebelled against the Romans. It seemed as if they would be successful when the Romans were forced to retreat. In desperation, the Romans called for assistance, and when the fresh troops arrived, the balance of power shifted. The Romans destroyed everything on their path and conquered the Kingdom of Judea. Tens of thousands of Jews were killed, and those who were taken captive were sold to slavery.

Crushing Bar-Kokheva’s rebellion was the beginning of one of the most meaningful periods in the history of Kabbalah. The physical ruin of Judea was a manifestation of its people’s spiritual decline, and the clearest symbol of this waning was the building of the pagan city of Aelia Capitolina on the ruins of Jerusalem.

Kabbalists who continued to teach despite the ruin were tortured to death, and Rabbi Akiva would become one of these victims. He continued to teach and share Kabbalah wisdom until he, too, was seized by the Romans. They sent him off to Caesarea Prison, where he was brutally executed by the Roman commissioner.


In the past 5,000 years or so, humanity experienced several outbreaks of egoism. Each outbreak manifested in people wanting more than they did before, and each changed the course of history.

The first outbreak occurred in Babel, at the time of Abraham. The second was during Moses’ time, and the third was during Rabbi Akiva’s time. As a result of this last burst of egoism, the brotherly love among Rabbi Akiva’s students was overthrown by unfounded hatred. This led to the spiritual decline of his students, who were no longer able to perceive the spiritual world, but were limited to perceiving only this world.

After the students fell into unfounded hatred, they suffered another blow. They were struck by a plague, killing all but five of Rabbi Akiva’s 24,000 students. The remaining five survived because they had retained their sense of brotherly love. One of the five survivors of the plague was the man who was to continue Rabbi Akiva’s teaching and put it to writing. His name was Rabbi Shimon Bar-Yochai, who would later write The Book of Zohar.

Timeless Teachers of Kabbalah

Through the ages, many Kabbalists have written profound and beautiful books. But we would like to focus on four very special Kabbalists and their books. These men wrote their books specifically to help beginners become acquainted with Kabbalah. The exception is Rabbi Akiva, who did not leave a book as his contribution. Instead, he gifted us with such convincing concepts that they continue to influence us today.

Rabbi Akiva is the inspiration and the role model for all Kabbalists since his time—the first and second centuries CE. Following Rabbi Akiva came Rabbi Shimon Bar-Yochai (Rashbi), who gave us The Book of Zohar. Then, fourteen centuries later came Rabbi Isaac Luria (The Holy Ari), whose legacy is The Tree of Life; and last came Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag (Baal HaSulam), whose The Study of the Ten Sefirotis the one book without which a contemporary Kabbalah student cannot achieve spirituality.

These great Kabbalists adapted their texts to their generations. Hence, the language varies to suit their contemporaries’ levels of perception. But the message is always the same—Rabbi Akiva’s motto, “Love thy friend as thyself.” This message guides us back to Abraham’s message that only through unity and bonding will we defeat egoism, achieve the Creator, and find a life of physical and spiritual bliss.

Let us now explore the personal stories of these pillars of spirituality.

Attaining The Worlds Beyond – Nullifying Our Personal Interests

Prior to creation, the Creator alone existed. The process of creation begins when the Creator singles out a certain part of Himself in order to endow it, in the future, with certain different characteristics. By endowing this part with a sense of its own self, the Creator essentially “ejects” it from Himself.

This endowed part constitutes our “I.” The distance of the endowed part from the Creator is the disparity in characteristics between the Creator and this part; it is perceived as “concealment of the Creator.” Since this part cannot sense the Creator, there is a void between it and Him, generated by the part’s egoistic characteristics.

If the Creator wants to bring the separated part closer to Himself, then the dark void between the Creator and the part will bestow a sense of hopelessness on the part. If, on the other hand, the Creator does not want to draw the part closer to Himself, then the void is not felt at all. It is merely the distance between the part and the Creator that is not perceived. The Creator Himself is not sensed by the part, which, at most, can only imagine how it feels to perceive Him.

The dark void, which is perceived by the part, is experienced as our normal suffering, caused either by materialistic difficulties, or ailments, or family troubles.

However, just as the Creator built the surrounding environment of the part, He is also able to influence it.

How and for what purpose does He do this? To show us that, to save ourselves from suffering, we must rid ourselves of all egoism, the Creator brings us to a state of such unbearable misery through our environment, children, work, debts, illnesses, or family troubles, that life seems to become a burden beyond all endurance.

We perceive that this miserable condition comes about as a result of our ambitions and our attempts to attain things. Then, a singular desire awakens in us – the desire not to want anything. In other words, we no longer have any personal interests, since they bring us only suffering.

Consequently, we have no other choice but to beg the Creator to save us from egoism. This forces us to strive to overcome all of our problems, which brings us further suffering.

For this reason, Rabbi Ashlag writes in his “Introduction to Talmud Esser Sefirot” (Paragraph 2), “But if you listen with your heart to one very famous question, I am sure that all your doubts as to whether you should study the Kabbalah will vanish without a trace.”

This is so because this question, coming straight from one’s heart rather than from one’s intelligence or knowledge, is a question about many things: the meaning of our lives; the meaning of our suffering (which is many times greater than our pleasure); the difficulties of life, which often make death seem an easy deliverance. And finally, the fact that there is no end to the whirlpool of pain until we depart from this life, worn out and devastated.

Who benefits from this, or more precisely, whom do we benefit? What else should we expect from this life? Although each of us is subconsciously bothered by this question of the meaning of our lives, sometimes it hits us unexpectedly, driving us insane, rendering us incapable of doing anything, shattering our minds, plunging us into a dark chasm of hopelessness and reflecting back to us our own insignificance.

In response, we choose to go on drifting with the stream of life, without pondering the question too deeply. This is a question no one even wants to think about. Nonetheless, the question remains before us with all its strength and bitterness.

Occasionally, we blunder into it, and it pierces our minds and knocks us flat. We continue to trick ourselves by drifting unthinkingly through the stream of life, as before. But the Creator imparts such sensations to us so we will gradually realize that all our misfortunes, and all our anguish, arise from the fact that we have a personal, vested interest in the outcome of our actions.

It is our egoism, our nature and essence, that makes us act for the sake of “our own good.” And, since our desires are never fulfilled, we will continue to suffer.

However, if we were to nullify all our personal interests in everything, we would immediately break the chains of our bodies and would experience our world free of pain and distress.

The method to break free from the slavery of egoism can be found in Kabbalah.

The Creator purposely placed our world, with all its misery, between Himself and us. He did this to help us realize that we must get rid of egoism, since it is the cause of all our suffering. To remove suffering and to sense the Creator, the source of all pleasure, is only possible if we sincerely desire to rid ourselves of all egoism.

In the spiritual worlds, desires are tantamount to actions, since genuine and sincere desires immediately lead to performing them. In general, the Creator brings us to a firm and final resolution to rid ourselves of all personal interests in any situation in life.

He does this by making us suffer so greatly, we will have only one desire – to stop the suffering. This is possible only if we have absolutely no personal or selfish interest in the outcome of any daily matters that arise in our lives.

But where, then, is our free will? Where is the freedom of choice to decide which road to take, or what to choose in life? The Creator pushes us to choose a certain solution by placing us amidst such misery that death seems preferable to life.

Yet, He does not give us the necessary strength to end our miserable existence and thus escape the suffering. Rather, the Creator suddenly gives us a glimpse of the only solution, which comes like a ray of sunshine through heavy clouds.

The solution is not in death, nor is it in escaping from our lives. It is in freeing ourselves from having a personal interest in the outcome of the mundane. This is the only solution that can bring us peace and rest from unbearable suffering.

There is no freedom of choice in this process; we are forced into this in order to escape our suffering. Free will is when we attempt to advance further by fortifying ourselves, choosing to focus all our actions on the Creator alone. We have learned that living for our own sake brings nothing but suffering. The constant process of correcting ourselves and controlling our thoughts is called “the process of refining.”

The feelings of suffering caused by egoistic interests should be so acute that we should be prepared to “live on a bite of bread and a sip of water, and to sleep on the bare ground.” Thus, we should be prepared to do anything necessary to rid ourselves of egoism and personal interests.

Once we reach the condition described above and feel comfortable in it, we can enter the spiritual realm known as “The World to Come” (Olam HaBa). Thus, suffering can lead us to decide that renouncing egoism would be beneficial to us. As a result of our efforts, by constantly remembering past suffering, and by upholding and strengthening this resolution in our hearts, we can reach a state where the aim of all our actions would be to benefit the Creator.

As to ourselves, apart from bare necessities, we would be afraid even to think of personal benefit and pleasure, for fear of once again experiencing the unbearable suffering brought about by personal interest.

If we have managed to oust all selfish thoughts from our minds, even thoughts about the most essential things, we are said to have reached the final stage in forsaking our own needs.

In our normal lives, we have become used to not thinking at all about ourselves, our interpersonal relationships, our families, our work, in all of the deeds we perform in this world. Outwardly, we will appear no different from anyone else in our surroundings. But within our bodies, because habit becomes second nature, nothing will remain of our personal interests.

From this point on, we can pass to the next stage of our spiritual lives and can begin to enjoy pleasing the Creator. However, this delight is no longer for us, but only for the Creator, for we have “killed” all need for personal pleasure.

For this reason, the new pleasure is infinite in time and unfathomable in magnitude, for it is not limited by our personal needs. Only at this point can we see how kind and magnificent the Creator is, for having given us the opportunity to attain the extraordinary bliss of uniting with Him in eternal love.

Attaining The Worlds Beyond – Counteracting the Desire for Self-Gratification

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.

Attaining The Worlds Beyond- Revelation and Concealment

There is nothing else in the world except the Light (the Creator) and that which was created by the Light (the person, who remains inside this Light). A person can perceive this Light when there is a correspondence between the qualities of the human being and those of the Creator. If the qualities do not correspond, then the person will be unable to perceive the Light – the Creator.

At first, we are placed in the conditions of an explicit and complete domain of egoism, known as “our world.” Only by means of our own efforts can we gradually bring up and cultivate within ourselves such a desire and necessity to perceive the Creator (create a vessel for the Light of the Creator) that we will begin to perceive Him.

Our efforts should focus on an attempt to correct ourselves with all the strength we possess until it is obvious that all efforts to attain the desired goal will be futile. Then, it is time to turn to the Creator with a prayer, asking for help in finding redemption from egoism and in uniting with Him.

This process can take months, and even years, if we undertake this effort under the guidance of a teacher-Kabbalist; or it can take several lives or reincarnations (gilgulim), if such efforts are undertaken on our own, by way of suffering.

Only the right efforts in the correct direction will produce the vessel of the soul, within which the Creator will reveal Himself to us. In Kabbalah, the reasons behind our actions are known as “the fathers,” whereas the consequences of actions are known as “the sons” (the correct spiritual acts).

One is not born because of one’sown will. Spiritually, one is forced to be born (to receive a soul – the Light of the Creator) by the Creator through suffering. But one has the capacity to be born independently by means of the Kabbalah.

One does not live because of one’s own will. If one does not act (live) in accordance with one’s egoistic will, then a true eternal spiritual existence will be the reward, which can actually be called “life.”

One does not die because ofone’s will. If one does not want to die (spiritually) or to be in the state of spiritual death (without the soul; without the Light of the Creator) then one should not act in accordance with one’s own will.

The work in the middle line of the soul begins with the work in the right line: since its use is prohibited (restriction, tzimtzum), the Light of wisdom (Ohr Hochma) shows egoism as bad (aviyut); one feels that there is no worse act than to work for the sake of the self.

But the person still possesses neither the desire nor the strength to work for the sake of others, that is, to give. Therefore, there is a need for the left line, which gives us altruistic desires and strength.

The spiritual organs of perception, just like our five senses (sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch), operate in accordance with a particular set goal. The effect of the Light of wisdom causes us to realize that there is no personal benefit in using the five senses; that is, there is no point in working for our egoism.

In the absence of the desire to gratify ourselves, which normally induces the five senses to operate, we experience a complete lack of energy to perform any act, leading to lethargy and inaction. At this stage, we have not realized that the goal of our efforts can be the “giving,” that is, our actions can be altruistic.

For this reason, we need the influence of another spiritual quality, known as the “red light,” the left line (“malchut memuteket be Bina”). This second quality is required to convince our desires to agree to work altruistically (qualities of Bina). Once we receive the spiritual energy and the altruistic motion has begun, we begin to act with a combination of the qualities both from the right and the left lines.

As a result, we receive the Light of the Creator into our new desires (the middle line), and thus continue receiving pleasure from the perfection. If we are ready to receive the powers of faith and altruism, then eventually we will be able to receive the highest reason.

The principle of rejecting self-gratification, which was adopted by one of the world’s major religions, and the principle of attaining pleasure, which was chosen by another, both stem from the impure (egoistic) forces (klipot) of the right and the left lines of the spiritual ascent. Thus, where the Kabbalah discusses the subject of placing limitations on oneself, it implies a preliminary stage of working on the self: making an attempt to reject the idea of self-gratification using one’s own willpower.

The roots of all different types of faith, of all spiritual tendencies, of all groups, and of all religious philosophies can be traced to the various klipot.These surround the left and the right spiritual pure lines, which are sustained through the process of seizing-grasping (ahiza) or through drawing nourishment (yenika).

But the goal of any task is to attain the middle line, to rise to the infinite that has no end or boundary, thus attaining the perception of the Creator, unlimited by particular human qualities.

In spiritual vocabulary, a desire is regarded as a “place.” The absence of desire is considered to be “the absence of a place.” This is similar to a situation when a person declares that no place exists in the stomach for food, since there is no more desire to eat.

A spiritual place, or the desire of an individual to perceive the Creator, is known as “the vessel” (kli) of the soul, or Shechina. This vessel receives the Light of the Creator or the revelation of the Creator, also known as “the soul” of the person. The Creator Himself is known as the Shochen.

Since all our desires are permeated with our egoism (desire to receive), the Light of the Creator is concealed. As egoism is gradually ejected from our desires, a greater place becomes available. An uncorrected desire is known as “egoism.” A corrected desire is called “Israel.”

Once a “place” is vacated as a result of a corrected desire, the Light of the Creator is revealed, but the Creator still continues to operate in a manner concealed from us. After we have corrected and purified our desires (places, vessels), we perceive the process of the revelation of the Creator as the appearance of the Light. In reality, however, no motion takes place, but rather, as in the process of developing a negative, the Light gradually appears in our perception.

Since we do not perceive the Light itself, but only its effect on our vessel, we address the Creator by the name associated with His revelation: Shechina. However, we can only determine His Essence by the sensations and feelings that He invokes in us. For this reason, the revelation of the Creator is known as Shechina.

If the Creator conceals Himself, then it said that “the Shechina is in exile”; or that “the Creator is hidden.” But if an individual has earned the revelation of the Creator, then it is known as “the return from the exile.”

The varying degree to which the Creator reveals Himself to us is called “the soul” (neshama).

As soon as we are able to correct at least one of our desires into an altruistic one, we receive an immediate perception of the Creator. Thus, it is said that the human soul is part of the Creator.

Once we reach the final stage of correction, the Creator will fill all our desires, that is, He will reveal Himself to the ultimate degree to which He planned to reveal Himself in His creations. All our desires were designed for this ultimate purpose at the very beginning of creation.

Shechina is the root and sum of all individual souls. Each soul is a part of the general revelation of the Creator. When the Creator reveals Himself, He is expressing His desire to please His creations. This is the understanding of those who attain the perception of the Creator.

We are unable to answer the question of what caused the Creator to wish to create us in order to please, because this question deals with the process that took place prior to the creation. We can only comprehend those things that can be revealed to us, that is, those things that developed after the creation.

The initial stage from which we begin to comprehend the creation is the perception of pleasure that emanates from the Creator. For this reason, the goal of creation – “the desire of the Creator to please” – refers only to those creations that already perceive Him.

All the questions that concern issues beyond this level are above our ability to understand them. We must always remember that all human understanding and knowledge are derived solely from personal perception.

The only thing that we are comprised of is our desire to be pleased.

All our physical and mental potential, all our capabilities, and all our progress are for the sole purpose of letting us receive pleasure from various objects, which we continue to invent, find, and consider necessary, fashionable, or acceptable. This is done for the sole objective of being able to constantly receive pleasure.

We cannot complain about the unlimited forms of the desire to receive pleasure. It was sufficient for the Creator to generate but a single desire in order to induce human beings to feel like independent (desiring) beings, able to behave independently on the basis of a single instinct – that of maximizing our personal pleasure.

This process takes place with the aid of all our faculties: intellectual, subconscious, physical, ethical, and many others. It also includes all levels of memory, ranging from the molecular and biological to the highest levels of our intellect.

Here is a simple example: a man loves money, but is willing to give up his entire fortune to a mugger when threatened with death. In this manner, he exchanges one pleasure source (money) for an even greater pleasure (staying alive).

We are incapable of performing an act unless we are sure that, as a result of this act, we will be in a more advantageous position. It is irrelevant how the benefit will be conferred. What is crucial is that the resulting level of pleasure will exceed the initial level. Only then will we act.

What, then, is the difference between the pleasure received from egoism (from getting) and the pleasure received from altruism (from giving)? The significant difference is in the fact that, when we receive pleasure from egoism, our feeling of pleasure is invariably accompanied by a feeling of shame. But if we receive for the sake of the giver, then we have no feelings of shame and our pleasure is absolute.

The original spiritual being, known as “the common soul” or “the first man” was unable to undergo such a transformation of thought when it received the tremendous pleasure from the Creator. Therefore, it was divided into 600,000 parts (souls).

Every part, every soul, receives a small portion of the burden of egoism, which it must correct. When all the parts are corrected, they will once again unite to form “a common corrected soul.” When such a state is reached, the corrective process known as gmar tikkun will be completed.

For example, in our world a person can refrain from stealing a small amount of money because it represents an insignificant amount of pleasure. The fear of punishment, combined with feelings of shame, prevails over the desire to steal.

However, if the amount is sufficiently great, then the pull toward gratification is much stronger than the ability to withstand it. In this way, the Creator generated the conditions for freedom of choice that we require to overcome our egoism.

He divided the soul into a multitude of parts, and then separated every part into many successive stages of corrective phases (where each phase compels the part to garb into a human body). He then broke every state of a human being into a number of ascents and descents required for the quest to alter one’s nature.

If we feel love for the Creator, we must immediately attempt to adjoin in ourselves feelings of fear as well, in order to be sure that our feeling of love is not egoistic. Only if both fear and love are present is our aspiration to come closer to the Creator in perfect form.

Those who experience a yearning for spiritual perception, but do not perceive the Creator, are filled with spiritual confusion and panic. Though given the desire to grasp the Creator from Above, such individuals are not ready to take the independent step forward toward the desired end.

Instead, they choose to wait to be sent a very strong desire from Above. This will serve as a thrust forward. It will permit these individuals to realize that every feeling and circumstance is filled with the Creator’s desire to attract their attention to Him, and to prompt them to move closer to Him. Then it is possible to detect the Creator’s address.

It is for this reason that each of us sees the world in a very personal way and uniquely interprets all that takes place around us. The rule that “there are as many points of view as there are people” underscores the fact that each of us is unique. By paying attention to our own feelings, we can begin a dialogue with the Creator according to the principle that “every person is a shadow of the Creator.”

Just as the shadow moves with the motion of the individual, and all the motions of the shadow just repeat the motions of an individual, similarly, our inner motions – our desires, aspirations, perceptions, spiritual essence, and outlook on life – repeat the motions (the desires) of the Creator.

Thus, if a person suddenly experiences a desire to perceive the Creator, that person must immediately recognize that this desire did not result from any particular actions, but rather from the fact that the Creator took a step forward toward this person, creating a pull and an attraction to Him.

At the beginning of the path, the Creator uses every appropriate opportunity to communicate with us by arousing in us both a longing and anguish for the spiritual perceptions. But every time the Creator grants us a pull toward the spiritual, He expects an equal reaction from our side.

Therefore, if we understand that the vigor with which we yearn to perceive the Creator is just as strong as the vigor with which the Creator wants to bring us closer to Himself, we should try to develop and strengthen in ourselves these feelings. In this way, we can advance toward the Creator until we can finally cleave to Him in all desires and qualities.

But when we are still at the beginning of the path, we neither sense nor understand the Creator. After making a number of unsuccessful attempts to advance towards Him, it suddenly appears to us that while we want to draw close to the Creator, He disregards us.

In response, instead of increasing our yearning to the degree required to attach ourselves to the Creator, we begin in our hearts to blame Him for ignoring us. We become angry and completely forget that the Creator wants us, to exactly the same extent, and for this reason gave us such yearnings toward Him.

As long as we lack complete faith in the oneness of the Creator, we will inevitably repeat our mistakes time after time, until the Creator makes us realize that all of our desire for Him comes from the Creator Himself, and that He will accept all the efforts we require, and will help us by revealing Himself to us by showing us the full true picture of the worlds and of Himself.

We can only attach ourselves to the Creator by joyfully directing all of our yearnings, and this is called “with all of the heart”. This even includes those desires not required to be brought into an equivalence of form with the Creator.

If we can completely suppress all the egoistic desires unveiled in us before, while feeling happiness in our hearts, we establish conditions conducive to fill our hearts with the Light of the Creator.

The most important aspect of the task of self-improvement is reaching a point where we find a joy in actions that gratify the Creator, because all that is done for our sakes brings us away from the Creator. Therefore, all of our efforts must focus on achieving pleasantness in addressing the Creator, and towards acquiring sweetness in thoughts and feelings about Him.

When we feel empty, it is an appropriate time to search for the grandeur of the Creator and to find support in Him. The more lowly we feel about ourselves, and the greater we perceive the Creator, then to this degree we can rise after requesting that the Creator to save ourselves and alleviate the present situation.

The Creator brings about this elevation after revealing His greatness in order to offer the strength to move forward. In such a condition, we need the Creator and His help, since our reason is pulling in a completely different direction. Therefore, the feelings of emptiness are given precisely in order that we feel them, with the perception of the Creator’s greatness, called “faith.”

A righteous person is the one who, in all that is felt, be it bad or good, justifies the actions of the Creator, regardless of the feelings experienced by body, heart and reason. By justifying all sensations received from the Creator, it is as if one takes a step forward towards the Creator, called the “right” step.

Under no circumstances should we ignore our true state and feelings, regardless of how unpleasant they may be. Even if such difficult situations as these are required, nonetheless we should not try to annul them. By acting in this manner, we would take a “left” step forward.

Perfection in spiritual growth consists of the fact that we constantly advance forward, alternating the two aforementioned conditions.

An absolutely righteous person is the one who justifies all actions of the Creator, both towards self and towards all other creations.

An individual who has attained the possibility to perceive all sensations outside the limitations of egoistic wishes has already separated from them, and wants only to be happy in giving. In such a state, a person cannot experience spiritual downfalls, since every event is not evaluated from the position of personal gain.

Thus, anything that happens, happens for the good. However, since the goal of the Creator in the creation is not in this, but rather in that the created beings should benefit specifically in their own feelings – the achievement of the level of a righteous person – this is not the final state for man.

Therefore, after a person achieves the level of the righteous, it is time to begin gradually restoring the egoism that was destroyed upon achieving this level. That same egoistic desire that the righteous person returned to himself can be added to the desire to make theCreator happy, which was acquired through spiritual work.

Because of this, not only can one give pleasure, but this person can also receive pleasures in the returned egoistic desires, always with the intention to give happiness to the Creator. This situation can be compared to an altruist of this world who longs to do good for others, since these qualities were present at birth.

In fact, the altruist did not receive them from the Creator as a reward for work on the self. Indeed, it is as if the altruist wants nothing, since enjoyment from bestowing good on others fills the ego. The altruist is unable to act differently.

This is reminiscent of a situation where a person is a guest at a friend’s house. The greater the guest’s appetite and pleasure for what is offered, the more satisfaction is received by the host. This pleasure would not be received if the guest were not hungry.

But since the guest may feel shame at all the pleasure being received, he or she may decline further offerings. By declining often enough, the guest will begin to feel that when the offered delicacies are accepted, the host is receiving a favor. Then, all feelings of shame will vanish, and the guest will experience pleasure to the full extent.

In spiritual sensations, there is no self-deception, such as a pretense that a righteous person does not want to receive pleasure for one’s own sake. In earning levels of righteousness, one will, with the help of the Creator who replaces our egoistic nature with an altruistic one, truly refuse all egoistic pleasure and aspire only to benefit the Creator.

But when a righteous person realizes that the Creator receives pleasure only when His creations are delighted by the pleasures emanating from Him, pleasures that are not belittled or destroyed, that person is once again forced to turn to egoism. This time, however, there is a different goal: to experience pleasure for the sake of the Creator.

In the end, the Creator and the individual completely converge in their ntentions and actions as each party attempts to gratify the other, and through this gains pleasure. There are no limits to p receiving pleasure in this manner.

On the contrary, the higher the experienced sensation of pleasure, the higher the spiritual level attained. There is also pleasure from the recognition of infinite strength, power and mightwithout any concern for self.

Therefore, the level of a righteous person is not sufficient to fulfill the goal of the creation. Receiving pleasure from the light emanating from the Creator is crucial for the correction of our intentions: “the reasons for which we seek pleasure.”

The attainment of the level of the righteous only permits us to rid ourselves of the feelings of shame that we experience when we receive pleasures from the Creator. As much as egoism constitutes our nature in this world and altruism is considered to be a utopian notion, they are perceived as opposite by those who occupy the realm of the spiritual world.

The difficulties arise from the concealment of the Creator. We receive pleasures only when we fulfill our desires. But Kabbalah teaches that this is evil, and not good for us. We do not understand why this is so, since we can perceive no pleasure in suffering, and yet we must still believe that suffering is good for us. Thus, our every action or thought produces a multitude of deliberations.

Moreover, the closer we are to the entrance of the spiritual world (machsom), the more complex the situation becomes. Only one truth becomes evident: “There are many thoughts in the heart of a person, but only the advice of the Creator will be established.”

The difference between a person who wants spiritual elevation (that is, to acquire spiritual characteristics like those of the Creator), and a person who fulfills His Will for a payment (as a result of the education received), is this: the latter has faith in rewards and punishment, and for this reason fulfills the Will of the Creator.

The Creator is like an employer who pays a salary; the person is like a worker who does not care about the employer, but rather the salary: reward and punishment in this world, or in the world to come. This gives the “employee” the strength to observe the commandments without asking the question, “Why am I fulfilling the Will of the Creator?” The answer is, because the employee believes in rewards.

However, one who seeks to carry out the Will of the Creator without receiving payment in exchange constantly asks, “Why am I doing this?” and “If this is the Will of the Creator, why does the Creator need this? He is perfect and complete, so what do our actions add to Him?”

It would appear that these questions are just for the person in question, who then would begin to wonder: “What do I gain from fulfilling the Will of the Creator?” Little by little the person comes to realize that the reward for fulfilling the Will of the Creator is one’s own self-correction, until one receives from Above the Neshama (soul) – the Light of the Creator.

The Kabbalah teaches that evil inclination (egoism) appears to sinners as a wisp of hair (a small obstacle), while to the righteous person it appears as a high mountain.

The Kabbalah must be applied as if it were just referring to one person, in whom the characteristic thoughts and desires are called by various names of our world.

Therefore, under the categories of “sinners” and “the righteous” are described the states of one individual. Concealment refers not only to the concealment of the Creator, but also to the concealment of a person from oneself. We do not really know ourselves or our true characteristics. These are revealed to us only to the degree to which we are able to correct them. (In this matter, a person is comparable to a container of garbage: the more one searches within oneself, the greater is the stench perceived).

For this reason, the Creator shows those who are only at the beginning of the path, the sinners, that their egoism is not so formidable that it cannot be overcome. This is so they will not give up hope at the sight of work that is not appropriate to the task.

For those who are already on the path, the Creator reveals a greater measure of the evil (egoism) within them. This is done to a degree appropriate to the feeling of the importance of the correction, and the power of resistance to egoism that they have acquired.

Finally, to those who desire to be righteous, the Creator reveals the full magnitude of their egoism. Consequently, it appears to them as a high, unsurpassable mountain.

Thus, as a person progresses, the evil within is revealed more and more, in amounts that are correctable. Because of this, if a person suddenly becomes aware of something new within that is negative, this indicates that it is now possible to correct it. Rather than falling into despair, one should ask the Creator to correct it.

For example, when we begin to work on ourselves, we can only feel

10 grams of pleasure from all the pleasures of the world that surrounds us, and we are able to dispense with them. Afterwards, the Creator gives us a taste for 15 grams of pleasure.

In the beginning of our work, because of our additional taste for the pleasures, we feel ourselves more lowly (from the feeling of being drawn to things that did not previously attract us), and weaker (because of the difference between the strength of our attraction to the pleasures and the power of our own resistance to them).

However, in a situation like this, we must tell ourselves that since the Creator added 5 grams of pleasure to the taste of the pleasures we receive from the world around us, yet we are unable to correct ourselves, we must request strength from the Creator. But when we receive the strength to overcome 15 grams of pleasure, afterwards we receive an additional 5 grams of taste for the pleasure, and once again we feel that we are weaker and lowly, and this process continues.

Attaining The Worlds Beyond – Structure Of Spirituality

A person’s desires are called vessels, and these can hold spiritual Light, or pleasure. However, in their essence, one’s desires must be similar to the qualities of the spiritual Light. Otherwise the Light cannot enter them, according to the Law of the Equivalence of Form of Spiritual Objects.

The activity of spiritual objects – whether close, or distant, or merging and unifying – is always based on the principle of the similarity of properties.

The Creator will bestow upon a person that which the person wants – to return to the Creator.

Therefore, a person’s heart, or vessel, will be filled with the perception of the Creator to the same degree that egoism has been ejected. This is in accordance with the Law of the Equivalence of Qualities Between the Light and the vessel.

We can, in fact, begin our spiritual ascent from any condition that we are in. We must simply realize that of all possible conditions, ranging from the highest to the lowest, the Creator has chosen this particular one as the best situation for us to start on the path of spiritual advancement.

Therefore, there can be no other frame of mind, mood, or external circumstances better suited or more beneficial to our progress than our present circumstances, however hopeless or dismal they may seem. Realizing this, we can rejoice in the opportunity to appeal to the Creator for help and to thank Him, even if we are in the most wretched of situations.

Something is considered “spiritual” if it is eternal and will not disappear from the universe, even upon reaching the ultimate goal. On the other hand, egoism (all the original inborn desires and the essence of a human being) is considered to be merely material because once corrected, it disappears.

Our essence remains until the end of correction, when only the form is changed. If our desires are corrected and become altruistic, then even our negative inborn qualities will enable us to comprehend the Creator.

The existence of a spiritual place is not related to any actual space. All those who reach this state after correcting their spiritual qualities can see and perceive the same things.

The ladder of the Creator has 125 levels. These levels are divided evenly between five spiritual worlds. These worlds are:

The World of Adam Kadmon

The World of Atzilut

The World of Beria

The World of Yetzira

The World of Assiya.

Each level provides a different perception of the Creator, depending on each level’s particular properties. Therefore, those who have acquired the properties of a specific level see the Kabbalah and the Creator in a completely new way. Everyone who attains a particular level of the spiritual world receives the same perception as everyone else on the same level.

When the Kabbalists said, “Thus said Abraham to Isaac,” it indicated that the Kabbalists were situated on the same level as Abraham. Thus, the Kabbalists understood how Abraham responded to Isaac, since in their spiritual state they were like Abraham.

In his lifetime, the Kabbalist Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag reached all 125 levels. From this exalted place, he dictated the Kabbalah, which we are now able to enjoy in this generation. From this level, he wrote his commentary to the Zohar, the master text of Kabbalah.

Each of the 125 levels exists objectively; all those who perceive each of them see the same things, just as all those who inhabit our world see the same surroundings if they are in the same place.

As soon as we attain the smallest altruistic desire, we can embark on a path of spiritual ascensions and descents: At one moment, we are ready to nullify ourselves completely before the Creator, but the next moment we will not give it a single thought. Suddenly, the idea of spiritual elevation becomes absolutely alien to us and is thrust from our minds.

This is much like the way a mother teaches her child to walk. She holds it by the hand so that it feels her support, and then she suddenly withdraws, letting go of it. When the child feels totally abandoned and lacking all support, it is compelled to take a step toward the mother. Only in this way can it learn to walk independently.

Thus, though it may seem to us as if the Creator has suddenly abandoned us, in fact He is waiting for us to take a step on our own.

It is said that the Upper World is in a state of complete rest. The word “rest,” in the spiritual world, implies no changes in desire.

However, the desire to bestow good never changes. All acts and movements, in both our inner emotional (egoistic) world and in the spiritual (altruistic) world, are involved in replacing a former desire with a new one.

If no such change has taken place, then nothing new has happened and no movement forward has occurred. This applies even if the original, constant desire may in itself be very vivid and very intense, giving us no peace.

But if that desire is invariable and consistent, then there is no movement.

Therefore, when it is said that the Upper Light is in a state of absolute rest, this means that the Will of the Creator to benefit us is unwavering and constant.

We exist in the Sea of Light. But that point in us which we call our “I” is encased in a shell of egoism. In this state, we are incapable of enjoying the Light and are merely floating.

Attaining The Worlds Beyond – Light that brings Correction

There are two kinds of Light of the Creator: the Light of knowledge, reason, and wisdom (called Ohr Hochma), and the Light of mercy, confidence, and unity (called Ohr Hassadim). In turn, Ohr Hochma comes in two types according to its action upon us

At first, when the Light arrives, we discover our own evil. Then, when we have discovered the evil, and realize that we should not use egoism, this same Light imparts strength towards those egoistic wishes, so that we can work (take pleasure) with them, but not for our own sake. Finally, when we gain the strength to overcome our own egoism, this same Light makes it possible for the corrected, formerly egoistic desires to take pleasure in altruism.

On the other hand, Ohr Hassadim bestows on us the desire “to give” rather than “to take” pleasure. For this reason, from the 320 uncorrected desires of the soul, the action of Ohr Hochma separates the 32 parts of Malchut (which are gradually sensed as spiritual ascents take place, just as the individual gradually comprehends the full depths of his evil and shudders at the realization of his own essence) from the desire to receive personal pleasure, because we have realized that egoism is our worst enemy.

The remaining 288 desires have neither an egoistic nor an altruistic direction, as they are simply sensations (like those of hearing, sight, etc.), which can be employed in any way we choose: either for ourselves or for others. Under the action of Ohr Hassadim, we develop a desire to work altruistically with all 288 sensations. This occurs after Ohr Hochma has replaced the 32 egoistic desires with the 32 altruistic desires.

A correction under the influence of the Light occurs without a sensation of pleasure derived from it. One only senses the difference in qualities between one’s own egoism and the magnificence of the Light. This alone is sufficient to break free of bodily desires. It is thus said, “I have created in you egoistical tendencies, and I created Kabbalah as its cure.”

But then, having corrected one’s desires, one begins to receive the Light in order to delight the Creator. This Light, also known as “Torah,” is called “The Names of the Creator,” because the individual receives into one’s self and soul a part of the Creator, and assigns names to the Creator in accordance with the pleasures received from the Light.

We can enter the spiritual world only by becoming completely unselfish (hafetz hesed).

This is the minimal prerequisite to ensure that no egoistic desires could ever seduce usl and thereby cause harm, because we want nothing for the self.

Without the protection of the altruistic tendencies with the quality of Ohr Hassadim, when we begin to receive the unbounded pleasure from the Upper Light, we will inevitably desire to gratify ourselves, and thus will bring about personal ruin; we will never be able to leave egoism for altruism. Our entire existence will consist of pursuing these pleasures, which are inaccessible to our egoistic desires.

But Ohr Hassadim, which imparts on us a striving toward altruism, cannot shine its Light into our egoistical desires. Egoistic desires are sustained by a spark of the Light within us that was forcibly put there by the Creator to resist the laws of the nature of spirituality. This enables us to maintain life in us because, without receiving any pleasure, human beings cannot survive.

If this spark of the Upper Light disappeared, we would immediately perish. Only by doing so could we break away from egoism and from our unfulfilled desire to be gratified, thereby bringing us absolute gloom and despair.

What is the reason that Ohr Hassadim cannot enter egoism? As was demonstrated earlier, the Light itself carries no distinction between Ohr Hochma or Ohr Hassadim, but the individual determines this distinction. An egoistic desire can begin to take pleasure in the Light, regardless of the Light’s origin; that is, it can begin to take pleasure in Ohr Hassadim for its own sake. Only a desire that has been prepared for altruistic actions can receive the Light in order to take pleasure in altruism; that is, to receive the Light as Ohr Hassadim.

An individual receives pleasure from three types of sensations: past, present, and future. The greatest pleasure is derived from the sensations of the future, because an individual begins to anticipate the pleasure in the present, that is, the pleasure is experienced in the present. In this way, anticipating and thinking about objectionable deeds are worse than the deeds themselves, because the anticipation prolongs the pleasure and occupies the thoughts of the individual for a long time.

Present pleasure is usually short in its span, in light of our petty and easily satisfied desires.

Past pleasure, on the other hand, can be repeatedly recalled in one’s mind and enjoyed. Thus, prior to engaging in an act of goodness, it is necessary to dedicate a lot of time to thinking and preparing for it. This allows us to take in as many different sensations as possible, so that later we can remember them in order to recreate our aspirations toward the spiritual.

Because egoism is the essence of our nature, we desire to delight in our lives. So if we are given from Above, into our desires, a small seed of a soul, which by its nature wishes to and tries to exist on anti-egoistical pleasures, then egoism can no longer motivate these types of actions. Thus, there is no more gratification from such a life.

This is because the soul gives us no rest, constantly reminding us that we are not living a true full life, but merely existing. As a result, we begin to see life as unbearable and full of suffering, because regardless of our actions, we are incapable of receiving pleasure. At the very least, we cannot be satisfied by anything, because the soul does not allow us to be satisfied. Thus it continues until egoism itself decides that there is no other solution but to listen to the voice of the soul, and to follow its directions. Otherwise, we will never be at peace.

This situation can be described as “the Creator bringing us back to Him against our will.” It is impossible for us to perceive even the smallest pleasure if we did not feel the lack of it beforehand. This lack of a desired pleasure is defined as “suffering.”

The ability to receive the Upper Light also requires a prior desire for it. For this reason, when we are learning, and during other actions, we should ask to feel a need for the Upper Light.

“There is none else but Him.” Everything that transpires is His desire, and all creations carry out His Will. The only difference is that there is a small group of people who carry out His Will because they so wish. The experience of unification of the Creator with the created is only possible when there exists a congruence of desires.

“A blessing” is defined as an outpouring of the Light of mercy (Ohr Hassadim) from Above, which is possible only when we are engaged in altruistic acts. It is said by the Kabbalists: “The needs of your people are great, but their wisdom is slight.” The needs are great precisely because the wisdom is slight.

Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag said: “Our state can be likened to the state of the King’s son, who was placed by his father in a palace filled with all kinds of treasures but with no light with which to see it all. So the son sits in the darkness and lacks only the light in order to possess the riches. He even has a candle with him (the Creator sends him the possibility to begin the advance toward Himself), as it is said: ’The soul of a human being is the candle of the Creator.’ One needs only to light it by his own desire.”

Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag said: “Although it is said that the goal of creation is incomprehensible, there is a great difference between its incomprehension by the wise man, and the ignorance of the simpleton.”

Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag said: “The law of the root and the branch implies that the lowest must reach the level of the highest, but the highest does not have to be like the lowest.”

All our work consists of the preparation to receive the Light. As Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag said: “The most important is the kli – vessel, even though kli without light is as lifeless as the body without the soul. Thus, we should prepare our kli in advance, so that when it receives the light it works properly. This can be likened to a man-made machine that operates on electricity. The machine will not work unless it is plugged into the electrical source, but the result of its work depends on the way the machine itself is made.”

In the spiritual world, all laws and desires are diametrically opposite to those of our world.

Just as in our world, it is extremely difficult to act contrary to knowledge and understanding, so in the spiritual world it is extremely difficult to progress with knowledge.

As Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag said: “It is said that when everyone stood during the service at the Temple, it was very crowded, but when everyone prostrated themselves, there was plenty of room.” The act of standing symbolizes the state of “greatness” of partzuf, the receiving of Light; whereas the act of prostrating is a state of “smallness” and represents the lack of Light.

In this lower state there was more room and a greater feeling of freedom, because in the state of the Creator’s concealment, those in the process of spiritual ascent feel the potential to advance against their reason, and this is the source of joy from their work.

Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag used to tell the story of a great Kabbalist of the last century, Rabbi Pinchas ,from the village of Korits. Rabbi Pinchas had no money even to buy Ari’s The Tree of Life,and was forced to teach children for half a year in order to earn the money needed to purchase this book. Even though it may appear that our bodies are an obstruction to our spiritual ascent, it only seems this way because we are not aware of the functions that the Creator assigned to them.

As Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag said: “Our body is like an anker (a part in a watch); even though the anker stops the watch, without it the watch would not work, it would not move forward.”

At another time, Rabbi Ashlag said: “In the barrel of a long-range shotgun there is a special threading which makes the exit of the bullet difficult, but precisely because of this threading the bullet flies farther and is more accurate.” In Kabbalah such a state is known as kishui.

Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag said: “Everyone is so accustomed to interpreting the Bible in accordance with the concepts of this world, that even when it is explicitly stated in the Bible, ’Guard your souls,’ it is still understood to mean the health of the body.”

Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag said: “An individual is in the spiritual state to the extent that he realizes that his egoistic desires are, in essence, the impure force.”

Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag said: “The lowest of the spiritual levels is attained when the spiritual becomes most important and comes before the material.”

Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag said: “In only one thing can a person display haughtiness; that is, in asserting that no one else can please the Creator more than he himself.”

Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag said: “The reward for keeping a Commandment is in gaining the perception of the One who commands it.”

Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag said: “The worries of this world are of no concern to those engaged in spiritual ascent, just as the person who is seriously ill does not worry about getting his salary, but only about surviving the illness.”

Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag said: “In the spiritual, as in our physical world, if something occurs to us because of circumstances that were beyond our control, this fact itself will not save us. For example, if someone inadvertently falls off a cliff, the mere fact that he fell, even though he did not want to fall, will not save him from dying.

The same is true in the spiritual world.” When Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag was sick, a doctor was called to come and see him. The doctor prescribed rest and peace, suggested that it was important to calm down the patient’s nerves, and remarked that if he was to engage in learning, he should choose something uncomplicated like The Psalms.

When the doctor left, Rabbi Yehuda commented, “It seems that the doctor thinks it possible to read The Psalms superficially, without looking for a deeper meaning.”

Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag said: “There is no place in between the spiritual, altruistic ’giving’ and the material, egoistic, impure ’receiving.’ If at every single moment a person is not bound to the spiritual, he forgets about it altogether and remains in the impure and physical state.”

It is said in the book, HaKuzari, that the King Kuzari, when it came time to select a religion for his people, turned to a Christian, to a Muslim, and finally to a Jew. When the King heard the Jew, he remarked that the Christian and the Muslim both promised him eternal heavenly life and great rewards in the world to come, after his death. On the other hand, the Jew spoke of the rewards for the observance of the Commandments and the punishment for disobeying them in this world.

But it seemed to the King that it was more important to be concerned with what he would receive in the world to come, after death, than with the way he should live his life in this world.

The Jew then explained that those who promise reward in the world to come, do so because they want to distance themselves from the falsehood in this manner, to conceal the lie and the meaning in their words. In a similar fashion, Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag explained that the words of Agra, the concept of yehudi (“Jew”) is the name for one who attained the entire spiritual world, the whole world to come, while in this world.

This is what Kabbalah promises us as a reward. All of the rewards of Kabbalah must be received while a person is in this world, specifically while in the body, to feel everything with one’s entire body.

Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag said: “When a person feels that the impure forces, that is, egoistic desires, begin to press him, this is the beginning of his spiritual liberation.” Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag said, commenting on the Kabbalah “All is in the hands of God, except the fear of God”: In respect to everything that a person asks of the Creator, the Almighty decides whether to grant that person what is asked of Him or not to grant it.

However, the request to grant one the ’fear of Heaven’ is not decided by the Creator, but if a person truly yearns to have the fear of God, he will surely be granted this request.”

Attaining The Worlds Beyond – The Omnipotent Magician Who Could Not Be Alone

Do you know why only old folk tell stories and legends? Because legends are the cleverest thing in the world! Everything in the world changes, and only real legends remain. Legends are wisdom and in order to tell them, one needs to have great knowledge, and to see things others do not.

For that, one needs to have lived a lot. That is why only old people know how to tell legends. As is written in the greatest, oldest magical book, “An old person is someone who has acquired wisdom.”

Children love to hear legends because they have the imagination and brains to envision everything, not just what others see. If a child grows up and still sees what others do not, he becomes wise and clever, and “acquires wisdom.”

Because children see what others do not, they know that imagination is real. They remain as a “wise child,” as is written in the greatest, oldest magical book, “The Zohar.”

There once was a magician, great and noble and goodhearted, with all the attributes usually given in children’s books. But because he was so goodhearted, he did not know who to share his goodness with. He did not have anyone to pour his affections on, to play with, to spend time with, to think about.

The magician also needed to feel wanted, for it is very sad to be alone.

What should he do? He thought he would make a stone, just a small one, but beautiful, and perhaps that would be the answer.

“I will stroke the stone and feel there is something constantly by my side, and we will both feel good because it is very sad to be alone.” He waved his wand and in an instant there was a stone exactly as he wanted.

He began to stroke the stone, to hug it and talk to it, but the stone did not respond. It remained cold and did nothing in return. Whatever he did to the stone, it remained the same unfeeling object.

This did not suit the magician at all. How can the stone not respond? He tried creating some more stones, then rocks, hills, mountains, land, the Earth, the Moon and the Galaxy. But they were all the same… nothing.

He still felt sad and all alone. In his sadness, he thought that instead of stones, he would make a plant that would blossom beautifully. He would water it, give it some air, some sun, play it some music, and the plant would be happy. Then they would both be content, because it was sad to be alone.

He waved his wand and in an instant there was a plant, exactly as he wanted. He was so happy be began to dance around it, but the plant did not move. It did not dance with him or follow his movements. It only responded to what the magician gave it in the simplest terms.

If he gave it water, it grew; if he did not, it died. It was not enough for such a good-hearted magician who wanted to give with all his heart.

He had to do something more, because it is very sad to be alone. He then created all sorts of plants in all sorts of sizes, fields, forests, orchards, plantations and groves. But they all behaved the same way as the first plant, and again he was alone in his sadness.

The magician thought and thought. What should he do? Create an animal! What sort of animal? A dog? Yes, a cute little dog that would be with him constantly. He would take him for walks and the dog would jump and prance and run along.

When he came home to his palace (or rather, being a magician, his castle), the dog would be so pleased to see him he would run to greet him. They would both be happy, because it is very sad to be alone. He waved his wand and there was a dog, just as he wanted. He began to take care of the dog, fed it, gave it to drink, and stroked it. He even ran with it and washed it and took it for walks.

But a dog’s love is summed up in being next to its owner, wherever he is. The magician was sad to see that a dog cannot reciprocate, even if he plays with him so well and goes everywhere with him. A dog cannot be his true friend, cannot appreciate what he does for it, does not comprehend his thoughts and desires, and how much effort he makes for it.

But that was what the magician wanted. So he made other creatures: fish, fowl, mammals, all to no avail – none of them understood him. It was very sad to be so alone.

The magician sat and thought. He then realized that in order to have a true friend, he must be someone who would look for the magician, would want him very much, would be like the magician, able to love like him, understand him, resemble him, be his partner. Partner? True friend?

It would have to be something that was close to him, that understood what he gave him and could reciprocate by giving him everything in return. Magicians also want to love and be loved. Then they would both be content, because it is very sad to be alone.

The magician then thought about creating a man. He could be his true friend! He could be like the magician. He would merely need help to be like his creator. Then the two of them would feel good, because it is very sad to be alone.

But in order for them to feel good, man must first feel lonely, and be sad without the magician. The magician waved his wand again and made a man in the distance. The man did not feel there was a magician who had made all the stones, plants, hills, fields and moon, rain, winds, etc. He did not know that he had made an entire world filled with beautiful things, such as computers and football that made him feel good and lacking nothing.

The magician, on the other hand, continued to feel sad that he was alone. The man did not know there was a magician who had made him, loved him, was waiting for him and said that together they would feel good because it is very sad to be alone.

Yet how would a man who feels content, who has everything, even a computer and football, who does not know the magician, want to find him, get acquainted with him, become close to him, love him, be his friend and say, “Come, we will both feel good, because it is very sad to be alone, without you.”

One knows only one’s surroundings, and does what everyone else nearby does, speaks as they speak, wants what they want, tries not to offend, asks nicely for presents, a computer, football. How can the person possibly know there is a magician who is sad to be alone?

But the magician is goodhearted and constantly looks out for man, and when the time is ripe, he waves his wand and calls to the man’s heart very quietly. Man thinks he is looking for something and does not realize it is the magician who is calling him, saying, “Come, we will both feel good, because it is very sad to be alone without you.”

Then, the magician waves his wand again and the man feels his presence. He begins to think of the magician, to think that it will be good together, because it is very sad to be alone, without the magician.

Another wave of the wand and the man feels there is a magic tower full of goodness and might in which the magician waits for him and that only there will they feel good, because it is very sad to be alone.

“But where is this tower? How can I reach it? Which is the way?” he asks himself, puzzled and confused. How can he meet the magician? He keeps feeling the wave of the wand in his heart and he cannot sleep. He constantly sees magicians and mighty towers and cannot even eat.

That is what happens when a person wants something very much and cannot find it, and is sad to be alone. But in order to be like the magician – wise, great, noble, good-hearted, loving and a friend – a wave of the wand is not enough. One must learn to make wonders oneself.

So the magician secretly and subtly, gently and innocuously, leads man to the greatest, oldest magical book, the Book of Zohar, and shows him the way to the mighty tower. The man grasps it so he can swiftly meet the magician, meet his friend, and tell him, “Come, we will feel good together, because it is very sad to be alone.”

Yet there is a high wall surrounding the tower, and many guards repel the man, not letting him and the magician be together and feel good. The man despairs, the magician hides away in the tower behind locked gates, the wall is high, the guards vigilantly repel, nothing can pass.

What will happen…? How can they be together, feel good together because it is sad to be alone?

Every time the man weakens and despairs, he suddenly feels a wave of the wand and he rushes to the walls again to try to circumvent the guards, no matter what! He wants to break into the gates, reach the tower, climb the rungs of the ladder and reach the magician.

And every time he surges forward and moves nearer the tower and the magician, the guards become more vigilant, stronger and arduous, mercilessly flaying him. But with each round the man becomes braver, stronger and wiser. He learns to accomplish all sorts of tricks himself, to invent things only a magician can.

Every time he is pushed back, he wants the magician more, feels his love for him more, and wants more than anything else in the world to be with the magician and see his face, because it will be good to be together. Even if he is given everything in the world, without the magician, he will feel alone.

Then, when he can no longer bear to be without him, the gates of the tower open, and the magician, his magician, rushes towards him and says, “Come, we will be good together, because it is very sad to be alone.”

And ever since, they are faithful friends, closely acquainted, and there is no finer pleasure than that which is between them, forever into infinity. They feel so good together that they never remember, even occasionally, how sad it was to be alone.

The End

The sequence of the screens conceals the Creator from us. These screens exist in ourselves and in our souls. However, The Creator is everything outside of ourselves and our souls with their interfering screens,We can only perceive that minute part of the outer surroundings that can permeate our screen.

Everything that is outside of us is completely lost to our perception. In the same manner, in this world we see only those objects that are reflected on the inner surface of the eye, once they fall within the range of our vision.

Our knowledge of the spiritual worlds comes from the perceptions and sensations gained by the souls of the Kabbalists, which are passed on to us.

However, their achievements are restricted by the range of their spiritual vision. Hence, all the spiritual worlds known to us exist only in relation to these souls.

Given the aforesaid, the entire creation can be divided into three parts:

1. The Creator

We cannot discuss Him due to the fact that we can only judge those phenomena that fall within the range of our spiritual perception after passing through the interfering screens.

2. The Purpose of Creation

This is our starting point, from which we can begin to explore the Creator’s intention. While some argue that its essence centers on pleasing His creations, we cannot say anything else about the Creator’s relation to us for lack of information.

The Creator wished that we should feel His influence upon us as Pleasure, and so He created our sensory receptors in such a way as to permit us to sense His influence upon us as Pleasure. But since all perception is accomplished by the soul, it is senseless to talk about the other worlds without connecting this subject to those who perceive these worlds. Without the soul’s ability to perceive, the other worlds do not exist.

The interfering screens that stand between us and the Creator actually present these worlds. Olam derives from the word alama, which means ”concealment.” The worlds exist only for the purpose of transmitting even a small part of the pleasure (light) emanating from the Creator to the soul.

3. Souls

These are entities generated by the Creator that perceive themselves as existing independently. This feeling is highly subjective and essentially translates into the soul, that is our individual self, having been specifically made in this manner by the Creator. However, in reality we are actually an integral part of Him.

A person’s entire path of development, from the initial stage to the final stage at which one completely merges with the Creator in all his qualities, can be divided into five stages. Each of these can in turn be divided into five sub-stages that are, in turn, further comprised of five sub-stages.

In total, there are 125 stages. Every person at a particular stage experiences the same feelings and influences as every other person at the same stage. And every person possesses the same spiritual sensory organs, and hence can feel the same as everyone else at the same stage.

Similarly, every person in our world possesses the same perceptual organs that yield identical perceptions, but do not allow the perception of other worlds.

Therefore, the books on Kabbalah can be understood only by those who reach the stage of the author, since then the author and the reader will have common experiences. This also applies to the readers and authors who describe the events of this world.

From the spiritual worlds, the soul receives the awareness of the Creator’s closeness, as well as spiritual gratification and the enlightenment that accompanies unification with Him. The soul also receives, from the understanding gained of His wishes and the laws of His dominion, the so-called “Light of the Creator,” or the ability to perceive Him.

As we advance on our spiritual path, we gradually perceive that we are being drawn closer to the Creator. That is the reason for gaining a new perspective on the revelation of the Creator at every phase of our journey.

For those who can grasp only our world, the Bible appears as a collection of laws and historical events that describe the behavior of human beings in this world. However, those who are more advanced along their spiritual path begin to perceive the spiritual actions of the Creator behind the names of objects and actions of our world.

From all the above, it becomes clear that in creation there are two participants: the Creator and the human being, who was created by the Almighty. All the other visions that arise before us, whether our perception of our world or even our perception of higher worlds, are only the different phases of revelation and disclosure of the Creator on His way to coming closer to us.

Attaining The Worlds Beyond – Realising The Creator’s Rule

How can we rise to a spiritual level where we have completely eradicated self-interest and self-concern? How can our desire to devote ourselves to the Creator become our only goal, so much so that without attaining this goal, we feel as if we were dead?

Rising to this level takes place gradually and is processed in the form of feedback. The more effort we make in our quest for a spiritual path, both in studying and in emulating spiritual objects, the more convinced we will become of our utter inability to achieve this goal by ourselves. The more we study texts that are important for our spiritual development, the more confusing and disorganized the material will appear. The better we try to treat our instructors and peers, if we are indeed advancing spiritually, the clearer it will become that all our actions are dictated by egoism.

Such results follow the principle: Force him until he says, “I do.” We can rid ourselves of egoism only if we grasp that egoism causes death by holding us back from realizing true, eternal life, filled with delight.

Developing a hatred toward egoism will eventually lead to our liberation from it.

Most important is our desire to give ourselves fully to the Creator by realizing His greatness. (Giving oneself to the Creator means to separate from the “I”).

At this point, we must decide which is a more worthy goal: to attain: transient values or eternal ones. Nothing that we have created remains forever; all is transient. Only spiritual structures such as altruistic thoughts, acts, and feelings are eternal.

Therefore, by striving to emulate the Creator in our thoughts, desires and efforts, we are, in fact, building the structure of our own eternity. However, dedicating yourself to the Creator is only possible when we realize the Creator’s greatness.

It is the same in our world: If we consider someone great, we are happy to be of service to that person. We may even feel that the recipient of our gift has done us a favor by accepting it, rather than the other way around.

This example shows that the intention of an action can change the external form of a mechanical act – giving or taking – to its opposite. Therefore, the more praiseworthy we regard the Creator, the more readily will we give Him all of our thoughts, desires and efforts

But in doing so, we actually feel that we are receiving from, rather than giving to, Him. We feel that we are being given an opportunity to render a service, an opportunity that is only bestowed upon a few worthy ones in each generation. This can further be clarified by the example provided in the following short play.

Attaining The Worlds Beyond – Providence Of The Creator

If everything happens according to the Creator’s plan, then what good are our efforts? As a result of our own work, based on the principle of reward and punishment, we acquire from Above an understanding of the Creator’s rule. We then rise to a level of consciousness where we clearly see that it is the Creator who rules everything and that everything is predetermined.

First, however, we must reach this stage, and until we do, we cannot determine that everything is in the hands of the Creator. Also, until we reach that stage, we cannot live or act according to its laws, for this is not how we understand the world to operate. Therefore, we can act only according to the laws of which we are aware.

Only when we have put forth efforts based on the principle of “reward and punishment” do we become worthy of the Creator’s complete trust. Only then do we have the right to see the true picture of the world, as well as the way it operates. And when we arrive at this stage, and realize that everything depends on the Creator, we long for Him.

One cannot oust selfish thoughts and desires from one’s heart and leave it empty. Only by filling the heart with spiritual, altruistic desires instead of selfish ones can we replace the old aspirations with opposite ones, and in this way obliterate egoism.

Those of us who love the Creator are sure to feel revulsion toward egoism, since we know from personal experience how much harm the ego can cause.

However, we may not have the means to rid ourselves of the ego, and will eventually realize that it is beyond our power to oust egoism, since it was the Creator who had endowed us, His creations, with this quality.

Although we cannot rid ourselves of egoism by our own efforts, the sooner we realize that egoism is our enemy and our spiritual exterminator, the stronger will be our hatred of it. Eventually, this hatred will bring the Creator to help us overcome the enemy; in this way, even our egoism will serve the purpose of spiritual elevation.

The Talmud says, “I created the world only for the completely righteous and for the complete sinners.” It is understandable why the world would be created for the absolutely righteous, but why wasn’t the world also created for those who are neither absolutely righteous nor absolute sinners?

We inadvertently perceive Providence according to the way it affects us. It is “good” and “kind” if it is agreeable to us, and “harsh” if it causes us suffering. That is, we consider the Creator either good or bad, depending on how we perceive our world.

Thus, there are only two ways for human beings to perceive the Providence of the Creator over the world. Either we perceive the Creator and see life as wonderful, or we deny the Creator’s Providence over the world, and assume the world is ruled by “forces of nature.”

Though we may realize that the latter scenario is unlikely, our emotions, rather than our reason, determine our attitude toward the world. Hence, when we observe the disparity between our emotions and our reason, we begin to consider ourselves as sinners.

When we understand that the Creator wants to bestow only benefit and good, we realize this is possible only by drawing closer to Him. Thus, if we feel distanced from the Creator, we perceive this as “bad,” and then we consider ourselves to be sinners.

But if we feel ourselves to be so evil that we cry out to the Creator to save us, asking the Creator to reveal Himself to give us the power to break out from the prison of our egoism into the spiritual world, then the Creator will help us instantly.

It is for this form of human condition that this world and the higher worlds were created.

When we reach the level of absolute sinner, we can cry out to the Creator and eventually rise to the level of the absolutely righteous.

Thus, we can only become worthy of perceiving the Creator’s greatness after we have rid ourselves of all conceit and realized the impotence and the baseness of our personal desires.

The more importance we ascribe to becoming close to the Creator, the more we perceive Him and the better we can discern the Creator’s various nuances and manifestations in our daily lives. This deep, impressive awe of Him will give rise to feelings in our hearts, and as a result joy will flow in.

We can see that we are no better than those around us, and yet we can also see that, unlike us, others have not earned the Creator’s special attention. Moreover, others are not even aware that the possibility of communicating with the Creator exists. Nor do they really care to perceive the Creator and understand the meaning of life and spiritual progress.

On the other hand, we are not clear how we merited such a special relationship with the Creator, in that we are granted, if only just occasionally, the opportunity to concern ourselves with the purpose of life and our bond with the Creator.

If, at that point, we can appreciate the uniqueness of the Creator’s attitude toward us, then we can experience boundless gratitude and joy. The more we can appreciate individual success, the more deeply we can thank the Creator.

The more nuance of feeling we can experience at each particular point and instant of contact with the Creator, the better we can appreciate the greatness of the spiritual world that is revealed to us, as well as the greatness and might of the omnipotent Creator. This results in stronger confidence with which we can anticipate our future unification with Him.

When contemplating the vast difference between the characteristics of the Creator and those of His created beings, it is easy to arrive at the conclusion that the Creator and created can only become compatible if the created beings alter their absolutely egoistic nature. This is only possible if the created nullify themselves as if they do not exist; thus, there is nothing to separate them from their Creator.

Only if we feel that, without receiving a spiritual life, we are dead (as when life has left the body), and only if we feel a compelling desire for a spiritual life, can we receive the possibility of entering this spiritual life, to breathe spiritual air.