A question I received: In Mesilat Yasharim (The Path of the Righteous), the Ramchal writes about correcting one’s qualities: Even though correcting the qualities of one’s animate soul bears no relation to the levels of the holy soul, nevertheless it’s unrealistic for a Kabbalist to be irritable, quick-tempered, use bad words (Lashon Ra) and have qualities that can harm others around him.
My Answer: The Ramchal says that it’s impossible to correct the qualities of one’s animate soul. Any attempt to correct our animate soul ends in failure, because it relates to the inanimate part of a person, which was given to us so we would grow our spiritual soul out of it.
The only thing we can and should change is the holy, spiritual soul: the part of the Creator in us. This part begins as what is called a “point in the heart,” expressed in a person as the question “What is the meaning of life?” – the question that brings a person to Kabbalah. It is this point that we need to develop.
As we develop it, we change, and such a change also has an effect on our earthly behavior. We can no longer harm others intentionally, because we have acquired qualities that won’t allow us to do so.
However, at the same time, our external expressions of anger, abruptness, and impatience may remain, because we perceive the harm caused by specific actions and phenomena more than others do. Moreover, one who ascends always slides back before taking a step forward, and when this happens, this person is just like everyone else. In fact, he is even worse than everyone else in such a state. This continues until the end of the ladder, as it is written, “Every person who is greater than another, has more egoism than him.” Moreover, it’s written about Rabbi Shimon that when he found himself in the deepest possible descent, as “Shimon from the market,” he understood that he was facing the final level of ascent! (It is written in The Book of Zohar that when Rabbi Shimon came out of the cave, where he spent thirteen years writing The Book of Zohar, he saw a peasant working the land, an act so distant from spirituality, that when he saw him, he burned him with his mere glance. However, these are secrets of the Torah…)