The Zohar, Chapter “Va Yechi (And Jacob Lived),” Item 152: In the midst of all that, Rabbi Elazar saw that the angel of death departed and said, “No sentence holds where Rabbi Shimon is.” Rabbi Shimon said to Rabbi Elazar, “Come here and hold Rabbi Yitzhak, for I see that he is afraid.” Rabbi Elazar came in and held him, and Rabbi Shimon turned his face and engaged in Torah.
Question: Why does a soul fear to ascend to its next spiritual degree? If it already sees its corrected state, why does it dread leaving the current one?
Answer: I am not prepared for it, and therefore I fear. The wisdom of Kabbalah often speaks about the awe before the Creator. The state of awe is a spiritual vessel (Kli, desire). It is the same in our case. I am afraid that I am not ready to exist at the level of bestowal in my present state, which I share with the friends and the teacher Rabbi Shimon, who becomes revealed as a mentor and guide on our path.
Suppose a teacher one day tells me that I have to jump from a plane. But I am terrified for I don’t think I can do it. This is an earthly example of how I feel in egoistic properties.
In spirituality, however, we talk about the property of bestowal, where the fear is even greater. I discover that I am not in bestowal and have no strength of my own for it. I am unable to pull myself together (as I would in the material world) and take the next step. It isn’t the same in spirituality, and there is always a question: Will I receive the strength, or, rather, will I be able to ask for it? This fear, the awe, is a very problematic state.
Awe before the Creator is the first commandment. I use it as a foundation on which I build everything else. It’s because I depend on the Creator, the Upper Surrounding Light that I receive. My position at a certain spiritual degree depends on the amount of strength the Light provides for me. And if it doesn’t bring me this strength, I will have none.
How can I participate in this? How close am I able to come with the others? How great is my present capacity to do so? This “death” (for my egoism) must come to me step by step. It has to be accepted by me and turn into life within me, as it is written: “The angel of death becomes the angel of life.”
Spiritual acts (of bestowal) that a person is yet to commit seem an enormous stumbling block. When you think about fulfillment, it is desirable (in our egoism). But when you think about the corrected desire (Kli) where it is revealed, rejection and fear arise: Am I good for it?
From the 2nd part of the Daily Kabbalah Lesson 9/1/10, The Zohar
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