Question: Does the law of “The general and the particular are equal” mean that one can undergo the ten blows both individually and in the group, or is it an exclusively internal, personal process?
Answer: Yes and no. As a rule, all Kabbalists go through this individually; I know this from my own experience. One feels so desperate in his egoism that he tears away from it and cannot use it anymore.
There is no doubt that it’s easier to do this while being in the group, even if the latter knows nothing about it. It can be a small group in terms of the number of members and level of advancement, but its general atmosphere, its determination and aspiration to the goal helps a person and doesn’t let him escape from this process. A person holds himself intact at the time he is receiving a blow, which is what matters the most, and he passes through it.
However, even if he tells himself, “That’s it, I give up! I can’t stand it anymore! I wish to live solely for bestowal,” he eventually descends deeper into the egoistic desire and gets revisited by those thoughts and internal discernments. He sees that at the deeper, inner level, he is still stuck in his will to receive where he hasn’t yet made a final and irreversible decision that he desires to rise above it all.
The ten blows are not only just different in character, not at all. They differ in their depth since they become more and more internal. Therefore, even if during the previous test a person decided that he wouldn’t be using egotistic desires any more, now he sees that he hasn’t worked on this particular desire yet. He hasn’t become aware and realized that it cannot be employed and that he can’t comply with his egoism.
If a person has a strong and correct environment, he passes through these states with enthusiasm. He is aware that he is undergoing a blow that will help him tear away from egoism and get refined. I don’t think a student can go through it without the support of the teacher and the group.
The blows themselves are very specific, and one should move through them quickly and distinctly. It all depends on our discipline, the interconnection between us, and our willingness to lose interest in our egoism which is our nature.
From the Lesson on the Weekly Torah Portion 1/6/2011