If I have a small child whom I’m going to send to a preschool because staying at home is no longer enough for his development, I try to place him in a group of slightly older children rather than younger ones so that he can learn from the older children. In other words, the higher my environment, the more opportunities I have to advance with it. And conversely, if I get into a company of primitive people, they relegate me to the level of their values. Everything depends on the environment.
We follow this principle when we make choices in our lives, seeing that “your environment today is you tomorrow.” For a person interested in growing, it is useful to be among great people. However, he has to realize that he has come there in order to grow. If he simply comes and sits among people not of his level, then the greater they are, the more he is annoyed by that. He wants to put them down.
However, if he comes with the purpose of growing in the environment of such people, the greater they are, the happier he is. His only lacks are the hatred and fire burning inside from the feeling of being so much lower than they are. But he is glad about such feelings because they spur him on and urge him to move forward.
Thus, everything depends on a person’s intention, on what he wants from his environment. A person can evaluate an external society by its values and interests, such as whether they like music and art, or whether they are educated and intelligent people. There are criteria with which the society can be tested.
But there are no criteria for such tests in a Kabbalistic environment. The only people who gather there are those whose point in the heart was awakened and they simply want to develop it. All of them go through constant ups and downs. No one knows on which degree he really is, not to speak of his friend’s degree.
Everything solely depends on how a person perceives the group, like Rabbi Yossi Ben Kisma who valued his small and simple students to such an extent that he was not able to advance without them.
Thus, it is very important to understand that the group, the environment, is something the person perceives inside by valuing the friends brought to him by the Creator, Who gave them the same desire toward spirituality. Now, I can create an environment for myself according to the height and values that are required for my advancement, according to how and where I want to advance.
Apart from that, now, I can study myself. The extent that I like seeing them as great is a sign of my really being willing to advance. After all, it is possible to advance only due to my environment. My wanting to see them as lower than myself means that I am looking for a way to satisfy my pride, not to advance.
Through our attitude toward our environment we can accurately measure our spiritual state. Am I aspiring toward the goal of creation, or am I looking for a nice feeling, filling my egoism with a sense of self-importance?
From the 1st part of the Daily Kabbalah Lesson 11/22/2011, Writings of Rabash