We are born and develop in a human society with our inborn qualities and the qualities engrained in us by society: parents, kindergarten, school, the neighborhood, and so on. All the qualities we acquire over the course of our lives and all our actions determined by the initial, inner program—is not who we are.
There is nothing private or independent in it, nothing cultivated and determined by the actual person experiencing the situation. In the end, this refers to a combination of the inborn qualities developing in a person and external influences.
Everything rolls along as it should, with the exception of one moment, which we cannot fully understand. Man learns that he can choose an environment, which will develop him in a specific direction.
The first question to appear is: Why is this unusual? Why is this called free choice?
For example, if I want to learn music, I surround myself with musicians. Is my “I” present in this? Is this my free choice?
I make new acquaintances in my musical environment and advance through them. Do I realize my freedom of will this way?
I am told “no,” that I am being driven by a desire that originated in me. There is nothing “yours” here. Simply the first impulse has directed you to this environment, and that is it. This happens to everyone.
Where is the freedom of will then? It is clear that I become inspired by the desires of the environment; they ignite me; I fall under the environment’s influence and wish to grow as a musician. But none of this speaks of freedom.
True freedom manifests when I resist the environment, oppose what it represents, refuse to realize my desire in it—yet in desperation, I understand that it is the only place to realize it. I must connect to my friends to attain the goal, but I hate them at the same time; I am repulsed by them, and I do not wish to act through them. In the presence of these two poles my choice is born—in the free space between these two opposite extremes.
If everything was to be put in place, then my free choice, the middle third of Tifferet, really lies in the group, the unity of friends, which help me rise to the Creator. But when a person simply lives in our world, he has no freedom of choice.
Beginning with this point and realizing our free choice every time, we ascend the steps of the spiritual ladder and acquire the structure called “Man” (Adam) until we build it in its full volume on the degree of Malchut of the world of Infinity at the end of correction.
All this is realized through choosing the best environment: Every time we submerge deeper into the group, become better connected to it—and thus we grow.
From the 4th part of the Daily Kabbalah Lesson 12/27/11, Baal HaSulam, The Freedom”