We start off from the lowest, furthest point. There is nothing further away from the Creator than man.
The Creator’s attribute is bestowal, while the created being’s attribute belongs to the inanimate level. There is hardly any difference between the two, except for the fact that the inanimate level is under the absolute control of the Creator and is in 100% self-denial, as it has nothing of its own.
Then the levels of the vegetative and animate appear. They are somewhat different from the inanimate level, not in their intentions and desires but in their motion that seems to be opposite from the Creator.
The levels of the vegetative and animate grow, move, and develop, and thus grow further from the Creator. They still don’t leave His control, but the Creator simply “allows” them to be incorporated into the two forces and to develop by being under His control. This is why all these levels are called nature.
Then the level of man appears and it also goes through the stages of the: inanimate, vegetative, and animate and the speaking. It is in this last level that free will begins.
Freedom is a relative concept and it depends on the observed object. We don’t judge stones or trees, but we judge animals, which enables us to train them and thus to use them. Man can already be judged in the full sense.
Eventually man finds himself furthest from the Creator; it is so far apart that we call this nature “the evil inclination,” while the previous stages are called nature, meaning under the Creator’s control.
So the question is: If most people belong to the natural level of development, how will they advance? After all, we all begin from the inanimate level.
In order to do that, there is a special tool: suffering. This tool operates on us and advances us. We associate suffering with a bad feeling, but we should understand that it isn’t just a tool but a whole system that initiates development. Through it, everything develops towards wholeness.
So in the next stages, our development is in that direction too, further away from the Creator, according to our free will. In our nature, in the evil inclination, we grow farther away from the Creator, and so we have to draw closer to Him with the help of the intention. Starting from a certain point called “Lishma” (for His sake), we begin to draw closer to the Creator and to enter Him.
It is in this initial point of the altruistic intention that we first acquire the real free will, while previously we only had the egoistic substitute.
From the 4th part of the Daily Kabbalah Lesson 1/4/12, “The Freedom”