Baal HaSulam lists five questions in the beginning of the “Introduction to The Book of Zohar“:
1. What is our essence?
2. What is our role in the long chain of reality, where we are small links?
3. We feel low and defective, but should not the Creator, who created us, only emit perfect actions?
4. How could the Creator doom His creatures to such suffering?
5. How could something Eternal, which neither has a beginning nor an end, produce perishable, temporal, and inferior creatures?
Many have thought about it over the course of many centuries since mankind has come to know itself. And our generation has the same questions before it. We have not managed to reach understanding, while this is regarding fundamental questions that refer to the very essence of our existence: What are we living for? What is the purpose of life? What is its reason? What kind of process is contained in it? Do we have freedom of will? What is the purpose before us? Is nature blind or does it follow a certain program? Can it be changed?
Moreover, there are questions that have to do with scriptures: If the Creator is kind, then where is His kindness? Is it in a certain other world? But who has seen it?
Briefly speaking, these questions comprise the entire reality, except for the animate degree where we must provide for our daily needs.
Comment: Not many people ask themselves these questions.
Answer: This is a separate problem; people do not know how to think about things that matter. However, these things definitely bother them on the subconscious level. And especially today.
And in general, has there really been a single person in history, who did not ask himself?
– Why do I suffer?
But at the same time, what is so surprising here?
– You suffer because you feel bad.
– But why do I feel bad?
– And why should you feel good? You assume that good is a normal state, and anything worse is not normal? Where do you get this? Maybe you believe in the Creator? But how can you know that He exists and that He is kind? So why do you feel surprised when you feel bad? Maybe bad is a normal state of the world.
Thus, any question a person asks, when he rises above his concerns over his daily life, necessarily contains all these basic, essential complications, even if they are disguised. Let us slightly uncover them.
1. Naturally, a person does not ask: “What is our essence?” He phrases it in another way: “Who am I? Why and what for?” Children think about these things and then they forget. However, questions remain: What is our role? Where is the historic process of development taking us? Does it have a purpose? Is evolution accidental or does it follow a certain plan?
2. We discover that all parts of nature are tightly interconnected; moreover, their interconnection is not spontaneous, it is reasonable, and this reason is above our reasoning. But in the end, we are consequences of nature, and we barely comprehend even a tiny fragment of its common picture.
And this is why a person asks questions: If we are observing a consecutive process, which follows nature’s deep wisdom, and which naturally leads to a certain goal, then who am I and what am I? Where am I going? Where should I be going? Where does my life come from? Does it come from another planet? And if so, how did it get there? Some people worry that the sun will be extinguished in billions of years or that a certain celestial body might collide with planet Earth. “Even if it does not happen to me, what will happen to mankind?” Don’t laugh about these concerns.
3. We are incredibly limited, and we still want to know everything. But on the other hand, when we look at ourselves, we see our own deficiency. And this is correct, if we draw a comparison to the greatness of Nature, its power, beauty, and perfection, the beautiful landscapes that have not yet been ruined by man with a starry sky above us. Look deep into the magnificence of Nature, delve into the structure of DNA or an atom and you will be amazed by what you see. We are small, very pretentious fools. Everything that matters to us is nothing but a tiny crumb scraped off the great canvas.
Anywhere we look, we see immense wisdom and inseparable interconnection. It is astonishing that all parts of nature maintain one another, while we only lead to their extinction, failing to understand that this leads to our own destruction. Because no matter how proud we are, in reality nature feeds us and provides for us. Nothing appears out of thin air. Food, water, clothes, all this we receive from it, and we respond to kindness with destruction. This only testifies to our foolishness.
And thus it follows that everything in nature is perfect and only we are defective. But how can it be that only we are defective out of all the elements of nature? We do not only destroy the world, we are destroying our near future, and we refuse to think about it. Even when a person knows that he is to die tomorrow, he still will not stop, he will not resist, and will still travel the rest of the way to the unavoidable scaffold.
Nature undividedly governs over the still, vegetative, and animate levels, but its power is not absolute over us, it has given us freedom of will. So why do we use this freedom to ruin ourselves even more? Instead of using our independence for the good, becoming Human with a capital letter, wonderful and beneficent to themselves and others, I destroy everything I can. Why do I need this freedom?
4. Why do we suffer, when the perfect Nature has prepared a wonderful goal for us?
5. And finally, how could the perfect Creator produce perishable, temporal, and inferior creatures, born in pain, living in suffering, and dying in agony? A person’s entire life is passed in pursuit of pleasure, which he never manages to grasp. Because the second he fails to grasp something, he immediately concerns himself with his next pleasure. We are never fully satisfied, and even if little things are enough for us, it does not last forever. Every pleasure is followed by emptiness, and we constantly pursue a mirage.
Thus, the questions Baal HaSulam has listed, concern everyone to a certain degree, and we will have to find the answers to these questions.
From the 4th part of the Daily Kabbalah Lesson 6/14/12, Introduction to the Book of Zohar