Chapter 2: I Want, Therefore I Am
Life as an Evolution of Desires
A Point in the Heart
This is the level that Rabbi Nathan Shapiro called, “the Godly speaking.” It is this desire that drives us to explore how this world runs, what makes it run the way it does, and why. It is this desire that we call “Israel,” Yashar El (straight to the Creator). In Abraham, that desire appeared as the craving to know “How it was possible for this wheel to always turn without a driver? Who is turning it, for it cannot turn itself?”[i]
Baal HaSulam named that desire to know the Creator, “the point in the heart.” In his “Introduction to The Book of Zohar,” he explains that the heart can be viewed as the whole of one’s desires, and “the point in the heart” is the desire within us that aims toward the Creator.[ii] My teacher, Rav Baruch Shalom HaLevi Ashlag (the Rabash), the firstborn son of Baal HaSulam and his successor, explained that the “point in the heart” is the desire called “Israel.” In his words, “There is also Israel in a person … but it is called ‘a point in the heart.’”[iii]
Now we can see why Abraham was so determined to share what he had found. He knew that human desires were evolving, and he knew that the more they evolve, the more they will turn toward acquiring wealth, power, domination over others, and knowledge. It was clear to him that without acquiring the knowledge of the nature of human desires, people would not be able to manage themselves and their societies properly.
Once Nimrod succeeded in thwarting Abraham’s efforts to circulate his knowledge to the Babylonians, that wise man took those who followed him and went out of Babylon to spread his message outward. Indeed, Abraham’s legacy for us is that those who understand what he had taught should share the knowledge with whomever is willing to listen. In the words of The Book of Zohar, “Abraham dug that well [Beer Sheba]. He founded it because he had taught all the people in the world to serve the Creator. And once he dug it, it is emitting living waters that never cease.”[iv]
Today’s people of Israel are the descendants of Abraham’s students, people with points in their hearts, the point of Israel within them. And although that point is now buried under centuries of oblivion, it exists and awaits being rekindled. In the words of the Holy Shlah, “Israel are called the ‘Assembly of Israel,’ for although below they are parted from one another, still, above, at the root of their souls, they are one unity, and they are congregated, for they are the part of the Lord. The branches [the people of Israel] that wish to return to their roots must follow the example of their roots, meaning unite below as well. When separation is among them, they seemingly cause separation and severance above, see how far the matter extends. Therefore, the whole of the house of Israel must pursue peace and be one, in peace and wholeness, without a flaw, to resemble their Maker [be in equivalence of form with Him], for so is the name of the Lord, ‘Peace.’”[v]
Once Israel unite and thus correct themselves, they can fulfill their vocation and be “A light unto the nations” (Isaiah 42:6). In the words of Rabbi Naphtali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin (The NATZIV of Volojin), “The main reason why most of us live in exile is that the Lord disclosed to Abraham Our Father that his sons were made to be a light unto the nations, which is impossible unless they are scattered in the exile. So was Jacob, Our Father, when he came to Egypt, where the majority of the people were. By that, His name was made great, when they saw His providence over Jacob and his descendants.”[vi]
Speaking of the evolution of desires, the human race constitutes the fourth, and highest level of desire, the only one that allows for free choice. But to make the right choices, people need to know how everything works from its root. The Israeli people represent the desire to know the root, and it is therefore their responsibility to study the root, and pass their insights and perceptions on to the rest of humanity. Thus, everyone will know how to make their choices work in their benefit.
To obtain that knowledge, Abraham formed a study method that sages throughout the ages nurtured and developed. The next chapter will depict the evolution of that method which, since the writing of The Book of Zohar, has been referred to as “Kabbalah.”
[i] Maimonides, Yad HaChazakah (The Mighty Hand), Part 1, “The Book of Science,” Chapter 1, Item 1.
[ii] Rav Yehuda Leib HaLevi Ashlag (Baal HaSulam), The Writings of Baal HaSulam, “Introduction to The Book of Zohar,” items 43-44 (Ashlag Research Institute, Israel, 2009), 444.
[iii] Rav Baruch Shalom Ashlag (the Rabash), The Writings of Rabash, “On My Bed at Night” (Ashlag Research Institute, Israel, 2008), 129.
[iv] Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai (Rashbi), The Book of Zohar (with the Sulam [Ladder] Commentary by Baal HaSulam, New Zohar, Parashat Toldot, vol. 19, item 31 (Jerusalem), 8-9.
[v] Rabbi Isaiah HaLevi Horowitz (The Holy Shlah), Masechet Sukkah [Treatise, Sukkah], Chapter, “Torah, Light” (13).
[vi] Rabbi Naphtali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin (The NATZIV of Volojin), Haamek Davar [Delve Deep in the Matter] about Beresheet [Genesis], Chapter 47:28.