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Answer: It is the Creator who brings the person to the good fate and we cannot influence this in any way. We can only try that by coming to study we will be able to realize ourselves.
Question: But why are we so few, such a small percentage?
Answer: We are not so few; we have very great spiritual strength, greater than the whole world. What kind of power does the whole world that is completely managed from above have in comparison to a single person who has freedom of choice and the ability to influence reality? It is impossible to compare this at all.
The total power of every person living in the world is equal to one person who is studying in a Kabbalistic group. If they want to influence the spiritual world, every one of them on their level must connect together to be equal to one of our friends.
It is just as all of the still are equal to one of the vegetative, all of the vegetative are equal to one of the animate, and all of the animate are equal to one man (Adam). So also among people, if they all are managed from above and there is one who is not managed and has some kind of independence, so all of them together are equal to that one. If they all connect on their physical level by nullifying themselves, they become equal to this one who is studying the wisdom of Kabbalah. The relationships between levels are like that.
From the 3rd part of the Daily Kabbalah Lesson 3/31/14, Writings of Baal HaSulam
Answer: We are made of two parts: the animate level and the human level. Therefore it is said, “the Lord will save man and the beast.” Everything depends on the extent to which you identify either with the animal or with the man.
The man in me yearns to open his eyes to the spiritual world, to understand why he lives, to see the way ahead, and to understand all of reality. The animal is attracted to the armchair and the TV in order to feel good and comfortable. It turns from side to side and doesn’t want anything.
This means that I have a choice: either this world or spirituality. We swing between these two states, and that’s the way it will be until the end of correction. We will receive increasingly greater temptations to enjoy egoistically and a greater hardening of the heart. We can be given a hardening of the heart even in our current state so that we will not be able to move even one millimeter.
If you feel good in this state, then there is nothing to talk about. If you don’t feel a need to advance spiritually, you need to develop in this world in order to discover its worthlessness.
Question: Does developing mean to receive blows?
Answer: There is a phase in a person’s development in which he receives blows, but he is still unable to understand why and where they come from. He is not developed enough yet. He has to receive a certain number of blows to try to escape from them in different directions until he begins to understand why this happens.
Before that he only wanted to hide from the blows and now he already has a question and wants to know why he receives blows. Clarifying the reason is already an upper level. He doesn’t simply want to erase what is bad on the current level, but he yearns to know where it comes from and why. He has already grown.
Then he ascends to the next level and finds out why the blows arrive. He begins to explore their source, why our life is the way it is and what are the laws according to which the system that punishes him is built. He wants to know all that.
Then he ascends even higher and wants to know not only how the upper system works but also the goal that it operates for, which means whether there is any plan. After all, he sees that the system operates systematically.
We constantly advance by blows, yet I don’t pay attention to the blow itself but to why I receive it and to its source. Eventually I rise above the blows and want to discover the reason for them. The blows force me to value their reason and then I begin to detach myself from my feelings and leave the animal to suffer. It is good that it suffers since there is no other way I can advance. I want to identify and to connect with the reasons for the blows, which means with the cause of reasons.
This is why I accept my advancement gladly. But I will not advance unless I receive enough qualitative blows on every level according to my questions, according to my appreciation of the blow. If I receive a blow but it is unimportant for me and what is important is who I received it from and for what reason, this is a totally different situation. The Creator has brought me all this way so that I will discover that He is the one who gives me these blows.
From the 3rd part of the Daily Kabbalah Lesson 3/31/14, Writings of Baal HaSulam
Question: From a spiritual point of view, Passover is a separation from the evil ruling in me, from my selfish motives in relation to others. Many homes have a special cabinet, which holds a separate set of dishes for Passover. What does this custom to change all the dishes for Passover symbolize?
Answer: In fact, a special set of dishes for Passover is a modern trend. Previously, before Passover people just made new dishes—from clay, wood, or animal skin.
New dishes symbolize new vessels, i.e., our desires, which we previously used for our own sake. Now we cannot use them in this way but only in order to bestow. I have to change the set of my desires in relation to others.
Question: What does it mean “a set of everyday dishes” that we use throughout the year and “a set of dishes for Passover?”
Answer: “A set of everyday dishes” is an egoistic desire to enjoy at the expense of others, and then you repress and use it.
“A set of dishes for Passover” represents, on the contrary, using altruistic desires for the good of others.
You have to replace one set with another—to use your desires in love for others, in bestowal. This is called “new vessels.” And after you use these new vessels for a week, you can begin to return to your old vessels because you already know how to correct them, i.e., to use in the correct way.
From KabTV’s “A New Life” 3/24/14
The Passover Seder (festive meal) is not far off. Many people know that this holiday is dedicated to the exodus of the Jews from Egypt, which occurred about 34 centuries ago.
Since then, this momentous event is celebrated every year for the whole week. If we consider that it is preceded by a lot of laborious activities and accompanied by all sorts of restrictions, there is a fair question, “Why is such special attention paid to this holiday?”
The tragic events that preceded the exodus of the Jews from Egypt and that subsequently occurred during the wanderings in the desert are well known. Along with this, one event stands out from all the rest. The fact is that nothing like that had ever happened to anyone else.
For the first time in history of humanity, the Jewish people decided to raise the bar of interpersonal relationships to the level of “as one man with one heart.” If we look at the holiday of Passover from this point of view, then much if not all of what that we know about Passover and the Jews may have to be radically reviewed.
Imagine for a moment the situation of those days. The Jews under the guidance of their leader Moses are leaving Egypt – a country, where they were enslaved for centuries. It would seem, what do former slaves need? – To settle quickly in a new place to live safely and enjoy new found freedom. But in reality, something strange took place.
After a long ordeal in the desert, the Jews gather at the foot of Mount Sinai and take on themselves, frankly, an unbearable burden. They agree to guarantee for each other. We know that this is impossible in principle. Didn’t people have other things? Who needed this mutual guarantee anyway?
But in fact, the answer is obvious: “In order for a people to live, thrive and grow, it must be united, and it is unlikely anyone will argue with this.” Question: “On the basis of the principle, through what idea can this be done?”
Of course, you can unite the people on the idea of universal equality and brotherhood and on the idea of national superiority; it is also possible to unite the people by the American dream.
There is a practical question – “How and for how long will these principles and ideas work?” We know the answers. With all that, these principles are rational and understandable, but the idea of ”mutual guarantee” or even worse – “love thy neighbor as thyself” – is irrational, that is, essentially impossible.
Why then, has the idea of ”love thy neighbor,” irrational at first glance, lived for more than 3,000 years and is perceived with understanding by anyone in the world, but rational ideas – “national ideas” are always taken ill and die within a generation?
It says in the Torah that the Jews, one and all, decided unanimously to guarantee for each other. It can be said it was a matter of the whole people, with all the consequences. Obviously, this was the reason for success.
Later, as we know and due to various reasons, the people became indifferent towards this idea in order to then return to it again.
In both cases, the Jews thrived and prospered. Having united as one man with one heart in those ancient times, the Jewish people became a model for many nations and the founder of the ethical values that underlie the whole of civilization.
Today, the Jewish people as one, can give an example of correct relations. If all the people becomes engaged with this and if this idea becomes nationwide, as in the days of Moses, then without a doubt, the Jewish people will be able to realize it.
The choice is ours.
Question: Why do humans use only 3% of their intellectual potential?
Answer: Because the remaining 97% is meant for spiritual revelation.
Question: Can we change ourselves?
Answer: No. But we can do it with the help of the upper force.
Question: Why is there so much evil and unfairness in this life?
Answer: We are the ones who bring it into this world.
Question: In your opinion, who is an Israeli?
Question: What irritates you the most?
Answer: Anything that is opposite to the answer that I just gave to your last question.
Question: Does a Kabbalist enjoy food, sex, or any other pleasures of this world?
Answer: A Kabbalist enjoys everything that a regular person enjoys. Why not?
Question: Do you observe traffic rules?
Question: What would be the only book that you would take with you should you decide to withdraw from the world?
The Torah addresses only humans and speaks about things that are internal to us: the Creator, Moshe, people, etc. Each of us has to organize these elements, because no matter what we feel, we feel it inside us.
You can keep saying a thousand times that a glass exists outside of you. However, how can it possibly be so, if you perceive it internally? “No! I see it sitting on the table!” So, it means that you feel both the glass and the table inside you.
Consequently, everything we talk about, the entire world is inside us, including the Creator.
This explains why when we portray the Creator in Kabbalah, the first thing we draw is the dot (point) of the letter “Yod” and only afterward we write “Yod Hey Vav Hey,” the four developmental stages of the desire that start with this one point. The fourth stage is a concluding desire that feels tangible, serious, and mature to us.
The last stage of desire was instigated from the initial point similar to the entire universe that originated from a tiny spark that contained enough energy to feed this world and every one of us through today. In that minuscule point lies all the information and all matter of the universe.
It is a point that instigated everything that appeared as a result of an explosion and is the beginning of the letter “Yod.” That’s why it is said in the Torah that every person is a small world that encompasses everything.
No matter what we sense, it is inside us. This is why modern science, which has advanced by a billion light years, once again resumes exploring humans and concentrates on our potential and the particularities of our perception. Things that seemed remote and external to us must in fact be explored inside us.
Lack of comprehension of the way that we perceive external subjects prevents us from further advancement and precludes grasping the essence of life and organizing our further existence. In the near future, all sciences will end up studying Kabbalah.
It will become obvious to the scientific world that without this wisdom it is impossible to lay a solid foundation that will allow humans to correctly relate to our sensations, notions, and cognition.
From KabTV’s “Secrets of the Eternal Book” 10/08/14
Question: Why is it customary to have a meal on Pesach evening when the entire family sits around the table?
Answer: Pesach is a special holiday because it symbolizes the birth of the Israeli nation. It says that it is only after the exodus from Egypt that they become a nation, and that we cannot be called a nation as long as we are separated and divided, and the egoistic force tears us to pieces. It is only when we resist these foreign forces and try to connect that we discover the force of unity that ties us and that we become a nation. Therefore the Israeli nation today is not called a nation according to the true Kabbalistic definition.
Comment: This state of division was very strongly revealed during the elections in Israel that ended not too long ago and divided the nation into many parties and movements. The internal division is increasingly growing and deepening.
Answer: These elections were very harmful to the nation since we celebrate the fact that we have conflicts and that we hate one another. During the election’s propaganda, we emphasized these differences and everyone tried to harm the other as much as he could. This is terribly harmful to our nation, although it is called democracy. After all, the entire basis of the Israeli nation is unity above all the obstacles and the differences.
Question: But, what should we do if our opinions differ?
Answer: This is a very good thing! It is actually the connection between plus and minus that generates energy. It is good that we don’t share the same opinions. We only must learn how to connect above all the differences. Therefore, the connection to which the wisdom of Kabbalah brings us is far from being a simple idea. We must find the special force in nature that will help us unite despite our differences and oppositeness. The opposite opinions remain, but we know how to make peace between us above them so that love will cover all the sins. This is a very profound principle. We are both sinners, you and I, but we build a bridge above the hate we feel towards one another.
The Book of Zohar tells us that Rabbi Shimon’s ten students who sat in a cave and wrote this book hated each other so much when they began to study at midnight they wanted to burn one another. But, to the extent that they studied together and made efforts in order to gradually build the bridge above their burning hatred, they reached spiritual revelations about which they tell us later in The Book of Zohar. Such a bridge can be built only above opposite opinions.
Question: Does that mean that whenever we have disputes, we always can build a bridge above them?
Answer: We can always build a bridge above our disputes, and moreover, it is forbidden to pressure a person to force him to concede and change his opinion. The more different his opinion is from the others, the better it is.
Question: So, what will build the bridge between us?
Answer: For example, we can take an electric or electronic system that actually works thanks to the fact that it burns energy as a result of the potential gap between two electric wires that reach it. When we are in a conflict and opposite one another because of our egoistic nature, and, at the same time, connect above it, these two levels create spiritual attainment within us. We attain the spiritual world in the potential gap when we discover and get to know not only our current corporeal world, but also the upper world. The attainment of the spiritual world is called a soul.
From Israeli Radio Program 103FM, 3/15/15
Chapter 9: Plurally Speaking
Affecting Social Cohesion Through the Social Environment
Four Factors of Influence
In his essay, “The Freedom,”[i] Baal HaSulam discusses extensively the structure of the human psyche, and what we need to focus on in order to achieve a lasting change in our societies. Through a long analysis of the interplay between heredity and the environment, Ashlag explains that four factors combine to make us who we are:
Since we do not choose our parents, we cannot control our gene pool. But our genes are merely the “potential we,” not the “actual we” that eventually manifest when we are grownups. The actual “we” consists of all four factors. Moreover, the latter two—which relate to the environment—affect and change our genes to suit the environment.
Let’s examine the following wonderful example of how the environment changes the genes, as reported by Swanne Gordon of the University of California in an essay titled, “Evolution Can Occur in Less Than Ten Years,” published in Science Daily. “Gordon and her colleagues studied guppies—small fresh-water fish… They introduced the guppies into the nearby Damier River, in a section above a barrier waterfall that excluded all predators. The guppies and their descendents also colonized the lower portion of the stream, below the barrier waterfall, that contained natural predators. Eight years later…, the researchers found that the guppies in the low-predation environment… had adapted to their new environment by producing larger and fewer offspring with each reproductive cycle. No such adaptation was seen in the guppies that colonized the high-predation environment… ‘High-predation females invest more resources into current reproduction because a high rate of mortality, driven by predators, means these females may not get another chance to reproduce,’ explained Gordon. ‘Low-predation females, on the other hand, produce larger embryos because the larger babies are more competitive in the resource-limited environments typical of low-predation sites. Moreover, low-predation females produce fewer embryos not only because they have larger embryos but also because they invest fewer resources in current reproduction.’”[ii]
Dr. Lars Olov Bygren, a preventive health specialist, documented an even more surprising example of how genes change through environmental effects. John Cloud of Time Magazine described Dr. Bygren’s research on the long-term effects that extreme feast and famine years had on the residents of the isolated Swedish village of Norrbotten. However, Dr. Bygren observed not only the effects the dietary oscillations had on the people who endured them. He also examined “whether that effect could start even before [emphasis added] pregnancy: Could parents’ experiences early in their lives somehow change the traits they passed to their offspring?”[iii] “It was a heretical idea,” writes Mr. Cloud. “After all, we have had a long-standing deal with biology: whatever choices we make during our lives might ruin our short-term memory or make us fat or hasten death, but they won’t change our genes—our actual DNA. Which meant that when we had kids of our own, the genetic slate would be wiped clean.
“What’s more, any such effects of nurture (environment) on a species’ nature (genes) were not supposed to happen so quickly. Charles Darwin, whose On the Origin of Species… taught us that evolutionary changes take place over many generations and through millions of years of natural selection. But Bygren and other scientists have now amassed historical evidence suggesting that powerful environmental conditions … can somehow leave an imprint on the genetic material in eggs and sperm. These genetic imprints can short-circuit evolution and pass along new traits in a single generation.”[iv]
Baal HaSulam, returning to his essay, “The Freedom,” suggested a very similar concept that aligns with Dr. Bygren’s findings. In the section, “The Environment as a Factor,” he writes (emphases added), “It is true that the desire has no freedom. Rather, it is operated by the above four factors [Genes; how they manifest, direct environment, indirect environment]. And one is compelled to think and examine as they suggest, denied of any strength to criticize or change…”[v]
In the subsequent section, “The Necessity to Choose a Good Environment,” Baal HaSulam adds, “As we have seen, it is a simple thing, and should be observed by each and every one of us. For although everyone has one’s own source, the forces are revealed openly only through the environment one is in.”[vi]
This may sound deterministic because if we are completely governed by our environments, it would seem we have no freedom of choice. And yet, writes Baal HaSulam, we can and must choose our environment very carefully. In his words, “There is freedom for the will to initially choose such an environment … that imparts to one good concepts. If one does not do that, but is willing to enter any environment that one comes by…, one is bound to fall into a bad environment… In consequence, one will be forced into foul concepts…” Such a person, he concludes, “will certainly be punished, not because of one’s evil thoughts or deeds, in which one has no choice, but because of not choosing to be in a good environment, for in that there is definitely a choice. Therefore, one who strives to continually choose a better environment is worthy of praise and reward. But here, too, it is not because of one’s good thoughts and deeds, …but because of one’s efforts to acquire a good environment, which brings … good thoughts.”[vii]
We therefore see that we are all potentially demonic, just as we are potentially angelic. The choice of whether we act out one extreme or the other, or any mixture of the two, depends not on whether we choose to be one way or the other, but on the social environment in which we put ourselves, or that we fashion for ourselves.
As parents, we instinctively warn our children to stay away from the bad kids in the neighborhood, and from the bad students at school. Thus, the awareness of the influence of the environment is inherent in our parental genes, so to speak. Now we must expand that awareness and realize that it is not enough to see that our kids go with “the right” kids. We must start designing a new paradigm of thinking for ourselves, as well as for our children. It is a paradigm in which mutual responsibility plays a leading role, mutual care, and camaraderie take the limelight, and public discourse changes accordingly.
In other words, Rabbi Akiva’s known maxim, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” must take shape and be molded into a way of life for society. That social paradigm is the DNA of our people, our legacy to the world, and what the world, even subconsciously, expects us to pass on.
In an era of consecutive and overlapping global crises, the world is in desperate need of a lifeline, a sliver of hope. We Jews are the only ones who can offer that hope, which is called “mutual guarantee.” The next chapter will outline the basics of implementing mutual guarantee as the predominant social paradigm.
[i] Rav Yehuda Leib HaLevi Ashlag (Baal HaSulam), The Writings of Baal HaSulam, “The Freedom” (Israel: Ashlag Research Institute, 2009), 414.
[ii] “Evolution Can Occur in Less Than Ten Years,” Science Daily (June 15, 2009), http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090610185526.htm
[iii] John Cloud, “Why Your DNA Isn’t Your Destiny,” Time Magazine (January 06, 2010), url: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1952313,00.html.
[v] Rav Yehuda Leib HaLevi Ashlag (Baal HaSulam), The Writings of Baal HaSulam, “The Freedom,” 419.