Answer: A person is an egoist. There is only the ego at work inside of us, it first pushes us to do everything for ourselves. And then that same egoism, realizing that its best application is in bestowing to others, leads us to do everything for the sake of others.
It follows, in any case: “If not me, then who?” How else can I be connected to everyone else in order to give, to work for their benefit, if not through my egoism? Nothing new happens, only the technique of applying the ego changes.
Moreover, the work for others is not done for the sake of an individual, but for the sake of the whole system; when I understand that it is universal, I begin to involve myself in it, and therefore my present and my future depends only on the extent of my involvement in this system.
Here everything happens differently than in our world where we preach: “Let’s live together and put everything into a common pot,” while each one thinks of how to snatch from it and whatever comes out of it is of little consequence. By studying Kabbalah, we reveal the system of nature and understand that we exist in it completely, integrally interconnected.
Therefore, by giving to the universal system, I give to myself and do so in the best possible way, eternally and perfectly. If I seemingly take something for myself, it goes against the system and I see that I cause damage to myself. It follows that egoism works in both directions: good and bad.
“If I am not for me, who is for me?” is the healthiest attitude because a person knows that he is supposed to do and earn something. The question is only in how to use one’s egoism. That is why Kabbalah, in Hebrew, means “the science of reception.” It explains how to receive all the good, righteous, eternity, and perfection that is in the world.
Question: How do we combine the approaches: “If I am not for me, who is for me?” and “There is none else besides Him”? Do we act on it consecutively or concurrently?
Answer: We have to act simultaneously because we are all in one system in which the Creator is activated by the request of a person, and the person is activated by the Creator. It follows that we are partners, but from different sides of creation: we are from the bottom, and the Creator is from the top. The system of connections between us is called the “worlds.”
From the Kabbalah Lesson in Russian 12/3/17