The Need to Avoid Certain Influences
Those of us who strive to ascend spiritually must avoid extraneous influences and protect personal convictions that have not yet matured, until we receive the necessary perceptions that can support us. The main defense and distancing must be aimed not at those people who are far from Kabbalah, since they can only transmit indifference or utter, at most, negativity, indicating a great divergence from the state of the person involved in spiritual ascent. The defense must be aimed at the people who are supposedly close to Kabbalah.
On the other hand, a beginner need not be concerned with the people who are far from Kabbalah, because it is evident that there is nothing that one can learn from them, and hence they do not pose a threat of spiritual enslavement.
The Difference between Egoistic and Altruistic Fears
Our egoism allows us to progress only when it feels fear.
Then, it pushes us into all kinds of actions, just to neutralize that feeling. Therefore, if a person could feel fear of the Creator, one could develop the necessary strength and the desire to work.
There are two kinds of fear: the fear of transgressing a commandment, and fear of the Creator. The first is a fear that prevents an individual from sinning, otherwise that individual would sin. However, if a person has no fear of sinning because all actions are carried out solely for the sake of the Creator, that person will observe all the commandments anyway, not out of fear, but because this is the Will of the Creator.
The fear of transgression (sin) is an egoistic fear, because it is prompted by the concern of doing harm to the self. Fearing the Creator is considered to be an altruistic fear, because it is prompted by a concern of not fulfilling the desire of the Creator, out of feelings of love.
Developing a Positive Anxiety towards the Creator
But despite one’s tremendous yearning to fulfill all that brings joy to the Creator, it is nevertheless very difficult to observe the commandments of the Creator (actions that are desired by the Creator) because one does not see the necessity of fulfilling them.
The fear emanating from the feeling of love must be stronger than the egoistic fear. For instance, when one anticipates that one will be seen at the moment of committing a crime, or simply a transgression, that person experiences feelings of suffering and shame.
Similarly, a Kabbalist develops in the self a feeling of anxiety, that not enough is done for the Creator. This feeling is just as constant and as great as the egoist’s fear of punishment for obvious transgressions.
Driven by the Desire for Self-Gratification
“A person learns only that which one desires to learn.” (“A person learns only at the place where his heart desires.”) Starting from this supposition, it becomes clear that a person will never learn to observe certain rules and norms unless that person desires it. But who wants to listen to moralizing, especially since, most often, one does not perceive one’s own shortcomings? How, then, can anyone, even the individual aspiring to self-correction, attain that goal?
A human being is created in such a way that there is only one desire: to gratify the self. Thus people learn only for the sake of finding a means to satisfy their desires, and will not learn something that does not concern gratifying themselves, because that is our nature.
Asking the Creator for a New Heart
Therefore, in order that those who wish to approach the Creator can learn how to act “for the sake of the Creator,” they must ask Him to grant them new hearts, replacing egoism with altruistic desires. If the Creator will grant this request, then wherever they learn, they will find ways of pleasing Him.
However, we will never perceive anything that is in contrast to our hearts, be it altruistic or egoistic, and will never feel obligated to do something that will not please our hearts. But once the Creator alters the egoistic heart to an altruistic one, we will immediately realize our obligations, in order to be able to correct ourselves with the aid of the newly acquired attributes, as well as to discover that there is nothing more important in this world than to please the Creator.