If Kabbalah centers only on the spiritual work that takes place in our minds and hearts, asserting that our spiritual progress depends solely on these factors, then what is the relation between our observance of religious rituals and the goal of creation?
Since all the commandments of the Bible are actually descriptions of a Kabbalist’s spiritual actions when in the higher realms, then by observing them physically in our world—even though it has no impact on the spiritual worlds— we are physically carrying out the Will of the Creator.
Undoubtedly, the Creator’s desire is to spiritually elevate His creations to His own level. But the passing of the teaching from generation to generation, the cultivation of the soil from which a precious few great ones will arise, is only possible when the masses carry out certain tasks.
Corrections that Benefit All of Humanity
The above is reminiscent of our own world. In order for one great scholar to flourish, all the others are needed as well. The passing of knowledge from generation to generation requires that certain conditions are established. This includes the founding of academic institutions in which the future great one will be reared and educated. Thus, everyone will participate in the achievements of this scholar, and can later partake of the fruits of the great one’s labors.
Kabbalists, having been brought up with their peers in an environment in which observing the commandments is mechanical, and faith in the Creator is simple, continue growing spiritually, whereas others remain on the initial levels of spiritual development.
Nonetheless, they, like the rest of humanity, unconsciously participate in the Kabbalist’s work, and therefore unconsciously partake of a portion of any spiritual gains the Kabbalist might make.
Moreover, the subconscious parts of their spiritual qualities are also unconsciously corrected, thus allowing for the possibility that in several generations the peers themselves will be capable of conscious spiritual ascent. Even of the students who have come to study Kabbalah (some for general knowledge, others for spiritual ascent), it is said, “a thousand enter the school, but only one exits to teaching.” Nevertheless, all participate in the success of the one, and all receive their own portion of correction through their participation.
Kabbalists Collect the Desires of Others
Having entered the spiritual realm, and having corrected one’s own egoistic qualities, the Kabbalist once again experiences the need for others: Living in our world, the Kabbalist collects the egoistical desires of others, and corrects them, thus helping the rest to gain the ability to be engaged in conscious spiritual work sometime in the future.
If an ordinary person can in any way aid the Kabbalist, even by performing purely mechanical tasks, that person thereby allows the Kabbalist to include his or her personal desires in the correction that the Kabbalist makes.
Hence, it is said in the Talmud that “serving a sage is more useful for a disciple than learning from one.”
The Spiritual Legacy: From Teacher to Disciple
The learning process entails egoism and employs our earthly reason, while the service of a sage originates in one’s faith in the sage’s greatness, a feeling that a student cannot perceive. Therefore, the student’s service is much closer in essence to the spiritual qualities, and consequently is preferable for the disciple.
As a result, the one who was closer to a teacher and best served that teacher gained a greater chance for spiritual ascent. Accordingly, it is said by the Kabbalists that the way of Kabbalah is not inherited, but rather passed down from teacher to disciple. So it was in all generations, up to the present one.
However, the present generation has fallen so low spiritually that even its leaders pass on their knowledge via family lineage, since all their knowledge is on a bodily level. On the other hand, those who have formed a spiritual bond with the Creator and with the disciples, transfer their legacy only to those who can receive it, that is, to their closest disciples.