In Kabbalah, the masses are known as the “homeowners” (ba’al bait), because they aspire to build their own house (an egoistic vessel, kli) and fill it with pleasure. The desires of one who is ascending spiritually stem from the Light of the Creator, and focus on the task of building a home for the Creator in one’s heart, in order for it to be filled with the Light of the Creator.
The Development of Hatred towards Egoism
We discern all notions and all events according to our own perceptions. We assign names to the events that take place in accordance with the reactions of our sensory organs. Thus, if we speak about a particular object or action, we are expressing how we personally perceive it.
Each of us determines the level of evil in a particular object according to the degree to which that object obstructs our reception of pleasure. In certain cases, we cannot tolerate any proximity to a certain object. Thus, our level of understanding of the importance of Kabbalah and its laws will determine the evil that we will discern in that which stands in the way of our observance of the spiritual laws.
Therefore, if we wish to reach the level of hatred toward all evil, we must work on extolling Kabbalah and the Creator in our minds. In this way, we will cultivate within us love toward the Creator, and to the same degree we will develop hatred toward egoism.
Kabbalah and the Struggle against Egoism
In the Passover reading, there is a story of four sons, each of whom asks a question in regard to one’s spiritual work. Though all four qualities are present in each of us, and though Kabbalah usually speaks of a single composite image of a person in relation to the Creator, nevertheless, the four qualities can be examined as four distinct types of personalities.
Kabbalah is given to help us focus on our struggle with egoism. If we have no questions about our own nature, it means we have not yet come to realize our own evil; and hence have no need for Kabbalah. In this case, if we believe in reward and punishment, we can be aroused by the idea that there is a reward for observing the spiritual laws.
But if we already act in order to be rewarded, but still do not feel our own egoism, we cannot correct ourselves because we have no sense of our own defects. Then, we need to learn to observe the commandments selflessly. As a result, our egoism will appear, and will ask:
“What is the purpose of this work?” “What will I gain from it?”
What if it goes contrary to my wishes?”
At that point, we will need the help of Kabbalah to begin the work against our egoism, since we have begun to feel the evil in ourselves.
Raising the Importance of the Desire for Spirituality
There is a particular spiritual force—an angel—that is responsible for generating suffering in a person in order to make it clear that one cannot be satisfied by gratifying one’s egoism. This suffering prompts one to digress from the bounds of egoism and thus avoid remaining a slave to it forever.
It is said that prior to giving the Bible to Israel, the Creator offered it to all the other nations of the world, and they all refused it. Each of us is like a miniature world that consists of a multitude of desires, which are called “nations.”
We must know that none of our desires are suitable for spiritual ascent, except the desire to advance toward the Creator; this desire is known as “Israel” (from the Hebrew words Yashar, straight, and El, God, meaning “straight to the God”). Only by choosing this desire over all the others can that individual receive the hidden wisdom of Kabbalah.