Kabbalist Yehuda Ashlag (Baal HaSulam) writes in his article “The Freedom” that our single means by which we can change our state is by choosing a suitable environment.
There is freedom for the will to initially choose such an environment, such books, and such guides that impart to him good concepts. If one does not do that, but is willing to enter any environment that appears to him and read any book that falls into his hands, he is bound to fall into a bad environment or waste his time on worthless books, which are abundant and easier to come by. In consequence, he will be forced into foul concepts that make him sin and condemn. He will certainly be punished, not because of his evil thoughts or deeds, in which he has no choice, but because he did not choose to be in a good environment, for in that there is definitely a choice.
Therefore, he who strives to continually choose a better environment is worthy of praise and reward. But here, too, it is not because of his good thoughts and deeds, which come to him without his choice, but because of his effort to acquire a good environment, which brings him these good thoughts and deeds.
If we continually choose a more powerful environmental influence that guides us to spirituality, then we become worthy of spiritual progress.
Choosing and strengthening a suitable environment for spiritual progress is primary to becoming more spiritual, and not performing what we usually consider as “good deeds.” This is because we are ultimately not in control of our behaviors. Rather, our environment determines how we think and behave, and so if we place ourselves into an environment that guides us spiritually, and increasingly strengthen our connection to that environment, then it moves us in such a direction and we become more spiritual.
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