One of my students asked me, as a kabbalist, what is gratitude according to the wisdom of Kabbalah? Kabbalah is a serious wisdom, and so when it discusses gratitude, it means spiritual gratitude. What, then, is spiritual gratitude?
Spiritual gratitude first and foremost relates to a person with a desire and goal to attain spirituality. Such a person has no knowledge of what spirituality is, but feels an inner need, and eventually starts studying the wisdom of Kabbalah.
In the wisdom of Kabbalah, we learn that the purpose of creation is for all people to discover the harmony and bliss of connecting between the force of creation—reception—and its opposite spiritual force—bestowal. What does this mean?
On the way to discovering this sublime connection, we need to reveal how we are under the ego’s control, and that the ego is an evil and destructive force. Why is the ego evil and destructive? It is because it pits people up against each other, devours nature, our environment, and eventually, it also destroys itself, because it makes us want to enjoy things that provide short-term satisfaction, but which are ultimately bad for us in the long term. The revelation of the human ego as an evil and destructive force is called the “recognition of evil” in the wisdom of Kabbalah. “Kabbalah” in Hebrew means “reception,” and through this wisdom, we discover how we exist in a negative form of reception, where we want to receive and pull to ourselves, and that we do not ultimately benefit from trying to do so.
However, opposite this negative force of reception is a positive force of good, the force of bestowal. The force of bestowal can balance the receiving force, and then between these two forces we can exist in harmony by connecting between the positive and negative poles of reality.
The combination of these two forces is at the basis of everything we create, because specifically by the correct combination between these two poles of reality, we can discover how to live error-free and fix all the problems that emanate from relating to reality solely from its negative egoistic side.
By unconsciously letting the human ego drive our considerations and actions, we let the steamroller of evolution flatten us by delving deeper and deeper into seemingly irresolvable problems on personal, social, economic, ecological and global scales. The ego, without its balancing and regulating connection to the force of bestowal, stands behind every problem we experience in life.
We thus need to learn how to work with our ego in order to know how to balance it with its opposite positive force. When we succeed to invite the positive force into our lives, even in the tiniest amount, against the inborn negative force, we become grateful for having been given the negative force as our nature. In other words, by connecting to the positive force of bestowal above the negative egoistic force, we discover that the negative force is in fact a good force if we can use it as an impetus to increase our positive connection above it.
Balancing both positive and negative force is what King David describes in Psalms when he says, “You have saved my soul.” That is, before we receive the positive force, we only exist in the negative force, and we end up feeling terrible in that state. Then, after quite an extended period of time, we reach the state where we also receive the positive force, and when we do, we feel grateful. The gratitude we feel at that point is spiritual.
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