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In Ten Luminous Emanations, Rav Ashlag explains that every person is made up of two parts, represented by the body and soul. Our soul is the part of us that is made of the same exact essence as the Creator, while our body represents our physical Desire to Receive for the Self Alone. That Desire to Receive is what differentiates us from the Creator, who is an endless source of sharing. It is the only part of us that is a true creation, because it is not something the Creator possesses. It is what makes us a person, separate from the Creator. Everything else is the Light of the Creator. Therefore, the basic material of humanity and of every individual is said to be the Desire to Receive for the Self Alone.
"Why do we say the Desire to Receive is the original matter?"
This leads Rav Ashlag to a very philosophical question. He notes that a Desire to Receive seems to be something that we have, and so it would make sense to say that first we were created and then we were given a Desire to Receive. How then can the Desire be the true, original essence of something without it existing first? Wouldn’t it be a second step in the process of creation? Why do we say the Desire to Receive is the original matter?
Rav Ashlag comes to the conclusion that we cannot really comprehend the original material we are made from, because we have such a limited understanding of the universe. Even in the physical world, we are incapable of fully grasping the concept of original matter. We refer to things by the state they are currently in, not by their true, original form. If you take a gold coin, for instance, you could say that its original form is gold. However, gold is made up of molecules, which are made up of atoms. And beyond that, what makes up the atoms? We can never really know the original form of that coin. Yet, we still say the coin is made of gold, because that is the first form we can connect to.
This gives us an important lesson about our five senses. When we look around, our senses tell us that we perceive our surroundings. The truth is that our senses are actually very limited and do not give us a true reading of what is in front of us, even on a physical level. We aren't able to perceive the molecules, the atoms, and the essence of everything around us. We have a limited sense of reality. As long as we are within the physical realm, the realm of the Desire to Receive for the Self Alone, we are incapable of coming to the true source of anything: physical matter, ourselves, our world. We should understand that we never see the whole picture.
The physical is something that we base so much of our understanding upon. When we start to realize how limited our understanding of the physical world is, we can start to understand how blind we are to things of a spiritual nature as well. This understanding should open up our eyes and awareness to how much more there is to ourselves and the spiritual realms that we do not understand or see.
"The true initial form that was at the source of the Creation of our world is something we cannot yet understand."
Just as we aren’t able to understand the source of the gold coin, the same is true of the Creation. We name the Desire to Receive for the Self Alone as the building blocks of humanity, because it is the first form that we can comprehend, but the true initial form that was at the source of the Creation of our world is something we cannot yet understand. Although we talk about Desire to Receive as the first form, Rav Ashlag warns us not to think we understand it completely, because we simply cannot.
To know that we constantly have a blind spot is an important lesson. When we drive a car, we have to know that we have blind spots so that we are more careful and aware of our surroundings. That knowledge changes the way we drive. The same is true of life. When we know that our understanding is limited, it affects the way we go about our spiritual work. Only if we are constantly in awareness of our limitations can we merit to have someone open our eyes to the areas where we are blind. If we are not aware of the fact that we are blind every moment of our lives, then when a friend shows us where we are blind, we will not be open-minded enough to see it.
One of the most important spiritual lessons we can learn is that we are always, to one degree or another, blind. We are blind even to our own blindness! When a person thinks they see and understand the universe, his or her spiritual growth is over. We cannot grow if we think we know everything. But if we have the consciousness that our perception and knowledge is limited and that there are things we cannot see or understand, only then is there a window of opportunity for our eyes to be opened.
*Adapted from Michael Berg’s Ten Luminous Emanations lesson 28